It’s an all too common tale: you’re at a convention, panel, or meeting and you spend the day making new connections. It’s an exciting feeling and you can envision all the ways the new contacts can help your business. But when you get home, you’re exhausted from the busy day and you drop right to sleep. Then the next day you get caught up in business and making up for the time away, so you don’t quite get around to following up with your new connections. The following day it slips your mind again. Before you know it, a couple of weeks have gone by and now when you guiltily remember that you were supposed to follow up, it feels like it’s been too long and you don’t do it. All you wind up with are vague feelings of regret and yet another missed connection.
It can happen to anybody, but there are a few simple steps to avoid letting these missed connections get out of hand. Of course, the most obvious and most important (not to mention most effective) is to simply ensure you follow up promptly when you say you will. I’d advise waiting no more than ten days at the absolute longest – and if it’s been more than ten days, treat the connection as missed and forget about it. If it had been really important to you, you’d have made the call by then, so it clearly wasn’t that important to you. Accept that and move on; the guilt you can accumulate otherwise over missing things will derail other areas of your business and your life.
Another good practice is to ensure that you don’t simply leap on every possible connection at an event. Try to focus on the ones with maximum value to your business. It’s easy to view everybody as a potential customer, but it’s physically impossible to connect with every single person at every single event, and you’ll only wear yourself out and lose track of your connections if you try. Shake everyone’s hand, sure, but try to quickly narrow down the two or three connections of genuine value and spend time really getting to know those people and their business.
When you do find a valuable connection, offer to follow up with a specific proposal for mutual benefit, rather than a vague generalized “let’s chat” or something similar. If you’ve got a concrete action item to undertake, it gives you a firm discussion point and a real reason for making follow up contact. The people you network with are just as busy as you are, and skipping the fluff to get right to the point is, in my experience, usually appreciated.