Raise your hand if you have a pile or a box of business cards laying around. If you are an entrepreneur or attend networking events you probably have several of those piles in your house somewhere. Now, being honest, how many of those people have you contacted? For most folks the number is somewhere between 1 and 2%. If that sounds like you, then you are being the biggest roadblock to your own business or career because you are not makeing your introductions count..
Fix Your intentions
Here is the problem, most people never follow up because their intentions are wrong. People think that the purpose of a business card is simply an advertisement for your business. That could not be further from the truth. In today’s information-soaked world, a consumer needs to see an ad over 7 times before it makes an impression. Do you really believe your card is so impressive that a potential customer will remember to pull your card out of THEIR pile of cards in order to use your services. Probably not. How many times has someone you’ve given a card to, called you to give you their business, just on the strength of your card. If you said zero, you’re about average. If anyone does call you from your card info, they are more than likely trying to sell you something. This is why networking gets such a bad rap, introductions are made, but seen as only transactional.
When I say transactional, I mean that your thought during the conversation is all about what can this person do for me right now. If the answer is positive, you make the ask during the initial conversation or in a follow-up call. Can you give me a job, buy my product, use my service, blah, blah, blah. And the answer is usually, No, No, No. People with successful business and careers understand that success comes from relationships, not transactions. Transactions are either Win-Lose, or a Draw. In a transaction, I am exchanging something of value for something that I believe has equal value, so it’s a draw. If one of us receives less than what we paid then it’s a loss. In a relationship it’s win-win.
In any (healthy) relationship you have, there is a willingness to provide value, even if there is no immediate payment. You do things for people just to see them succeed. These things don’t have to cost money, a simple word of encouragement, or an article they may be interested in, or even a simple phone call just to say hello can go a long way. In our fast-paced society, these actions are few and far between and therefore are quite memorable.
The key to making introductions count is to provide value immediately. Always squeeze into your initial conversations, these words; “How can I help you”, or “What does a good customer look like for you”. You will be amazed at how turning the focus away from what you need into what THEY need will totally change the direction of the conversation and the relationship. A word of warning here, you must be sincere in your request. If you are simply asking how can I help you with no intention of really helping it will come across and your ability to create a relationship will be negatively affected. The second key is to listen to what they say. Duh, no brainer right. You would be surprised at how often people miss out on important information simply because they don’t listen. Get out of your head and focus on what the person is trying to tell you. Third, take notes. Don’t trust your brain to remember all of the conversations you have in an evening. That is actually a good use for physical business cards to write notes on the back. These notes are what you can use in your follow up.
Now that you have made a contact and found out what they need, it is important that you follow up with them within 48 hours. Particularly if you promised them some action item. But even if nothing was promised a quick “Nice Meeting Your” email or text will help take you to the next step. Remember, this initial follow up is not the time for your “ask”, it is the time to show you can provide value first. Now is the time to make an introduction to someone else in your network or provide some information/advice to the new contact.