Making a positive first impression is important but it won’t seal the deal.  Many sales and deals are lost due to a lack of building relationships through good old-fashioned follow up and relationship building.  This isn’t a new concept.  Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was first published in 1936.  Over 30 million copies later, the message still rings true:  Don’t network for the sake of networking.  Instead, network to build relationships because people like to do business with people they like and whom they believe know them.

You meet someone at a conference or at an appetizer table, you hit it off and you have something in common—your kids are both in AYSO, you practice or work in similar areas or industries, or you both take the same train to Downtown… You end the conversation with a smile and a promise to connect.

Now what?  If you run into that person again, hopefully you’ve established a meaningful connection and can pick up where you left off.  If you didn’t take the time and energy to get to know what’s important to that person or stay connected by complimenting their successes with an encouraging “shout out” or make helpful referrals to them, you’re already scoring poorly in nurturing this relationship.

There is no time like the present to flex your relationship-building muscles.  Recently, The Muse published a few tips to help you meaningfully network with other humans:

  • Take Notes: What is unique about this person? What’s something you could use to start a conversation?  He plays the cello. Her family went camping in Montana.  Unless you have a fabulous memory, you’ll need a little help jogging your memory and most importantly, you won’t be starting the same conversation over again.   Write your note on the back of the business card or use your smartphone’s Note section.  There are great “contacts” managers and apps on the market but no matter how sophisticated technology gets, you first have to take the time to capture facts about what makes your networking partner special and unique.
  • Make a call and ask to meet: Use your LinkedIn network to make connections.  LinkedIn provides you with a person’s CV so you can learn a lot about them or what you might have in common before you reach out by e-mail or phone.  Making new relationships might make you feel transported back in time to the junior high Winer Formal but don’t panic.  If you’ve already reached out by e-mail, set yourself apart from the noise in everyone’s Inbox and ask to speak by phone or meet.  People will let you know how they work best in networking settings and that’s important for you to know and to work within those parameters. If they don’t want to meet up but will spend time getting to know you on the phone, channel your inner Labrador, shake it off, and appreciate how that person would like to be engaged.
  • Remind Yourself to Follow Up – Calendar! Relationships require follow up and tending. Calendar the opportunity to reach out when you don’t need something.  If you try to connect only when you need something that’s how you’ll be remembered.  During your first meeting you can ask if it’s okay to check in with them.  This way you won’t feel too pushy when you follow up and by calendaring you won’t’ wait so long to follow up that it feels awkward.

You got this!