Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today, I want to talk about networking and following up with new contacts.
Good relationships are cultivated. They don’t just happen on their own. And if you make new business contacts – whether that’s at a conference, a networking event, or on the subway – don’t wait until you run into them by accident again. You need to follow up.
Often, that starts with an email or text. You don’t need anything too long-winded or formal. It’s enough just to send a quick note saying something like “great to chat with you yesterday. I’d love to connect again.” Or if you think something a bit more formal is in order, you could try “It was a pleasure to meet you at the sales conference. I was very interested in your perspective on cold calling. Perhaps we could connect in the future and talk some more?”
Exactly what level of formality is best really depends on you and your read on the other person. What are you comfortable with? And what do you think the other person’s natural style is? This might depend on culture as well. In North America, people tend to use informality as a way of building relationships. In many parts of Asia, people switch to an informal style only after they’ve gotten to know someone.
Wherever you are, following up with new contacts has a personal element to it. So when you connect by phone or Zoom, start out with a nice “how are you doing?” or “how are things in Berlin today?” Before rushing into business-related matters, embrace some small talk.
Now, in our last lesson, we talked about the power of questions when you meet someone new. Continue showing curiosity when you follow up. And if you’re not comfortable chatting about the weather or football, try returning to the topics that you connected on in the first place. For example, you might say “I was really fascinated by what you said about employee motivation.” Or “I must say, your comments about Warren Buffet were really hilarious.”
And once again, you’d best be prepared for some of questions you’re asking to be turned back at you. So if someone asks you how you are, have a short and friendly answer. You might say something like “Yeah, I’m pretty good. It’s a hot one here in Chicago today. How’s Dallas?”
Of course, at a certain point, the small talk or idle chatter should give way to conversation about professional matters. You’ll have to go with your gut about when that happens. Some people like to get straight down to business. Others are bit more relational and like to get to know someone first. In many cultures, that’s an important part of business.
And what can we say to transition from personal conversation to business? It can be as simple as saying “so, I’d love to hear more about your work.” Little words like “so” and “well” can be enough to change the topic. If you need a bit more, you might something like “so, shall we chat a bit more about business?” or “it’s great to connect again. I’m really keen to discuss how our work overlaps.”
Those are good expressions to use if you just want a general conversation about work and business. But in many cases, there’s something very specific that you want to talk about. It could be that the person is a prospective partner or client. Or it could be that the person has information or connections that would be useful to you.
In these situations, it’s good to be clear and specific about your purpose. For example, you might say “so, listen, one reason I wanted to chat is to hear more about your project in the Maldives.” Or you could say “so, one thing I wanted to follow up on is our upcoming conference, just to gauge your interest in presenting.”
Many people appreciate this clarity of purpose. You might appreciate this kind of thing yourself. After all, if someone asks to follow up with you, you might wonder exactly what they’re hoping to achieve. Are they just trying to get a feel for you as a person to figure out if there’s potential for [a] deeper relationship? Are they hoping to sell you something? Or are they just looking for a friendly thought partner?
Of course, new relationships aren’t a negotiation. As I said at the start, they’re cultivated. Some grow and blossom. Some just don’t work out. But you’ll never know what the potential is unless you follow up with your new contacts and get to know the other person.
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.