Julien Roy is president of Marketing Face à Face, and a consultant and speaker in trade show marketing and business networking. His specialty is helping business people triple their results at trade shows and networking activities. Today, Julien shares a few tips for converting new contacts into business. It all comes down to a key term: FOLLOW-UP.
Manage your follow-ups
In business, over 80% of networking activities are not followed up on. This statistic, which has been around for a long time, unfortunately points to wasted time and effort for people who take part in this sort of event. It’s like putting potential clients and partners on a shelf… just when the initial contact has been created. It’s a shame!
A possible solution? Assigning someone to follow up after an event. That person should develop a strategy to organize and facilitate the task.
Generally speaking, professionals who want to develop their activities should have a follow-up chart, developed using different client profiles and sectors of activity. This chart should list past topics of discussion and include any useful information to pass on to new contacts, along with the date that is done. This approach will help you generate interest among your targets and build trust, which is a precursor to business development.
Three types of follow-up
The goal of the first two types of follow-up is to reinforce your connection with the new contact, whereas the third is to sell.
Altruistic follow-up. You want to stay in touch with the people you met during your last networking activity, because they might become long term clients or recommend you to someone through their network. The first step is to contact them, not to solicit their business, but to help them, which you should do three to five days after your first meeting.
Tip: Follow up both personally and professionally. For example, you talked about travel or food? Send your new contact an idea for a vacation destination or the name of a restaurant as a personal follow-up. Did you discuss trends in agri-food? In your follow-up document, note any articles on the topic that could be of interest to your contact as part of a professional follow-up.
The neutral follow-up. This can be done through LinkedIn, for instance. After your meeting, you should send your contact information to the person you met, mentioning that you are available if needed.
Tip: The invitation should be personalized, but concise. If it is too long, it might suggest that you will try to monopolize their time.
The selfish follow-up. After one or two altruistic or neutral exchanges, move on to the next stage of follow-up, to convert the relationship into business development.
Tip: Start with a positive statement, using words your contact used in your last meeting. For example, open the discussion by starting your sentence with, “You said...” This opening needs to elicit a response that validates the contact’s situation. Then move on to the solution you propose for the problem raised, and close by asking for a meeting.
The goal of altruistic and selfish follow-ups is not only to etch your name in your new contact’s mind, but also to initiate a business relationship. The discussion creates an emotional debt, in other words, the person might feel like he or she owes us a little something. And it’s that “little something” that can make a big difference.
One final tip: Be subtle. Follow-ups should not be too close together.