The Art and (Neuro) Science of Networking: Creating the Follow-Up Habit – Part 2

A few months ago, I talked about the neuroscience behind cultivating the habit of following up, or using neural processing to overcome the barriers that we often face when reaching out to new connections. As you might recall, creating the habit of following up with new connections –or any habit, for that matter—involves three critical elements:

  1. Intention: consciously making the decision to cultivate the habit of following up
  2. Commitment: expressly telling the people you meet that you would like to continue your conversation with them
  3. Action: exercising a bit of courage and discipline by putting that intention into practice and following through on your commitment

Before long, your brain will automate this process, and following up will become second nature.

You might be thinking “Easier said than done!” or “But I’ve tried all this before!” So let’s delve a little deeper into how this might look in practice and discuss some tools to help make the process a seamless one.

Find a reason for following up with your contact…other than getting their business. 

The first trick is to change your thinking around following up.

We all want to find new clients and get more business, but this should never be your reason for following up with a contact you have just met, unless they specifically invited you to do that (something which is, and should remain exceedingly rare at a first meeting.)

Instead of thinking about how they might be part of your growing business, even in the future, flip the script and focus on how you can provide value to them and make this the basis of your follow-up. Do you have a business contact who you think could help them achieve a goal that they mentioned? Then maybe you are following up to facilitate that connection. Did they express interest in a subject that you are knowledgeable about? Perhaps you are following up to send them a copy of a recent article you wrote or read on the subject. Did they tell you that they are going to be travelling to a place that you know well? Then maybe you are sending them some information about great little-known gems in that location.

Your first follow-up should be about finding ways to explore the connection more deeply to see if there is a real basis for building an authentic relationship – on in which you could create value for them – not about making a sale.

When you change the way you think about following up, from what they can do for you to what you can do for them, or from “selling” yourself to developing a relationship, following up will feel less awkward and intimidating, and will become something you no longer dread but look forward to doing.

Get social on social media

Face-to-face interactions are the gold standard for creating rapport and making connection, but there is no reason why you can’t use your favourite digital platforms to get the relationship off the ground, or to maintain it in between face-to-face meetings. 

Social media platforms like LinkedIn are a great way of keeping up with what is going on in your contact’s life, and staying apprised of news related to their businesses and industry sectors. Did your new connection or her company just win an award? Send a congratulatory note, an email or, better yet, pick up the phone and congratulate them! It’s not pushy, it’s thoughtful. And it does provide an opening and a point from which to get the conversation rolling. 

Get technology working for you

To help you manage your network as it grows and still be able to follow up when the number of people in your network grows past what you can manage with raw human memory, consider using tools like an Excel spreadsheet, a CRM or your Outlook calendar or tasks, to keep track of your contacts and facilitate continued follow-up at an appropriate frequency. 

The more often you express your intention to follow up to the people you meet, the faster following up will become a habit, and the faster following up becomes a habit, the easier it will become and the more effective you will be. Use the tools that we are so lucky to have today to help you organize your contacts, prompt you to follow up, and stay in touch. And try to think about following up as truly reaching out – to help, to uplift, and to build relationships, as opposed to what it can do for you. Before you know it, you will be enjoying the fruits of a diversified portfolio of interesting, rewarding and exciting professional relationships that will be supporting the growth of your business in ways you can’t yet imagine.

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