No one works for themselves without hearing about follow-up. However, in the context of networking, do you know what it means to follow up, whether or not it really matters, and why?

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Here are the short answers to these questions:

  • What does it mean to follow up? It means you contact people you’ve met.
  • Does it matter? Yes.
  • Why? Because in many cases, if you don’t follow up, the other person won’t either, and you’ll have lost a potential avenue for business, a referral partner, or the opportunity to serve the world with your business services. You’ll have also lost a chance to truly connect with someone.

It’s easy to think you’ll go to a networking event, talk with a few people, hand out your card, and they’ll call you when they’re ready to do business. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t work that way.

Maybe the idea of getting in touch with people makes you stop breathing; it does that to a lot of people. Feelings of being shy, vulnerable, or rejected may show up. Or maybe you’re moving so fast that slowing down to follow up with someone feels counterproductive. The thing is, it’s usually easier to do business with people who already know you than it is to collect new people. Following up with people you’ve met can make getting business easier.

Following up means taking the initiative to reach out to people you’ve crossed paths with. Call them, meet them for coffee or lunch, email them a personal note, or send a handwritten card. Add them to your newsletter list (with permission) or your social media contacts. (For more ideas about things you can do to follow up, see 44 Ways to Follow Up with Your Prospects.)

Make sure the invitation feels personal, reminding them who you are and how you met, and never use a generic “I’d like to add you to my network” approach. If you met them and want to create a genuine connection, following up in a personal way will make an impact. Think back to someone who followed up with you recently; did they make you feel like connecting with you mattered, or did you feel like they were generically contacting you?

Following up is about doing business. It’s also about making real connections, human to human. The more you bring your humanity into your follow-up, the more the recipient can feel your intention, and you can start to develop a real, and hopefully long-lasting, relationship.

We all want to feel seen and heard; when following up with someone keep that in mind, and tailor your approach appropriately. It’ll be good for your soul, and it’ll be good for business, too.

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