After making the slightly awkward journey through a networking function, you leave with a handful of business cards. That’s great, but if you don’t follow up, then you might as well add it to the stack of other cards you can’t seem to throw away. You know that balloon animal artist you met back in ‘94? Yeah, go ahead and throw that one away.
Next steps after you get back to the office:
1) Decide who’s a hot lead and who’s not. If your potential business relationship with this person will be mutually beneficial, then they’re more likely to respond favorably to your follow up and start creating that relationship.
2) Follow up with those hot leads within 48 hours. And be sure to include questions and comments which let that person respond with more than just “It was great to meet you, too.”
3) Continue the conversation. Maybe the timing isn’t right to sell yourself or your business, but it’s always right to be personable and make a connection. When the time is finally right, you’ll be top of mind and have an established business relationship.
4) Recognize the time a hot lead can turn into new business for you. With a personal relationship established, you’ll be more in tune to the needs and challenges your contact faces within his or her internal office. Timing is key and decisions can depend on budgets, what type of mood the decision maker is in, what else is going on in the company, etc.
The most important thing is to keep your social senses keen throughout the process. If your “hot lead” cancels your coffee meeting three times, do they initiate rescheduling or are they responding that the rest of their month is full and they’re unavailable? No need to over think it, just be aware.
So unless all you plan on doing with your collection of cards is entering some random folks in for free lunches at local restaurants (if that’s the case, here’s my card), reach out to those promising leads and make a real connection.

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