Networking is all about following up. I’m much better now at email follow-ups, thanks to a few tools I’ve found. A Gmail extension called Boomerang allows me to mark a discussion for following up if no one has replied by a certain date. I’m trying out services like Contactually (affiliate link; free plan seems decent) and ConnectedHQ (free!) to track when the time I interacted with someone was, so that I can get in touch with people whom I want to connect with regularly.
I’d like to get better at calling people and meeting them in person, too. I’ve been practicing calling by keeping in touch with friends, especially friends who are looking for the next opportunity. I’m keeping Tuesday to Thursday for consulting, so I’m working on booking Monday and Friday lunches. I want to hear more about what they’re interested in and what can help them. It’s important to do this because most people don’t blog or tweet nearly as much as I do. If I want to find out what’s on their mind, I have to ask them.
I could probably have more flexibility if I also scheduled lunches during my consulting time. It’s easy enough to clock out of work, head someplace for a conversation, and then return to work. However, I feel more comfortable keeping it separate from my consulting time. Mental task switching robs me of some time and focus, and I never want people to feel rushed while were having a conversation. I’ve had lunches stretch to two hours or more simply because there were so many good things to talk about.
I’ve updated my Google Calendar to account for travel time, consulting, and regular commitments until February. I’ve been experimenting with services like ScheduleOnce and Doodle to give people a sense of my availability and allow them to pick dates that work for them. Doodle is more visual, but ScheduleOnce is less frustrating when it comes to busy schedules. It seems like this is a bit of a challenge for people, though, so I might just suggest possibilities, book far enough in advance, and use those services as a back-up. Alternatively, Google Calendar supports appointment slots, and AgreeADate does so too. I can give those interfaces a try, and I can also ask a virtual assistant to help in scheduling so that I don’t have to worry about the back-and-forth.
I really like ConnectedHQ’s daily summary of my upcoming calendar events and the social updates for people who are going to the event. It’s a handy way to get a sense of what people have been recently interested in, and to remember to check out their social profiles. Good stuff. I need to figure out a good process for getting my post-lunch notes into the system, too – notes afterwards, then copy them into ConnectedHQ?
When I get more of my meeting-people processes hammered out, I’ll start working on a list of people who might be able to help me validate my business ideas, such as adding value by sketchnoting business presentations and conferences.
If you’re in Toronto, maybe you can help me practise meeting people and getting to know them — by reaching out and having lunch with me! Kinda like a small-scale http://lunchwithmary.com/. =)
Do you know anyone who does in-person follow-ups really well? What do they do differently?