After a recent national conference, I was talking with a young engineer over a beer. “OK”, she said, “this is my first national conference. I met a lot of new contacts. Now what do I with all these cards?” What a great question. When I attend a conference, I usually have a plan of specific contacts I intend to make, each with a specific objective. But what about all those contacts that just happen naturally when a group of professionals gets together?
Have you ever watched a spider spin her web? She casts out a single strand to the wind. It snags on a point somewhere. She follows it to that point and anchors it more firmly. Then she casts again. As this process continues she strengthens her “network” with multiple intersections, triangulations, and more anchors. In an amazingly short time she has built a strong and effective web.
When meeting a new contact, I am not looking to make a sale. I am looking to make a connection. In the few minutes we have together, I want to learn as much as I can about him, or her, what they do (and not just in their business life), opinions, goals, colleagues, history, interests, business issues, whatever they care about enough to share. I am not looking for a contract I am looking for a point of connection.
So what do I do with their card? Well first, I make notes. Memory is not my strong suit and in three days of these interactions, very little sticks. So I write down anything that will help me remember those strands of conversation later.
Now I find some way to “anchor that strand” with something of value to them. It might be a business issue I can help with. (Stranger things have happened, after all.) But it might also be an opportunity to introduce them to someone else with a mutual issue or maybe a solution; an idea or information to share, a business lead, an idea, an article, a website. The key is that it must relate to something they cared enough to tell me about.
Then it’s as simple as an email, call or text recalling your conversation offering that next anchor. “I enjoyed meeting you last week. I was thinking about something you shared and I have an idea for you…” Keep growing your web.
Speaking of webs… My new website is almost ready to launch. For the last few weeks a great web designer, Ginger Staples of One Design, has been working to update my website and Facebook page. It’s almost ready. Stay tuned. And thanks for all your support. – Steve