How to Build a Relationship through Networking
Excerpted from The $100,000+ Career by John Davies © 2006
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
BETWEEN THE FIRST TIME YOU meet someone (the Level Two contact) and when you interact one-to-one (a Level Four meeting), you need to start the process of building a relationship. This is Level Three networking, which is all about moving the ball forward between Level Two and Level Four. This includes both contacting people and communicating who you are. The rest of this chapter focuses on the etiquette of the follow-up email or conversation. Even more important than how you communicate (which is covered in this chapter) is what you communicate.
Following Up after a First Meeting
Once youve made contact with someone, youll want to follow up with them, and thats what Level Three networking is all about. While exchanging business cards and having a quick chat may last ten or fifteen minutes in another persons mind, starting a dialogue through a phone call or email will have a lasting effect from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. This is the beginning of your deeper networking process.
Whether youre contacting an old friend or following up with someone you met at yesterdays networking event, you should follow some basic rules of etiquette when writing an email or making a phone call. You want the recipient to understand quickly who you are, why you are writing, and why they should be interested in reading your email.
A Short Guide to Email Etiquette
Your writing should be clear, simple (without being simplistic), and human. There are hundreds of books and websites devoted to writing business letters that provide numerous tips and templates. The following notes are just a few things to keep in mind when writing or calling someone.
Find a Style That Works for You
Be creative, positive, and genuine. Avoid anything canned or trite. Your honesty and sincerity will come through. The best emails have a conversational tone. One of the first things new sales associates learn is that people buy from people. Dont write like youre
some kind of detached telemarketer reading a script. Be engaging and show your personality.
Keep your writing short, factual, and to the point. Dont write more than one page in length, unless there is some compelling reason to make it longer. Put yourself in the readers shoesyou have some information or questions for them. Being polite means getting those things out of the way as quickly as possible.
We are all very busy, and our time is precious. Studies show that busy people do not like to read beyond the first few paragraphs. If your email is too long, there is a good chance it will be dumped in a read later folder, which often ends up never getting read.
Think of the window that opens for the email when youre writing. Most people will scan whats above the fold (the first paragraph or two), so you need to make your point quickly if you expect them to read the rest of your email. Remember, youre making contact, not telling your life story.
Throughout your email, use short sentences and dont let paragraphs exceed three or four sentences. This should help it flow smoothly and it also makes you stick to the point.
Keep It Simple
Simple means words of one syllable, as my friend Scott Zahn likes to say. Plain English is clear English. It is simple and direct but not simplistic or patronizing. Using plain English doesnt mean your email is dullit just means that its easy to understand.
Use active verbs instead of passive verbs. For example, write I created
instead of I was responsible for the creation of
This makes your writing clearer, more powerful, and more precise. Once you write your email (or any document), go back and reread it. And while youre reading, pick up a copy of Strunk and Whites Elements of Style. This
book is so useful it should be issued to everyone when they get their drivers license.
Use the subject line like a headline. Do not write a one-word subject line like Hi or the recipient might think your email is spam. Try something like Follow-up from networking meeting.
Write a clear and strong opening to your email. Your first goal is to gain your readers attention. Its an important principle of effective writing to put the most important information first. Your opening paragraph is both the headline and the lead for the message that follows in the rest of the letter.
Be sure your opening paragraph sets the right tone for your email. Be direct and use your words positively so your reader has a good impression from the beginning. Decide what the most important information isand put it in your first paragraph. Dont be afraid to start your letter strongly.
Call to Action
If the average business communication starts poorly, then it invariably finishes poorly. In the last paragraph, make sure the reader knows what needs to happen next. Ask for the appointment or whatever else drove you to write the email.
Check Spelling and Grammar
This should be common sense, but it still needs to be stressed. Sending a letter with obvious misspellings and grammatical mistakes looks sloppy and unprofessional. If you do this, the recipient cant really be blamed for seeing this as an indication of how you do other things.
Dont Overthink It
Yes, there are a lot of books about how to write letters, how to communicate effectively, etc. Just remember that your email has a specific purposewhether its to thank someone, provide some information, or set up a meeting. Be direct and clear and
youll be successful.
The email follow-up is an important step to go from an initial contact with someone to the start of building a relationship. When youre first sending an email to someone, you should be prepared to attach a biography to give them a better idea of who you are and what youve accomplished. Think of your biography as an advertisement for you. Many people think of a resume as a promotional tool. But a resume is too formal. It is structured by buckets of time rather than by strengths and accomplishments. A resume looks backwards at your career. A biography, on the other hand, can paint a forward-looking picture of what you will accomplish in your next leadership role.
The next chapter will provide you with some ideas about how to write your biography and even more important, how to create your personal brand! While the email follow-up is the mechanism to move from first meeting someone to getting together for a deeper discussion, the biography will provide the content for that discussion. It will help the other person understand why you should both get together and how you might help each other.