Failure To Follow Up: Committing The Cardinal Sin Of Networking

IMG_6200Litterbugs should be exposed! Sounds extreme? Remember, this is coming from the woman who is allergic to late. My logic goes this way: There is absolutely no reason to litter; those who do are either being entitled, self-absorbed, downright lazy, or all three. The same is true for a businessperson who lacks in a particular area of networking etiquette. Now, don’t be afraid that this might include you. If it does, you have the chance to never commit this faux pas again after reading on.

A Colossal Misstep

Perhaps the greatest mistake you can make in business has nothing to do with money. It relates entirely to communication, and could mark the tipping point that severs a good relationship. To not thank someone (profusely) when they’ve made an introduction that leads you to a new client or a great contact is comparable to not thanking someone for a present. The person who has provided you a referral from a network colleague, which may have even landed you a job, MUST BE THANKED! To skip this step makes you look as bad as a litterer.

A Case Study In Carelessness

Here’s a true story. I once connected a service provider with a potential client at the beginning of a given year. After the initial introductory email, when I followed up with the service provider about the status of their communication, they were still in the interview process. Six months later, over coffee with my contact, I casually inquired “Whatever happened with your consultant search?” She looked startled and embarrassed (though she ought not have been), and apologetically told me that the professional I recommended was hired months earlier, and was about to be hired for more work. The right thing for the service provider to do would have been to reach out, thank me, and keep me in the loop about further progress. Instead, they disappointed me by keeping silent. How do you suppose I would feel about recommending them ever again?

From The Connector’s Perspective    

Here’s the deal: This issue is not about hurt feelings; When someone goes out of their way to make an introduction for you, they like to know whether their efforts have been worthwhile. Their remittance is not paid in currency, but by your affirmation that they’ve done well. When a successful connection isn’t acknowledged, the connector is less inspired to continue putting the effort in for their contacts. Furthermore, the thought of you from that day forward will invoke sour feelings in the mind of the connector, much like the litterer does, keeping you at the bottom of their network list for further interaction or favors.

So, What’s The Protocol?

When you find yourself on the receiving end of a successful connection, it helps to know the etiquette for informing and thanking the connector.  The best initial approach is to email the connector expressing gratitude for the introduction before you even make progress with your new connection (a good courtesy here is to move the connector’s address to the BCC field to spare them the tedious back-and-forth that will ensue). Following this phase, adhere to my three steps to keeping your relationship with the connector solid:

  1. Either reach out individually, or CC the connector on your follow-up. Then, email a thank-you note to your new connection. This way, the connector can see a ‘report’ of how the meeting went and be tuned-in to the next steps you’ll be taking.
  1. For any new business you get from a connection, send a hand-written thank-you note to the connector that’s gushing with gratitude. You might even accompany this with an invitation to celebrate over lunch.
  1. Going forward, keep the connector in the loop with landmark reports. For instance, “They hired me for another round of webinars!”, or “I had lunch with Lisa yesterday and have to thank you again. She is a wonderful addition to my network”. The latter is an example of a message I sent to a connector 3 years down the line!

We all like to feel appreciated, but even more so, we enjoy finding out that someone has benefited from our generosity. Being a thoughtless or scatterbrained recipient of a referral may cost you a valuable relationship with your connector. Don’t make them stop and wonder; Perform the simple tasks involved in courteous follow-up, and you may find yourself rewarded again and again!