Following up is a critical part of the networking process, because as I often say in my workshops, someone you speak to for 5 minutes at a networking event will probably not feel comfortable enough with you right off the bat to refer you to their best client or buy from you.

You need time to learn more about each other and build trust, and that's where the follow up comes in. But there's a wrong way and a right way to ask for the meeting. The wrong way focuses on you. Saying something like, 'I'd love to get together so I can tell you more about my services' is not going to cut it for most people. That's an email message that will go right into the trash bin.

Even if that person needs what you have to offer, it's always better to position the meeting as a mutually beneficial event where it's clear that it won't be just you talking about yourself, but you also learning more about them. That's the right way.

This is especially important when you're meeting with influencers, that is, people who may not hire you directly, but can refer you to those who could.

So, when facing the all-important follow up, be sure to:

1. Have something relevant to offer. Successful networking is more about giving than it is about asking, so if you're asking for the meeting, you should do some thinking in advance about what you might be able to bring to the table. Mentioning in your note or phone call that you may have an idea or a recommendation for something that could help that person professionally could definitely help grease the wheels.

2. Buy one of their products. I know from my own experience that becoming someone's customer can go a long way. A few years ago, I wanted to schedule a follow up meeting with a gentleman I had met briefly, who, at the time, was organizing a lot of events and building quite a sizeable networking community here in New York. When we got together he told me that he doesn't have nearly enough time to meet with everyone who asks, but he said, 'Because you came to one of my events, you got my attention.'

3. Make time and location convenient. My rule of thumb is that if I request the meeting, I let the other person pick a date, time and place that works best for them, whether it be their office or the Starbucks next door.

4. Keep it short. Be respectful of people's time and don't plan to take more than an hour. In fact, proposing a shorter amount of time, say 30-45 minutes, will make it easier for them to accept because they'll sense you'll keep the meeting focused and not ramble off on tangents. Then, if all is going well for both of you at the meeting, you can always go longer, but at least you'll have gotten through the tough part of getting the person to meet with you in the first place.

While it's important to be proactive and make time in your schedule for follow up, a large part of what will make you successful here and set the tone for the rest of your relationship with new contacts is how you ask for the meeting. If you don't get the meeting in the first place, you won't have much to build on. Be sure to put yourself in the other person's shoes so you're looking at the whole picture and not just focusing on your own needs.

© 2003-2007 Liz Lynch

Author's Bio: 

Liz Lynch is a business networking expert whose products, programs and seminars help entrepreneurs and business professionals get clients, build their business, and reach their goals through networking. If you're ready to start networking smarter, get your free networking tips now at