Stay In Touch With Business & Personal Contacts

by : Steve A

Many people know that the secret to networking is "give and you shall receive". Every time you meet someone new, ask yourself "how can I help them"?

With this in mind, you can begin to develop a network of people who are interested in helping you, because you were nice enough to help them.

But once you have initiated contact with a new person, how do you build that into a friendship? How do you stay in touch with them, and stay in the forefront of their mind? How do you ensure that the next time they see an opportunity that would be perfect for you, they actually pick up the phone and call you?

The answer is to stay in touch, and like many keys to success it can be easier said than done. Keith Ferrazzi has an excellent book out on this subject, called "Never Eat Alone", and I recommend you read it. He refers to each contact with a person as a "ping", and mentions that it can take three to five pings with a new person to establish the relationship.

If you were to meet face-to-face with someone several times, that would certainly qualify. Or if four or five emails were exchanged over a period of time, that would be a good basis for a relationship. But periodic pings are required to stay in touch with your network.

If you're like me, you never remember to stay in touch with others until you actually need something from them, and there is nothing more insincere than a friend who only calls to ask for a favor. So I developed a system to remind myself to stay in touch, and provide value to others on a regular basis. I'm sure there are plenty of systems out there, and ultimately you'll have to adopt one that works well for you.

Personally, I resorted to a simple excel spreadsheet to keep track of my contacts. Every time I meet someone new who I want to stay in touch with, I enter their contact information in the spreadsheet and put them into one of three categories. Those in the "one" category, I'd like to stay in touch with with at at least once per month. If they are in the two category, I'd like to reach them at least once per quarter (every three months). And if they are in the three category, I try to reach them at least once per year.

Every month I go through and update the spreadsheet, catching those that I have missed.

This all may seem a bit mechanical to develop meaningful relationships with people, and I must admit that I resisted the idea at first. But what I realized is that, without a system helping me to remember, I was doing a horrible job of keeping in touch with friends. When I thought back over the years about how many wonderful people I had met, that I had lost touch with and never spoke to again, that was enough to make me change.

So what do I contact them about?

Just as when you met them, the question you should ask is "How can I help them?" Send them something of value, even if it's small. Here are a few that I like to use:

1. Send them a link to an article you've read that they'd be interested in
2. Introduce them to someone who may be able to help them (potential customer, provider of a service, etc)
3. Send them a song they might like
4. Give them a copy of a book (or audio book) you've read and found useful

If all else fails, just call or write to say hello. Tell them you haven't talked in a while and just wanted to catch up (which is true). Ask them about their projects and how they are going.

Of course, the irony of it is that once I had a spreadsheet in place, staying in touch came to the forefront of my mind. I found myself automatically staying in touch, because I knew I'd have to do so at the end of the month anyway. It forced me to start thinking of others so that every time I read an article, I would think of someone who'd want to read it. Every time I met someone new, I'd think of someone who would love to meet them. And every time I heard a song, I'd think of someone who would love to hear it.

Do whatever is required to stay in touch friends and business contacts. Building your network and social circle is crucial to your success, so if you aren't naturally inclined to stay in touch, it's time to put a system in place.