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Follow Up is Key to Building Relationships that Result in Quality Referral Business

by Richard Foulkes

The Networking Disconnect

Who here has ever been to a one-off networking event, or an event described as a networking opportunity? Ok, most of us.

Who received genuine business opportunities from the event? A couple? Any ideas why most of us didn’t receive anything?

The couple of members who did receive something most likely got lucky. We shouldn’t go to networking events looking for sales opportunities.

If everyone is looking for business, there are no buyers, who can you sell to? Other sellers? It makes no sense. This is called the Networking Disconnect, a phrase coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, BNI Founder, and Chief Visionary Officer.

When we attend ANY networking event we should be trying to farm, not hunt. Dr. Misner created BNI and Givers Gain® to help stop the Networking Disconnect.

Is Networking (other than BNI) a Waste of Time?

Absolutely not. It’s essential to widen our network, to build relationships to help our businesses and our fellow BNI Membership. If our network is limited to clients and our BNI chapter, it’s two dimensional.

We need to also belong to business associations, PTAs, chambers of commerce, professional bodies, sporting clubs, the gym etc. to help our BNI chapter.

How we approach these types of networks is the key, we need to also treat them as farming not hunting. We shouldn’t go to sell; we should be there to help others.  

Rule 1: Be Interested, Not Interesting

At networking events, showing interest is key. Trying to be interesting or pretending to be extroverted isn’t.

Some can be entertaining, most of us can’t but we can be genuinely interested in the other person.

Asking questions rather than dominating the conversation will help to start building a relationship.

Rule 2: Don’t Be Selling 

Some people at networking events practice ABS: Always Be Selling.

Even if someone has a genuine interest in your product, you won’t make a sale at the event, so don’t take interest as an opportunity for a product demonstration.

Book that for another time. Remember, we are farming not hunting.

Book that for another time. Remember, we are farming not hunting.

Rule 3: Have An Exit Strategy

It’s possible to get trapped with someone who doesn’t know rule 1 or 2. Or are just plain boring. Have a strategy to exit those conversations.

Have someone to spot that you need to talk to, a bathroom visit you need to make, or a time you have to leave by.

Make sure you leave if you use this strategy! Does anyone have any other polite ways of excusing yourself?

Rule 4: The Gold is in the Follow Up

Back in the good old days of face-to-face networking, we left events with a fistful of business cards that sat on our desk for months before ending up in the bin or a drawer somewhere.

Anyone still have a pile of those? Great for the printer in the chapter but it’s a pile of wasted opportunities. It’s the same in the digital age.

Meeting online via Zoom or LinkedIn without a follow-up strategy for people we can help or we think can help us is also a wasted opportunity. 

24/7/30 Follow Up System

When you meet someone, you want to build a business relationship with, really in any setting including visitors to BNI, religiously operate a 24/7/30 follow-up system.

Within 24 hours, send an email or even better a note by snail mail (really a cut through these days). Don’t sell to them, just “it was nice to meet you” is fine. Add a 7-day reminder to your diary for the next follow-up.

Within 7 days, connect with them on their social media of choice. Again, don’t sell to them, we’ve all had that contact request on LinkedIn only to then be spammed with their sales pitch. It’s always discourteous. Mention something they’ve posted that’s interested you. Set another reminder in your diary for 30 days. 

Within 30 days, reach out for a face-to-face or Zoom type call. Have a reason to meet, one that interests them. We still aren’t trying to sell to them. It is still more important to be interested than interesting.

You want to be interested in them and ideally, look for opportunities or ways that you can possibly help them. But no matter what, it is about building a relationship. After this time, you will be building a relationship if there is a mutual interest, and opportunities for you both will flow from there.

It sounds like a lot of work and sometimes you must kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince but if you don’t follow up, it is guaranteed that you will never build the relationship that you want with the people that you need to build relationships with.

You must follow up or why go to those events in the first place?


Even a blind squirrel can find a nut. We can stumble over business. But real referral business comes from relationships, and relationships come from meeting people with some regularity.

You know, we all have friends with whom we have lost touch, and we have lost touch with them through benign neglect. It wasn’t on purpose but we just kind of stopped connecting with them.

If you never start to build that relationship, you are never going to have that relationship.

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