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The Golden Rule of Networking: Stay in Touch With Your Clients

Six ways to foster solid relationships with clients, year after profitable year

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Your business thrives on you making contacts and getting new business. What happens after you've made the sale and they are now a client? How often should you be in touch with that person? What are some rules of thumb for keeping in touch and nurturing your relationship? Staying in touch is an important part of the networking process. Here are several tips for keeping in touch and strengthening your business relationships:

1. Spread out your contacts.Regardless of the type of relationship with your clients, regular contact is generally good. Two short meetings or phone calls are more beneficial than one long session. Each meeting becomes an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to enhance your visibility and recognition.

2. Schedule predictably.Stay in touch with your clients regularly. Train them to expect to hear from you at certain times. For example, if you usually contact certain customers during the first week of every quarter, they will come to expect it and will budget time for you. If they don't hear from you, they may actually call to see how you are doing on their own.

3. Make each contact lead to the next.Before concluding a meeting or telephone conversation, schedule the date of your next contact. In written correspondence, close by stating the date your customer should expect to hear from you again: "I'll send you a note or e-mail by the end of the quarter." Having made the commitment, you're more likely to follow through. This practice establishes a chain of contacts, with each meeting leading to the next.

4. Assume responsibility for making contact.You can't control whether clients will contact you, but you can control when you contact them. Take the initiative; stay in touch with your customers. This is especially important for your most important clients. When clients or customers do not feel cared for, they are more likely to try someone else. By staying in touch with them, you are much more likely to head off potential problems down the road.

5. Invite them to networking events.One way of making sure to stay in contact with your customers is to invite select ones to some of the networking events that you go to. This is a great way to meet with them periodically while getting you out of your cave to network and to meet other people.

6. Stick to your plan.As you achieve success in establishing routines with your sources, some of them may begin taking initiative with contact. Don't let this interfere with your contact schedule--that is, when they initiate the call, don't count it as one of the contacts you've scheduled.

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