I'm constantly amazed as to how many people will go to a forwarders networking meeting where there are many new faces who they have met only to later complain that they have "gotten nothing out of it". In most cases my take on this is that one of two things is taking place:
1) This person hasn't allowed enough time to pass, as business does take some time; or (more importantly)
2) This person hasn't done the proper follow up.
For this post I will focus on following up because this is almost as important as being at the meeting in the first place. I like to say "If you show up then follow up then your business will rise up!" There are three kinds of follow ups that forwarders need to undertake as far as I'm concerned.
First, once the meeting is over when you have returned to the office in your home country you need to follow up with an e-mail that a) thanks your partner for the meeting and then b) reminds them of what you discussed and any unique selling points your shared at the network meeting. On this follow up it is sometimes tempting to do this immediately after the event or even on the day you get back. I even fall into this trap myself sometimes. However, it is much better to do this after a week has gone by. This allows your partners to themselves get back home and to get caught up. If you send the e-mail while they are still traveling or when they are fighting an onslaught of e-mails once they have returned from their trip you will be dismayed to find that most of your impact will have been lost. Give them a little more time to get home and get caught up with e-mails before you hit them with more.
Secondly, make sure to follow up on any notes you will have taken specifically related to conversations that you would have had in the meetings. Go to work on sales leads they may have asked you for. And if you see room for any favors do them as soon as it is feasible for you to do. I'm not saying to have to jump on any projects simply because you met someone interesting - make sure the work you do is interesting for your sales pipeling. But much of the business potential discussed will be more involved than just sending rates. Do the homework!
Thirdly, one follow up is never enough. You will need to find ways to remind these partners that you are there. This will need to be periodical and it will need to be within the scope of interest to your potential partners. For instance, do not send unrequested rates. Send them information that they might want like new services that might be of interest, etc.
Following up is very important. It will definitely be the difference between whether you make money at meetings or leave it on the table.
Gary Dale Cearley is the Managing Director of Advanced International Networks Ltd. (AIN), one of the fastest growing and most dynamic business-to-business networking organizations in the world. AIN's networks include AerOceaNetwork (AON), XLProjects Network (XLP), Perishable Logistics Specialists Network (PLSN) and AONrelocations (AONr). Gary Dale has been in many facets of international freight forwarding for more than two decades from operations to sales to the owner of the first 100% foreign owned freight forwarding company licensed in Vietnam. The companies that he has been involved with have been both generalists and specialists. He has also worked from large European and Asian multinationals (Danzas and Hankyu Express) as well has small start up forwarders. For the past ten years Gary Dale has owned and operated AIN. He has lived in several major cities in four different countries and he is multilingual. Currently Gary Dale runs the AIN operation from Bangkok, Thailand, but travels the world over.
Gary Dale welcomes all sorts of interactions. If you have questions or comments about anything Gary Dale has written here you may contact him directly by e-mail.