It happens to all of us. There’s a former client, former customer, ex-colleague, ex networking associate you’ve lost touch with and you’d like to re-kindle the relationship, but you’re having trouble trying to figure out what to say after all this time. Don’t email. Call them up and say something like this:
“Hi (whatever their name is). It’s (your name) here. I was just thinking about you and I thought I’d pick up the phone and call. I don’t actually need anything. Just touching base to say hello and see how you’re going. Got a minute to talk?”
Well, that’s how I handle this kind of situation eight times out of ten. And the experience is typically an enjoyable one―both for me and for them. They’re happy to hear from me. We chat for a while. We laugh. We update each other on what’s going on in our worlds. We’re back in touch. And often we’ll arrange to meet up for coffee or a bite to eat. Sometimes it’s a drink after work. I’m always glad I made the call.
My attitude is if the relationship was once strong and you’ve just dropped the ball, then reach out to re-connect. Like I say, mostly I just pick up the phone and call the person, but not always as you’ll see. Read on.
BIG QUESTION: How much business are you missing out on by dropping out of touch with people?
Ex clients, ex colleagues, people you went to school or university with, played sport with or just hung out with socially can be your very best source of new business. They already know you, like you and trust you at least to some degree.
But…I will admit it can feel a bit uncomfortable getting back in touch after months/years have passed. Will you look needy? Will it look like you’re after something or trying to sell something?
So we end up not re-establishing those relationships. We miss out and so do they.
If picking up the phone and calling them doesn’t sit comfortable for you, one of the best ways to re-connect with old contacts―and at the same time overcome any psychological roadblock you might have in re-connecting― is to get back in touch via email and in a way that provides value to the other person.
Here’s the deal.
When you are providing something of value to them; when you’re being of service to them; when you’re being helpful you feel a lot more comfortable reaching out to re-connect. They appreciate you making contact and you have a greater desire to do it.
Here are a couple of surefire approaches (techniques I like to use myself) that allow you to comfortably re-establish contact and be a valuable resource at the same time. You’ll reconnect and feel good about it. And so will they.
These approaches for getting back in touch work like a charm because they are about giving value and being valuable and not asking for anything.
That’s the secret to successfully reconnecting with old contacts; reconnect by giving value, by being valuable, by being resourceful, by being helpful―and, I repeat, don’t ask for anything.
So the first way of being valuable when you get back in touch with someone is to invite them to an event or something you’re going to that you think they will find valuable too.
The best way of doing this is whenever you get invited to something yourself, say a networking event, a seminar or any kind of thing that you might find useful, think about WHO in your network or who in your data base you could invite to that as well.
Inviting an ex client, ex colleague or someone who has referred business to you in the past to come along with you is an excellent way to re-establish a relationship. It works really well for three reasons.
First, they don’t even have to come along to the event to appreciate you thinking to invite them and you’re still back in touch. The invitation itself puts you back in touch. They might turn you down, but they will appreciate getting your invitation. And then you can go back and ask them what they’re doing now, how things are going for them, how’s business, etc. and perhaps even suggest catching up for a coffee or bite to eat to keep the conversation going.
The second good thing that happens is if they do come along to the event with you then both of you are out of the office, away from the pressures and distractions of the workplace. It’s a relaxed social environment. You can sit down together and chat over coffee or something to eat. Or you can stand around chatting at a networking event while you enjoy having a drink together. You get a nice chunk of social time together to rekindle the relationship. You get the idea.
The third good thing that happens is when they come along to an event with you they also get to meet other people―people who might be desirable contacts or prospects for THEIR business. You’re being valuable to them because you’re helping them increase who they know. They’ll be appreciative of you for that.
The second way of getting back in touch with old contacts and being valuable to them at the same time is to organise your own event. This gives you the opportunity to re-establish multiple relationships, all in one hit.
I’m not suggesting you put on some kind of mega conference or host a lavish cocktail party or anything grandiose like that. What I mean is inviting six or more of your old contacts―ex clients, ex colleagues, people who used to know each other―for drinks after work or a pay-for-your-own breakfast, lunch or dinner. It could even be as much as you inviting them over to your place for a barbecue. Either way, you’re getting everyone together. You’re back in touch. And, in the process, you’re creating value for everyone, including yourself. Not only are you re-connecting with each of them, but they’re also connecting and re-connecting with each other. It’s value for EVERYONE.
In addition to this, as the host/organiser you have the opportunity to interact with everyone before the event when you’re doing the inviting and at the event as you welcome people, make introductions and move from one conversation to the next. And there’s a bonus. You’re always a topic of conversation because you’re the host.
Then after the event, as you follow up with everyone to see if they enjoyed themselves you get another piece of time with them. Based on how the conversation goes, maybe then you suggest grabbing a coffee or something like that and enhance the relationship by having a more in-depth face to face conversation.
Here’s what I’ve being doing for years.….
I organise what I call a ‘drinks soiree’ every three or four months as way of re-connecting (and staying in touch) with people who are important to me, with no thought of what I might get back in return. Through a mix of text, email and phone I extend a personal invitation and I let everyone know that they’re buying their own drinks.
There’s always a good crowd. I greet people as they walk in the door. I make lots of introductions. I make sure I get to talk (albeit briefly) to all my guests before they leave.
I’m a topic of conversation because I’m the host. That’s a bonus!
After the event, I follow up (usually by phone) with a number of my guests. They’re always happy to talk. It gives us a more time to chat. I look to nurture the relationship by offering to introduce them to people they didn’t get to meet at the event. And, with a subset of them, I will arrange coffee to continue the conversation. It’s an effective way for me to keep some of my relationships ‘alive’. It’s all good fun and very good for business.
QUESTION: Who are six or more people that you would like to re-connect with? Think of people who can help you achieve your business goals.
ACTION: Don’t hesitate. Set the date for your event and get on with inviting your guests. You won’t regret it.
By the way, are you on LinkedIn?
If you’re anything like most people who are, you’ve probably collected a whole swag of contacts that you haven’t communicated with in ages―people you’ve worked with, done business with, had meetings with, discussed opportunities with―all kinds of people that you’ve fallen out of touch with. You haven’t been thinking about them and they haven’t been thinking about you.
BIG QUESTION: How much direct business and referral business are you missing out on―business that your rivals are getting instead―from all those LinkedIn contacts that have forgotten about you?
Try this valuable exercise….
Find three of your LinkedIn contacts that you’d like to re-establish a relationship with. Send them a note. Ask how things are going for them, what they’re doing now and how’s business. That kind of thing. Let them know that you don’t actually need anything, but you’re just checking in to see how they are doing.
How good would that make you feel if someone you haven’t spoken to in a while just dropped you a note that said they were thinking of you and wanted to say hello? That would make me feel pretty good. Spread a little goodwill today and reach out to some of your old contacts. And while you’re at it, tack on a few lines about what’s new with you, but don’t ask for anything. And no selling!
Odds are, people will be pleased to hear from you and they’ll come back to you. Some of them in a flash. So you’ve swapped notes. You’ve re-connected. Maybe you then suggest a phone call or grabbing a coffee if they’re nearby or something like that and enhance the relationship by making it more personal. That can lead to anything. Maybe something big.
QUESTION: What’s the point of making all those connections on LinkedIn in the first place if you never interact with them?
ACTION: Send three notes today and keep sending three notes each week until you have reached out to all those LinkedIn contacts you want re-connect with.
What about all those old business cards sitting on your desk or in a draw of people you met at networking events and other situations, but didn’t follow up with? Some of these cards are leads you’ve generated, but aren’t likely to result in anything meaningful because you’ve let them go cold.
ACTION: Go through those cards and pull out the ones you think are potential opportunities. Of those that you’re not connected to on LinkedIn, send them an invitation to connect.
MAJOR IMPORTANCE: Don’t do the generic thing that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Instead, say something personal like, “Hi (whatever their name is). Just trying to re-establish connection with friends and colleagues who I’ve lost touch with. Would you like to connect here on LinkedIn so we can stay on top of what’s going on with each other?” That’s all you need to say at this point. The invitation itself puts you back in touch.
Chances are, most people will recognise your name and ‘accept’. Now you’re trading messages. You’re back in touch. The door’s open to start a conversation. Maybe you could invite them to an event you’re going to…..or your own event. Maybe (based on what you’ve gleaned from their LinkedIn Profile or their website) send them a link to a podcast, video or article they might find useful. Maybe suggest grabbing a coffee together. But it’s not the time to ask for anything or sell anything. Your goal is to re-new the connection.
Already connected to some of these people on LinkedIn? You know what to do. See earlier in this article.
Stuck for words when you re-connect? The following might help……….
- I thought it was time I gave you a call.
- I’ve be meaning to call you.
- Just wondering what you’re up to.
- Long time, no talk,. What’s new?
- It’s been so long since I last saw you. How are you?
- Amazing how time has gone by.
- Where does time go?
- Just touching base to say hello and see if you’re ok.
- I saw something today that made me think of you.
- I had cause to think of you this morning when……
- I was thinking of you today because……
- Your name crossed my mind/came up in my head when I was……
- It’s been way too long. Let’s catch up. My shout!
- We connected on LinkedIn six months ago. I see from your profile that you……
- I noticed your LinkedIn profile and……..
- If you’re looking to reach out simply for the sake of not being forgotten, LinkedIn is a great option. If you’re not already in each other’s networks, send a brief personal message and ask to connect. Already connected? Endorse your contact for skills you know s/he has.
- Just a quick update.
- Good to see you lighting up the social pages in (name of publication) when you noticed their photo.
- When I saw this I immediately thought of you.
- I thought you would find this interesting.
- I just wanted to touch base to see if you’d like to meet for coffee and swap updates on what’s been going on in our worlds. Let me know if you’re keen.
- I have so missed seeing you.
- I see you’re working in Sydney now, which explains why you’re not at the Local Chambers meetings I used to see you at. I hope everything is going nicely for you.
Reaching out to old contacts can be hugely beneficial and it’s not something that needs to be painful. Use the tips above to reach out and odds are your old contacts will be pleased to hear from you.
I hope you find these ideas for re-connecting useful.
That’s it for now. Until next time.
PS. NOTE WELL: When you re-connect with old connects, try not to let them go cold again. You need to keep in touch. The secret to that is to prioritise and systemise. And that’s a topic for another time.