You finally made it to a local networking event and met some contacts, now what? Assuming you connected with people that you can help or that help you, now you need a plan of action. Don’t wait until next week or next month to contact them. Make it a point right after your event to write a note to your new acquaintances. Be sure to set a time and date you will call or email them. Schedule it in your calendar and on your phone. You want to contact at least 2 people a day. Be sure to take notes when talking to them on the phone or in person.

After you contact them for the first time, set up an additional appointment. It doesn’t have to be for lunch, it can just be a brief phone call, a text message or even a short email. What you want to do now is find out the answers to the following questions.

What are your personal values? – Knowing this will help you stay true to your business mission and your personal goals. It will also help you identify these qualities in your prospective business associates.

What do you want from this contact? – Keeping your personal values in mind, what are you looking for with regards to working with this contact? If the relationship turns into a contract what will your pay be? How can you work together?

What does your contact want from you? It is important to note that a relationship goes both ways. It gives and it takes so at times you’ll be giving the support and assistance and at other times your contact will. How can your contact best be served through your business knowledge?

What can you offer your contact? What does your business do that will help your contact move forward in his or her business? Will you charge for this or will it be a mentoring relationship?

What can your contact offer you? What qualities does your contact have that your business can use to move forward in the next year or two? Will you pay for their service or can you work out a joint venture partnership where both parties get what they want?

Once you have the answers to all of these questions you’ll want to maintain a spreadsheet for this. You’ll create a section for each contact and periodically check up on them. Update your goals every quarter to make sure you are both still meeting each other’s needs.

Networking is something you should be doing as a regular part of building your business. You never know when someone you know will be the contact that brings about your next big contract or project. Don’t wait until you need to “network”, that is, when your client base is dried up. Maintain these relationships as though they are your friends and you will reap the rewards when the time comes for you to utilize their expertise in a job.