Getting back in touch with people is something that many of us find difficult; regardless of the reason that we want to reach out, it seems that the longer we leave it, the harder it gets. This is true for your personal circle and also for your business network too. Even with understanding the value and importance of keeping in touch with your contacts, somehow, you’ve fallen behind. If you’re wondering how to reach out after losing touch with your network, here are 6 tips to do it successfully.
Relationships degrade if you don’t nurture them
When you’re not actively looking after a relationship, it’s degrading. Even if you don’t think so, distance (albeit, with no contact) is a killer. Just think about every friend you’ve lost contact with over the years. A lot of the time, there’s no reason for it. It comes down to the fact that a long time has passed without speaking and the longer it goes on, the harder it gets to get back in touch. It happens in business in the same way too. Sometimes knowing that we really ought to re-engage becomes a reason not to re-engage; when we should cut ourselves some slack and just try. (Find out how to repair damaged relationships)
What to do if you haven’t kept in touch
If you’ve not really kept in touch properly with your business network but you want to build one around you (starting with the contacts that you already have), here are our top six tips:
1. Just do it
It really is that simple: just do it. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond to your message or return your call? This is a scenario where it is nothing ventured, nothing gained. Have you ever heard of the Chinese proverb “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now?” I love this because it is so true: if you want success and growth in the future, the best time to act is now. Just make sure to do it in a light-hearted way with a simple admission of “mea culpa.” If you think you can just pick up where you left off, that is more likely going to lead to problems.
2. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is arguably one of the best networking tools that you can use both personally and professionally (you just have to remember the names of the people that you want to connect with!). Current membership levels are at 690+ million in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, so you can be quite confident that you’ll find most professionals will maintain some kind of presence on LinkedIn. To reach out to people who you’ve lost touch with, search their name and after checking out their profile, send them a request to connect. Make sure to personalise the request with a note, something similar to this: “Hello , I hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I came across your LinkedIn profile. It was a real blast from the past. Is it really X years since we were at XXX together? It would be lovely to catch up over coffee to find out how you are doing. Let me know…” Read: How to successfully approach prospects on LinkedIn and get a dialogue going
3. Know your reasons
Knowing how to reach out after losing touch is one thing, but knowing how to do it effectively is another. If you want to achieve the latter, you need to know your reasons for getting back in touch with each individual person. Why? Because the more aware you are of your motivation, the more likely you’re going to make it happen and maintain the contact to build the relationship moving forward. If you’re getting back in touch because you want something from them, make sure to hold off on the request until you have re-established and built up the relationship first. You need to re-build a strong foundation if you’re going to start asking them for favours and expecting them to help. (Do you regularly review the state of your relationships?)
4. Connect with them on Facebook
Very often, the person you want to get back in touch with will be in contact with some mutual contacts – potentially on Facebook – so you may find that a quick search here will turn up trumps! If that contact accepts your connection, this is a pretty good indication that you can get a dialogue going with them. Maybe you just want to build a relationship here or you want to connect with them on LinkedIn. Maybe you’d like to have a video call or organise to meet up when you can. (Find out how to move your personal contacts to work-winning relationships)
5. Keep the first contact very ‘light’
You don’t want to dive straight into conversation when you haven’t been in touch with someone for a long period. Don’t assume that the other person will instantly become your best buddy overnight again either. When you are re-establishing contact, keep it light and be prepared to put in the work to maintain this communication if the person in question is interested. Ideally, the tone of your first communication – whether by email or social media – needs to be warm, open and friendly. Can you recall any shared experiences to use on your first communication, particularly if they were of very happy or successful times? As well as friendly, be sure to keep your message short and simple too. Read: How to utilise your social network to find your next job (5 things every job seeker needs to know!)
6. Pique their curiosity
When thinking about how to reach out after losing touch, your aim should be to get the communication flowing between the two of you as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to pique their interest, something that gives them the incentive to converse with you. As I said before, keep it light, and try to encourage a phone call. For example: “It would be great to have a phone call to properly update each other on what’s happened since we last talked! You may be surprised at some of what I have been up to”
Keeping in touch is an essential part of networking
If you want to network effectively, you need to keep in touch consistently; networking is about far more than just making connections, it’s about developing your relationships with the people in your network. If you want to know how to reach out after losing touch, use the six tips above to just get it done. Start developing these good habits to reconnect with old contacts and try your best to maintain this communication so that you can build deeper relationships. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall off the wagon either. Many people find that a few days pass and they can quickly become weeks or months since they’ve been in touch with someone. The most important thing is that you don’t let it drag on for even longer than it has. Reach out and reconnect as soon as you can.