Networking is widely considered one of the keys to succeeding as a virtual professional.

It really is 'who you know' that can help to build and sustain a successful business.

But ... the key to great networking is not just in the connection ... it's in the follow up.

After you meet someone (whether it's online or in person), how do you follow up with that person? Do you?

Many Virtual Assistants (and other small business owners) get out and start networking, but they fail to do the follow up necessary to keep the interest of the person they have come into contact with.

Here are a few ways that you can build a follow up system that will work for you and your business:

1. Collect business cards while you are at live events or just out meeting people in person. Be sure to make notes on the back of the cards with details about the person you have just met. Some people set up a coding system that makes it easy for them to use while in public. This can be especially helpful if you are at a large event, meeting a lot of people. The notes you will take will make it easier to do your follow up once you get back home (ie if you ask someone to join your mailing list or if you tell them you will send them something after the event, it's important to bring that information back to your office and follow through on it.) If your event is virtual, gather people's social profile links for follow up.

2. Offer a resource or a follow up piece to people you want to make a connection with. As you talk to them, offer to send them some information you know will be useful to them. That way you can get their email address and you can send them a personal follow up note to remind them of your connection. Be sure to have something of value to provide for them if you are making this offer.

3. Ask them if you can add them to your mailing list. When you leave an event, it is important to have consent to add people to your list, instead of just adding people. An even better way to approach this is to send them a personal invitation to remind them to join your list, and have them accept it themselves. If you haven't gotten their consent at the event, you can still send the personal note, and remind them that you met, and mention something about your conversation that you had, and invite them.

4. Introduce yourself afterwards if you didn't get a chance to have a conversation. Some networking events allow you to provide your business card for everyone in attendance (ie a networking breakfast). If you don't get a chance to have a face to face meeting with someone whose card you came away from the event with, send them an email afterwards to introduce yourself, and if they correspond with you, be sure to start your follow up procedure with them.

5. Connect with people on social networks. Social networking can be a great extension to a live networking situation. Once you meet someone in person, it can be even more fun connecting with them regularly on social networks. Be sure to find out where they are hanging out online, and connect with them where you can. Get to know them and don't forget to remind them of things you talked about (or learned about if there was a presenter or speaker) at your networking event - this really builds the know, like and trust factor quickly.

Follow up is a really crucial part of networking for business, and if you build a simple strategy for yourself, doing the follow up part can be easy.

If you don't do much in-person networking, these principles can still be applied to virtual networking. If you belong to a forum or a group with someone, you can still ask them if they want to connect offlist (away from the rest of the group but still via email). You can still provide resources for people when they need them, and you can still talk about relevant subjects that will be of interest to your connection.

You also want to be sure to set yourself a schedule for follow up. You don't want to leave follow up too long after any event - try to start your follow from a live or virtual event within a week (sooner if possible).

Remember also, that you shouldn't just be networking with prospective clients - you can network with colleagues and even with your clients' connections. You never know where a referral will come from - or where you can pass one along.

Author's Bio: 

Tracey D'Aviero is a successful Virtual Assistant as well as a VA coach and mentor. She helps new and aspiring Virtual Assistants build solid foundations for their businesses by teaching them how to put procedures and plans in place for success and growth. Pick up a copy of Tracey's free ebook "3 Way To Get The Clients You Want!" at