Do You Follow Up?


Article by Kristine CareyAs a business owner, you know how important it is to reach out and make new connections, and it’s likely a lot of your efforts are directed toward outreach. No doubt, you’ve also heard about the importance of following up, and have that as part of your plan, too. While I know it can be hard to do the outreach, it may be somewhat surprising to learn that follow-up seems to be as hard, if not harder, for many people. If this sounds familiar to you, read on!

On the PhoneWhat Does It Mean To Follow Up?
Following up is something you do after you’ve had contact with someone. Maybe you met them at a networking event, or were introduced by a mutual friend. In whatever way, your paths have crossed and you’re getting in touch with them again for some reason: to cultivate them as a client, develop a referral relationship, or just because you like them and want to know them better as a colleague or friend.

Why Is Following Up So Hard?
Following up seems to fall into the same category as nagging, bothering, or being a pest. It’s easy to think that when you’re getting in touch, you’re intruding on someone’s time. He or she is a busy person; you don’t want to be a bother, or maybe even worse, seem desperate. Following up doesn’t have to be any of these! Of course, if the person has given you the signal that they don’t want to be in touch with you, that’s something to take note of. However, it’s often safe to think that they enjoyed meeting you, too, and may want to be in touch with you for the same reasons you’re contacting them. Someone’s got to make the first move if anything’s going to happen — why not you?

Do You Have To Follow Up?
No, you don’t. It will likely make it easier to get and keep business if you do, though. If someone has had contact with you, it’s easier to get their attention a second time than it may be to get their attention to begin with. You’re familiar: a more known quantity; as humans that makes us feel safer and more likely to do something new.

How Can You Make Following Up Easier?
Figure out how following up is most natural to you. Are you an emailer or caller? Do you prefer to meet in person, maybe have a coffee? Do you have a newsletter list you could ask them to join? From my experience, following up doesn’t have to be a big deal, yet I know it can feel like one. Find a strategy that seems easiest for you, then do some reassuring self-talk and role-playing to tame the negative voices in your head. From there, it’s practice, practice, practice, and giving yourself permission to be bold.

A True Follow-Up Story
Here’s a story that illustrates what it’s like if you don’t follow up. I have a colleague who was doing consulting work with individual clients. Occasionally he made presentations to small groups, and after several years decided that he’d like to make his entire business the presentation work and eliminate the individual client work. He contacted local organizations to practice presenting more, and after a bit of practice was ready to pitch himself to bigger audiences. He put together a professional speaking package that included his speaker one sheet, a personal letter of introduction with a request for them to consider him as a speaker for their event, and a DVD of him speaking. This package contained the finest quality materials and was mailed in a nice envelope to hundreds of people and organizations. It took him a lot of time, energy, creativity, and money to put these packages together. He was disappointed that he didn’t get much response, so he did the entire mailing again to a new set of people. It took three mailings before he got a few responses, and was able to start speaking more frequently for pay.

Not once during this entire process did he follow up with anyone, via postal mail, email, or phone. Can you imagine putting in all that effort initially, then letting it go without a follow-up? He said he just felt like it was too much work to follow up, yet admitted that his speaking career would have taken off much faster if he had; he felt like he had missed an opportunity, and that each mailing was itself a lot of work that he had let go to waste.

I’ve seen statistics stating that following up increases your conversion by 80%, with the biggest increase in sales coming after the fifth contact. This does not mean you should unprofessionally nag someone! It does mean that keeping in touch can pay off. More than once I’ve contacted someone past the point where I was comfortable, only to have them tell me -– much to my surprise — that they were glad I stayed in touch. Take a look at your follow-up, and where you may want to be bolder. Chances are it’ll pay off in your business, and those you contacted will be grateful.

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Reader Comments

Kristine,

I agree—follow-up is essential!

The best type of follow-up is often a phone call, especially if your initial contact was by email or postal mail.

You may have contacted someone who is no longer in that job. Your call verifies that the contact info is still good. In addition, a phone call is fast and free (depending on your phone plan).

Most important, it’s friendly, not pushy. You are showing interest in your prospect and telling them you’d like to help them. And if you put a little energy in your voice, you stand a better chance of connecting with them.

-d

Diana Schneidman, Author, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less