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The Lost Art of Following Up

So you attended a chamber mixer, tradeshow or membership meeting and collected an assortment of shiny new business cards while handing out yours in return.  Now what?  Sit back and wait for your phone to ring and your inbox to be flooded with emails. Right?  Sure, if you are content with your current situation and happy in that cubicle rather than a corner office then do just that. 

 

You should clear your calendar for all the meetings you will have as I am confident those folks will line up to do business with you. While you are waiting, consider using those cards to sturdy a table leg, kindle a fire in wintertime or practice your origami. 

 

For the rest of you who want to continually advance and forge relationships, I strongly suggest you fulfill the most critical part of networking – The Follow Up.  (insert dramatic theme music)  Appropriately re-connecting with people shortly after you meet sends the message “I am serious about a relationship, proactive and willing to invest the time and effort.” 

 

Following up is an art more than a science. Thus, there is not one best method nor one right way.  I have offered some insight and practical advice on following up appropriately as well as common pitfalls to avoid - learned over many years of mistakes & successes. 

 

Set a goal for following up:

Getting a face to face meeting

Suggest someone they should want to meet

Requesting to send information

Extend an invite for coffee or lunch.

 

You will become more adept as you practice and learn as you continually place yourself in situations to meet new people to hone upon key facts that you can use later as you plan out a follow up strategy.  

 

I use the word appropriate above because following up with a template email or mailing

out all your marketing materials (unless requested) are not appropriate and may help you stand out, but not in a good way. 

 

Get Organized:

  1. Sort your business cards by priority: First, those whom you want to contact immediately –  within 48 hours of the initial meeting
  2. The next list should be those you shall contact within a week
  3. The rest you will contact within 3 weeks.

 

 

 

Follow Up - Be Creative and Sincere:

 

Always strive to make yourself memorable and distinguish yourself in a positive light.  When re-connecting, reference a part of your conversation such as:

Something funny that you shared: Steer clear of anything racy or off-color

A personal facet of that person’s life. Examples: Recommend a restaurant or book for an upcoming trip, Ask about her dog following surgery or inquire about the outcome of a child’s soccer game.    

 

Personalization speaks volumes that you were actually listening and interested in what someone was saying. Be sure to incorporate your goal into the follow up communication and indicate your desired outcome.  

 

Which Method?

 

Handwritten Notes – Everyone loves to get mail.  Handwritten notes are ideal and certainly portray your personality and desire to invest the time in fostering a relationship. This should always be your first choice for your highest priority contacts.  Enter reality; recognizing one doesn’t always possess the time to write notes, utilize email and phone as viable secondary options.

 

Voicemail – Utilize phone calls when you need to communicate your energy and attitude.  Make sure you smile and are in a good mood, as your voice will reflect your state of mind.

 

Email – Good for a quick note or when time is of the essence.  Craft a clear and attention getting subject line to get thru the clutter. Email works well in conjunction with a voicemail or handwritten note to let someone know you will contact them.

 

A Few Parting Tips

 

Strike Outs – Not everyone will reciprocate and respond to your follow up attempts.  For whatever reason, they may not see the value in fostering a relationship.  I suggest you try no more than 3 times and utilize at least two different methods. After that, let time pass and opportunity to cross paths may emerge again.

 

Don’t be a Stalker – We all admire persistence and determination, but there comes a point at which these attributes transform to annoyance and aggravation for the recipient.  Consider how many times you would want someone trying to contact you and let your discretion lead. Once you enter the realm of pestering, its nearly impossible to return.  You will likely forever doom any potential relationship, as you will be someone to avoid. (Does not apply if someone owes you money!)

 

Planning – If possible write out and read your intended message before you call, mail or email – make sure you leave a positive impression.  For a voicemail you may want to practice out loud. 

 

Be Prepared – You may call with the intent to leave a voicemail. Others I know deliberately send an email or call during non work hours. In the event someone answers the phone or returns an email immediately, you need to be prepared to have a conversation.  People often hide behind technology or purposely use odd hours to make contact – such tactics are transparent to others and often create a negative perception.   If you must make such contact at late hours, I recommend you include a quick apology or reason in the communication. You don’t want someone to think they are not important enough to be contacted during prime business hours.

 

Accepting NO – As children, NO is one of the first words we learn, but even as adults we don’t take hearing it well.  When you make a request, ask for a meeting or invite someone to lunch ask in a manner that allows them to say NO and more importantly feel comfortable in doing so.  Creating this level of comfort demonstrates your professionalism and leaves time to move on to the next promising relationship.

 

Professionals are too often content with obtaining business cards and entering contact information into Outlook.  Without following up to promote another opportunity to interact, a relationship can never develop.  Be proactive and diligent in connecting with people you meet and you shall set yourself apart from the vast majority.  Appropriate and sincere follow up will ultimately lead to meaningful and fruitful relationships. 

 

Relationships are the catalyst for success.  Make sure to start some.



Copyright © 2005 Strategic Business Network. All rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this article or any of its contents providing this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached.  Contact Judy by e-mail at judy@strategicbusinessnetwork.com or by telephone at (615) 474-1952. 

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