Stand Out in Business with Your Follow Up
In many ways, standing out in business is easier than you think it is. It’s the basic things that still count for a lot. If you’re a handyman, return your service calls promptly. If you are plumber, wear pants that fit and clean up your job sites. If you are a job seeker, show up on time for your interviews and dress professionally. If you are a business owner, stay in touch with your key clients, prospects and networking contacts on a regular basis. If you an entrepreneur or sales professional, follow up, follow up, follow up. That’s where your fortune lies.
Why is follow up so important?
Follow up is critical in business networking because relationships are built over time. You can’t expect a single meeting or interaction to forge a lifetime connection. You must invest in that relationship over the coming weeks, months and years. You must strive to stay visible and valuable to the people in your professional and personal networks.
Why is follow up so difficult?
We all have the best of intentions of staying in touch with the important people in our lives, but somehow things get in the way. We get disorganized and lazy with our outreach and follow-up. Time is in a short supply and everyone is super busy. There are many demands on your life.
Okay, are we done with the excuses? Truth be told, most of us are disorganized and undisciplined.
If you believe in the power of relationships and want to remain visible and valuable to the people in your personal and professional network, then I encourage you to find a system of follow up that allows you to stay in touch more easily. Your follow up is an investment in your relationships, not to mention your results and reputation.
What’s the cost of poor follow up?
I recently read some scary business statistics that said with every month that you are not in communication; you lose 10% of your influence. It doesn’t take too long to drain your influence to zero. We work hard to plant seeds of opportunity, whether it’s for business development or new job opportunities. Yet our follow up is where we trip up, and as a result we let the opportunity (and influence) slip away. You’ve heard the expression “out of sight – out of mind.” Perhaps the same is true that when you go out of touch, you go out of influence.
Strive to stay visible and valuable to the people in your network
One of my personal goals in networking is to strive to be visible and valuable to the people that I care about. I don’t want to be one of those people who call you only when I need you; or the kind of person who disappears for long periods of time. Here’s how I define visible and valuable in the context of networking and relationship building:
- Visible: be “front of mind” with the people that you care about. Communicate regularly, through both active and passive communication channels. Show up. Show your face. Don’t just communicate by email or texting. Let them see the whole human being that you are.
- Valuable: be a resource, be helpful, know what they need and care about. Help them solve their problems. Be collaborative, not competitive. Share your ideas, experiences, thoughts, ideas, content and resources that you have discovered and find worthwhile. Introduce people to other people that potentially can help them.
How often should you stay in touch?
The question of frequency comes up often when I speak to groups about professional networking and relationship building. The goal is to stay in touch frequently enough to have influence and visibility. Think of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears:
- “This one is too soft”. You are out of touch, you don’t reach out, you are neglecting your the people in your network. They start wondering if you are alive or if you simply don’t care enough about them to stay in touch;
- “This one is too hard.” Your actions are too pushy, too much, you appear aggressive or worse yet, desperate or needy because you are constantly calling/emailing;
- “This one is just right.” You use the appropriate amount of follow-up, demonstrating that you care about the relationship, you are organized and professional and that you have self-confidence in who you are.
Here are some guidelines for you to consider. In the end, you must decide the appropriate levels of frequency and what means of communication to use with the people you want to build and maintain a relationship with. When in doubt, ask them how and how often they prefer you to stay in touch with them.
1. Touching base with your Top 50 Contacts (i.e., the people that are most important to you in your network): touch base every 5 weeks or so. Read more about Your Top 50 Contacts and the 50-5-10-2 Strategy at my web site.
2. Touching base with past clients and prospects. You want to stay front of mind with these people because you never know when they will be ready for your services. Reach out every 3 months or so via telephone, letter or email. Try to touch base with them a minimum of four times a year. Bring relevant value or news to them with each touch point. You should make contact a minimum of four times per year with these folks.
3. Touching base with other people in your current network. Here’s where you can use social media to stay in more regular touch. Be active on Linkedin.com, Facebook or Twitter and post articles of value on the topic of business or professional development on a weekly or biweekly basis. Aim to be a helpful resource to the people in your current network;
4. Touching base with hiring managers who have interviewed you: follow-up the next day after your interview via email. Follow up more thoughtfully by taking the time to write a personal note on professional stationery or card and mail it to them. Demonstrate your value and thought-leadership by sending the hiring manager a helpful article related to a topic that you discussed in your interview. Show that you are motivated and are already thinking deeply about the company’s challenges. They haven’t yet hired you, and are already adding value to the business. Touch base with the hiring manager every 2 weeks to check on the status of the hiring decision.
5. People you don’t care about and don’t want or need in your life now or anytime in the future: no follow-up is required. Neglect away (at your own risk…)
Do you have your follow-up act together?
It’s one thing to understand the need for follow up frequently in order to maintain your business relationships; it’s another challenge to do it on a consistent basis. Follow up takes work and effort. It takes discipline and motivation. It takes a decision to do it.
You can decide today that you want to stand out from the crowd and become more valuable in the marketplace… By practicing more regular, consistent follow up, you will be creating immense value for your business and your career. Once you get into the daily habit of follow up, you will begin to enjoy it as you watch your business opportunities flourish!
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business and co-founder of PowerUpYourProfessionalImage.com. In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations and more effective networking and connecting. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site MarketingMotivator.net. To receive free weekly networking tips, sign up at NetworkingAhead.com.