I'm busy. You're busy. We’re all busy. And yet most of us are looking for new clients, or to do more business with existing clients. So why do we often fail to follow up?
1. A few months ago I met a young woman at an event. She was eager to make connections with people in some of the networks where I’m active. I liked her business idea, so I suggested she contact me in a few days. Did she? No. Result: Opportunity lost.
2. Recently I submitted a proposal to a prospect via email. I heard nothing back, not even a quick note to say, "Thanks, we received your proposal." So I waited a few more days and then telephoned. Guess what? My proposal was sitting in her spam folder. If I hadn’t followed up, she might have thought I hadn’t bothered to send a proposal. Lesson: Don't assume a proposal has been received just because you sent it.
3. Last month I almost made a huge follow-up faux pas. When I lead my social media workshops, I ask people to fill out a feedback form. At the bottom, it says, "If you are interested in a workshop for your organization, please share your phone number here." Catching up on my filing, I realized that a participant had indicated TWO MONTHS ago that she was interested in a workshop. Oops. I followed up immediately and apologized for my error. Guess what? I'll be doing a workshop for her company this spring. Lesson: Review feedback immediately after each workshop.
In my experience, clients and prospects appreciate your following up. They don't think you’re being a pest. What usually happens is that people may want to move ahead on a project, but they get bogged down with competing priorities. So, your follow-up call or email helps them to stay on track.
Email is fine, but my favourite way to follow up is by phone. These days, email is so ubiquitous that a phone call actually stands out. And if your original email got trapped in Spam Land, what makes you think your follow-up email won’t suffer the same fate?
When I call, I don’t badger the person by saying what might be on my mind: "Hey, have you read the proposal that I spent three hours on?" Instead I say: "I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to look at my proposal for your blogging project. February is looking pretty busy, and I want to be sure to set aside time for you." In this way, you're seen as helpful, not aggressive.
So, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and follow up. Even when you're busy.
Donna Papacosta is a Toronto-based writer, podcaster and communications consultant. She teaches at the University of Toronto, leads social media and podcasting workshops and is the co-author of The Business of Podcasting. She can be found at www.trafcom.com.