When to follow up? I say NOW!
Part of an occasional series on simple things you can do to grow your business.
Oh, how I hate it.
I have this theory. If you’re going to buy what I’m selling, you’re going to buy what I’m selling. I don’t need to chase you around reminding you I exist like a sixth grader crushing on an older boy.
Too bad that’s a terrible theory.
I submit for your consideration my Follow Up FAQ:
Do I have to?
Let’s get this out of the way at the start: you have to follow up.
- If you meet someone at a networking event and you hit it off, you have to be the one who calls to set a date for coffee.
- If you give someone a proposal and don’t hear back, you have to keep asking. Call, email, hire a skywriter if you have to. But don’t let that thing die until they say no.
Why should I?
You like to eat, don’t you?
But why me?
Because you’re the one who wants something. If the other person wanted something from you, she would have followed up already.
Won’t I annoy the prospect if I follow up too much?
Define too much.
Of course, if you call a person every single day asking what’s going on with your proposal, you’re going to annoy them. But that’s not an excuse to let someone fall off the radar, and if you’re whining this much about follow-up, I already know that’s what’s happening.
If you’re intuitive like me, you probably know how much is too much. If not, make a follow up schedule and run it by one of your more intuitive friends. Then stick to the schedule.
How can I seem less like a stalker when I’m following up?
Here are some ideas for keeping your “creepy factor” to a minimum:
- Vary your media. If you sent an email last time, try a phone call or text message. Remember that less intrusive methods of follow up are potentially less annoying, but they are also easier to ignore. Switch it up.
- Stay visible. If it’s been a while and the person refuses to say yes or no to your request, switch to hanging around without asking the question. Comment on a facebook post or respond to a tweet. Just keep your face in front of the person and bide your time until you feel like it’s cool to ask again.
Doesn’t silence mean no?
There are only two answers to any question you can ask in business: “Yes” or “No.” A non-answer is something like “Not yet,” and you should treat it that way.
I realize that sounds like creepy-sales-guy-talk, but it’s true. Yes, it’s possible that your prospect simply doesn’t have the guts to say no to you, but don’t make it easier on them by assuming that’s true. Make them say yes or no, period.
One trick that works for me is to give people permission to say no. I usually do this if I’ve been following up with no response for a couple of weeks. I’ll just say, “Hey, if you’ve decided to go another direction, it’s totally fine. Just let me know.” If I still don’t get a no, then that’s a not yet. Hey, Mr. Prospect, you just gave me permission to keep bugging you!
When should I give up?
I’m tempted to say never, but that’s not realistic.
When you’ve exhausted every possible angle and the person still isn’t responding, it makes sense to stop actively pursuing the prospect. I wouldn’t give up completely though.
I have a color coded spreadsheet where I track prospects.
- Green: If this job happens, we’re doing it.
- Yellow: This job may not happen, but I still feel like we’ve got it if it goes.
- Red: This job is unlikely to happen or we are unlikely to get the job when it goes.
There have been plenty of times when I’ve moved people down to yellow only to get the job later, and even a few cases where red jobs have roared back to life. You never know.
When something’s yellow or a red, it just means I follow up less often and less intrusively. And I employ lots of social media stalking, looking for opportunities to restart the conversation.
Disciplined follow up helps you keep your options open so you can react to the right opportunity at the right time.