Looking out on my desk, I see an endless task ahead of me. Currently, my desk is buried beneath the hundreds, literally hundreds of business cards I have collected since the beginning of the year through all the events and travel I have done: Vegas three times, New York City, Dusseldorf and Amsterdam. Now comes the daunting undertaking of the “follow up”. For guys like me, who straddle the line between business development, sales, marketing, and at it’s core, relationship building, this is often the most strenuous, rewarding, and annoying part of my day.
Like dating, there are so many questions I need to ask myself first:
- How long do I wait? 3 days? A week? I don’t want to seem over-anxious, but I also don’t want to let too much time go by.
- How do I contact them? Do I call? Send an email? The dreaded pop-in?
- Can I stalk them on social media? Is this creepy? How far do I go? Just linkedin? What about Twitter? Should I peep them out on Instagram? Obviously I’m leaving facebook alone.
Taking all of this into account, I now can now put a strategy together that is dependent on many factors:
- Level of interest from our conversation
- Do they have an immediate need?
- Did they specifically ask for more information?
- Did we hit it off?
- Do we have common threads we can explore?
- Do we both like the same baseball team, or are we rivals?
- Are our businesses aligned? Do we want them to be? Why?
- Do I need to introduce them to someone in my network? Always.
- Is there someone in his or her network I want to be introduced to? Yes Please!
Once I weigh all this, it’s time to put the strategy into action. Now more questions arise:
- What happens if I call and no one answers? Do I leave a message? What do I say? Remember, I’m not selling anything, so lets not be too “salesy”, but I don’t want to be too casual.
- What is my CTA (call to action)? Why should the person on the other end call me back?
- How do I determine who I call versus who I email?
- What do I say when I email? I need a clever subject line (the reason why they will open the email).
- Do I have an open rate I want to hit? Hopefully, I have made such a great impression when we met initially that they automatically open the email and respond.
- Speaking of response, what if I don’t get one? What now? Do I go back to the beginning and figure how long to wait before I contact them again?
In a perfect world, the other person initiates the follow up. The objective here is to make such an amazing first impression followed by an even better follow up that the conversation continues as natural as it started. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. That is why going into the follow up with a strategy and an expectation is imperative to:
- Be successful at networking and connecting
- Not get your hopes up / get discouraged when it doesn't go your way
- Learn what works and what doesn’t work.
- Take those learnings and adapt
- Practice, Practice, Practice
I’d like to quote a friend of mine, Dave Delaney, author of New Business Networking:
“Forget what your parents told you, talk to strangers”
That is the only way we are going to expand our rolodex, make connections, and take all the advice I just put forward so we can master the “Art of the Follow Up”.