March 21, 2013

Tips for Easy Follow-up Writing

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Often times, staying in touch with your top contacts can be intimidating and seem more easily avoided than tackled. However, as predicted, there are so many benefits to getting into a strong rhythm with this process that make it worth addressing. Today we will learn the 3 plans of practice that will break following up into manageable tasks that you will no longer dread.

What to say


A big question is always what do you say to your top contacts to keep them as contacts, on the top of your most profitable contacts list? There are a few things to remember:

1) There are so many ways to deliver value today, but what we are looking for is how to obtain and maintain strong business ties. One way to do this is to log some personal information learned from the client at each meeting. Make it a habit to store it in a place on computer where it is accessible, and link it to your calendar to remind yourself to so that you are reminded to reach out at those times. For example, everyone enjoys birthday calls so calling a contact on their birthday shows you are thinking of them. This leads to a quick and easy way to check in and let them know of anything new going on at the office. Another event to reach out for is if their company wins an award or reaches a certain goal. If they mentioned a future date to you, reach out on that day and congratulate them.

Send your contacts relevant articles to their business. This is an easy opportunity to let them know you were thinking of them and that their opinions are worthwhile. If you are speaking at or participating in an event, let them know that you would love their support. After seeing you in a new light aside from the technical business you have discussed in the past, they will view you as an involved individual who has many values and interests and will want to put more effort into your relationship.

2) Now, in terms of writing about current business to them and working to move forward, something that keeps things easy is writing up some template emails that you can save on your computer and utilize in the future, saving you time and energy. These emails can be written in different ways: they can be targeted towards their personal interests as described above, they can be short check-in emails, or they can be emails stating what you need from them before a certain date...depending on your work create templates that will make your life run more easily in the future.
To learn how to do this, click here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/create-an-e-mail-template-HA001086500.aspx

Another tip is to write down the words Grabber, Definer, Convincer, and Concluder (WetFeet's Must-Do's for follow up notes) on a post-it note on your desk. This is an excellent check-list to run through prior to sending an email to a contact. It's a great way to make an email feel complete while remaining to the point. Grabber: Let the person know that recommendations of them were truly confirmed when you met--praise them! Definer: Summarize meeting discussion and show how much attention you gave to the details that were covered at the meeting. Convincer: As stated above, show the contact how much work you have already completed to achieve goals and explain why they should move forward. Concluder: Reiterate your thanks and eagerness and close the email. Try to include these points in your templates.

3) Another way to make your life easier with follow-up communication is to outline your points for a meeting beforehand. This may seem intuitive but being able to take notes on this actual outline will allow you to incorporate specific content from the meeting in your follow-up and allows you to stay succinct. These documents are also beneficial to scan and save on file to keep track of all your meetings.

Sending it


There are so many ways to communicate nowadays that it is often challenging to figure out the right method for the situation at hand. On the bright side, though, there is hardly a time where there is a "wrong" method. There are just some tricks of the trade to help figure out which to use. For example, emailing and communicating via social media are great to use for clients in careers that involve technology, media and lots of emailing themselves. Sometimes elderly clients prefer phone calls. It's really just about taking note of what your clients prefer the first time you reach out to them and sticking with their preferences. Of course, for those email clients, it's great to check in over the phone from time to time.

When emailing clients to check in or when emailing or mailing thank-you notes, there are three main rules of thumb. The first is to keep the emails short and succinct and as mentioned above to only briefly remind people of a past meeting or conversation before delving into the reason for your communication with them. This saves time for the both of you. The second is to avoid pressuring your contact to move forward on business. Simply remind them of the trajectory you are both moving on. Lastly, be relatable. Try to create a personal bond as well as business bond when you reach out to a contact. They will be more inclined to think about you if you are part of their personal network as well.

Many of these rules go for phone calls as well. Before you make that phone call, plan what you are going to say and include specific elements from past meetings on which to refer. Try not to seem desperate when following up with your contacts. Remember that the person on the other line is someone just like you, and by speaking to them in that way they will relax along with you. Finally, make a lasting impression. Make sure to close the call talking about something other than your business meeting, like their plans for the weekend or an upcoming holiday. Remember: the phone call can solidify your business connection for the future.

Incorporating social media like Facebook or Twitter can also be important for your business communications, but only if you have that kind of informal relationship with that client or they have a social media presence. You can show your client that they are on your mind by commenting on their Facebook status about new developments in business or retweeting their exciting business progress post to help them spread the word. On this end, blogs can also be great for communicating what you've been doing to your clients in a creative way, and actually by reading each other's blogs, you form a more personal side to the business relationship.

Systemizing it


You may have all of this information down pat, but what is typically the most challenging for people is creating a system for following up with clients that works and that doesn't take a lot of effort to uphold. Here are suggestions that will move you on your journey towards this goal. The first is staying organized in a new way. One way is creating email folders and saving everything completed to folders and leaving everything in process in the inbox as a form of reminder. Then, set calendar reminders to check into different folders after a certain amount of time has elapsed. Customize this to fit your needs and stay on top of your email flow!

Coming off of this, finding a reminder system that works for you is crucial. For example, on Thursday morning, block out a time in your schedule for Fridays and Tuesdays for half an hour each to send out personal emails to the contacts you dealt with that week, or on Friday afternoons, schedule a time on Monday to make follow-up phone calls. You can ask them about their weekends and get them back to thinking about business with you. Make these times during the week non-negotiable! Don't allow yourself to schedule over these set times.

Finally, the ideal way to systematize your follow-ups is by learning about Contactually, the system that is going to change the way you look at follow-ups because it will do the reminding for you. All you will have to do is use the "what to say" and "how to send it" categories and you will be ready for business.