March 19, 2013

Top 5 Follow-up Mistakes


We know from a ton of first-hand experience: the art of the follow-up can be pretty tough to master. There's a fine line between an effective follow-up and one that misses the mark and goes unnoticed. Avoiding these five common follow-up mistakes will give your follow-ups the boost they need to be perceived as genuine, personal and considerate while giving you an edge up on your competitors.

5. Writing a Generic Thank You Note

A knowledgeable professional will be able to tell the difference between a well thought out thank you note and a generic letter that gets sent to everyone after a meeting. A thank you note is a great way to differentiate yourself and your company when executed properly. Conversely, when put little effort into such a simple task, it'll make little difference for your desired end result.

Using generic lines like "Thank you for your time" hardly sets you apart. Your thank you notes are implicit opportunities to show the recipient why he or she should choose to work with your firm. Rather than thanking somebody for their time, thank them for something explicit that happened in your previous interaction. Including a line such as "Here's a Business Week article that I thought you and your colleagues would enjoy" demonstrates that you're willing to put in the extra effort to strengthen that relationship. Additionally, using "you" and "your" when talking about the prospect and his or her company and writing the letter by hand makes the thank you note seem substantially more personal.

4. Sending a Thank You Gift

People often think sending an elaborate gift can give them that little boost they need to truly stand out, and it's generally true that sending a gift will help you and you brand retain mindshare. However, these types of gifts often cost a sizeable amount of money, and may not give you more of a boost than that hand-written thank you note from our previous example. You'll find that crafting a personalized thank you note will be received just as well if not better than a gift, as it shows that you took the time and energy to reach out in a genuine way - and you can't put a price on that.

3. Following Up On Time

Some people fear that they'll be perceived as overly aggressive if they contact a new lead soon after after that initial interaction. They might decide to wait a few days to reach out, but before they know it, a few days turns into a few weeks and they've completely forgotten to follow up with their prospect.

Humans are forgetful by nature. In order to avoid such a situation, either follow up immediately after you interact with that new lead, or schedule an action item or calendar reminder so that you don't run the risk of losing contact.

2. Constantly Emailing or Calling

Conversely, some professionals tend to be overly aggressive and eager to gain new business and as a result, they bombard their prospect with an avalanche of messages, emails and calls. There's a good chance that your contact has a lot going on --after all, we're all incredibly busy - and he or she might not be able to respond to you immediately. A phone call or two better demonstrates that you appreciate that they took some of their limited time to speak with you. Several continued pestering phone calls and messages will simply irritate your contact to the point where he or she will most likely not want to work with you in the future.

1. Not Following Up At All

Contrary to forgetting to follow up, some people do not see the benefit in following up and choose not to do so. For anybody whose income and livelihood depends on strong relationships with past and current clients in order to generate business, this is a huge mistake. You need to routinely follow up with the people in your network in order to stay top-of-mind and secure those business opportunities down the line. Of course, it's always best to make these follow-ups personal, but it's better to say something - even if it's generic - rather than saying nothing at all. Showing that your contact is worth your time and effort will have a huge impact the way that others perceive you, as well as on your business.

Is there a particular mistake to which you've fallen pray that our readers should avoid? Let us know in the comments. We love learning from you!

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