The Art Of The Follow-Up: 5 Tips That Will Help You Improve Today

Concept image of a Calendar with the reminder: Follow Up

To flip a common phrase on its head, following up isn't a science, it's art. It'd be nice if there was a reliable systematic method that you could follow or a mathematical formula that you could plug all of the available information into to determine the best course of action, but there isn't. Each case is different; follow-ups require creativity, you need to be imaginative, flexible, and able to think on your feet to be successful. I can't give you a magic pill that's going to give you an instantaneous, 100% success rate with your follow-ups, but what I can do is pass on expert tips that will markedly improve your results going forward.

1. Be creative. I made a point of mentioning creativity early on in this article because it is so incredibly important. Everyone- and I mean everyone- is following up. Every referral and prospective client you're looking to connect with are probably already being bombarded with invitations to meet, so you need to do something to stand out. Send a personalized hand-written note or a gift-card to your favourite coffee house and an invitation to talk business over a hot beverage. There are all kinds of ways to grab someone's attention, so use your imagination and don't be generic.

1. Be creative. I made a point of mentioning creativity early on in this article because it is so incredibly important. Everyone- and I mean everyone- is following up. Every referral and prospective client you're looking to connect with are probably already being bombarded with invitations to meet, so you need to do something to stand out. Send a personalized hand-written note or a gift-card to your favourite coffee house and an invitation to talk business over a hot beverage. There are all kinds of ways to grab someone's attention, so use your imagination and don't be generic.
2. Don't rely on reciprocity. It's tempting to think of following up through the lens of a simple cost/benefit equation: ‘is the time and money that I invest in this follow-up going to be worth it given the potential payoff?' This perspective does have some benefits, but it also has its limitations. Remove the expectation of reciprocity or business from your thinking around follow-ups and it will show through. Ironically, by helping clients to see that you do care about them will increase their willingness to reciprocate and invest in your business.

2. Don't rely on reciprocity. It's tempting to think of following up through the lens of a simple cost/benefit equation: ‘is the time and money that I invest in this follow-up going to be worth it given the potential payoff?' This perspective does have some benefits, but it also has its limitations. Remove the expectation of reciprocity or business from your thinking around follow-ups and it will show through. Ironically, by helping clients to see that you do care about them will increase their willingness to reciprocate and invest in your business.
3. Be the first to offer value. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last as they're both informed by the same base assumption: you're going to have to invest time and money into relationships to see results; there have to be reasons for prospective clients to come to your business and current clients to stay. Work to give those people the reasons they need from day one: be the first to reach out after coming into contact, send a personal note or a small gift, volunteer a referral if they're looking for help in a related field; demonstrate your value.

3. Be the first to offer value. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last as they're both informed by the same base assumption: you're going to have to invest time and money into relationships to see results; there have to be reasons for prospective clients to come to your business and current clients to stay. Work to give those people the reasons they need from day one: be the first to reach out after coming into contact, send a personal note or a small gift, volunteer a referral if they're looking for help in a related field; demonstrate your value.
4. Take advantage of immediacy. As we've been over, an incredible number of people are initiating follow-ups on a regular basis. Most of them, however, aren't doing it nearly fast enough. Reach out in at least the first 48 hours, 24 if possible after you've exchanged business cards or received someone's information. The sooner you follow up, the fresher in the client's mind you'll be. Don't spend days or weeks crafting the perfect plan for how to contact them the first time- by the time you do they'll have long forgotten about you. Be creative and original, sure, but be quick as well. It'll play to your advantage.

4. Take advantage of immediacy. As we've been over, an incredible number of people are initiating follow-ups on a regular basis. Most of them, however, aren't doing it nearly fast enough. Reach out in at least the first 48 hours, 24 if possible after you've exchanged business cards or received someone's information. The sooner you follow up, the fresher in the client's mind you'll be. Don't spend days or weeks crafting the perfect plan for how to contact them the first time- by the time you do they'll have long forgotten about you. Be creative and original, sure, but be quick as well. It'll play to your advantage.
5. Share interesting or thought-provoking content. It's important to keep in mind that follow-ups don't need to be directly related to specific business to be useful, positive experiences. Try reaching out every once in a while just to maintain relationships. Next time you come across an article, video clip or book that makes you think, reach out to someone in your network. There are hundreds of people saying "meet me at Starbucks at 3 o'clock?" so be the one who says "this article made me think of you" instead.

5. Share interesting or thought-provoking content. It's important to keep in mind that follow-ups don't need to be directly related to specific business to be useful, positive experiences. Try reaching out every once in a while just to maintain relationships. Next time you come across an article, video clip or book that makes you think, reach out to someone in your network. There are hundreds of people saying "meet me at Starbucks at 3 o'clock?" so be the one who says "this article made me think of you" instead.

It comes down to being creative, acting quickly, and truly caring. Follow those principles and refer to the above tips and you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of the follow-up.

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