Follow Up EffectivelyIt was midnight. I was happily sleeping when a loud snorting chuckle sound woke me up. I rolled over expecting my husband to be asleep having a crazy dream. He wasn’t. He was up and reading something on his iPad.

He looked over at me and said “Oh! I am sorry but I got the sides for my audition and this is hilarious.”

Seriously?! You woke me up for that?!

I was not impressed … but he was really excited.

He went for the audition. There was a lot of improv as well as the lines he’d rehearsed. He said he had never laughed so much at an audition.

He wanted to be in this movie even more. For the days after the audition he waited anxiously by his phone waiting to find out if he was getting a callback.

Sadly, when the call came, it was not good news. He didn’t make the cut. Usually you don’t even hear if you’re not in, but the director said he was close.

Dave was so disappointed. After careful consideration he decide to ask for feedback. This isn’t common in the film industry but it’s an independent film and the audition was several hours long, so he thought it was worth a try. He wrote the director back, thanked him for the opportunity and told him how awesome the project is going to be. He then asked if the director would mind giving him some input as to what he could have done better or differently so he knows for the future.

It was positive, pointed and polite.

The Director was actually a bit stumped and didn’t really know why he cut Dave so he went back and watched the footage from the audition. When he watched it again he changed his mind about Dave. He decided that he’d probably cut Dave just because he’d been the last one to read in a really long weekend of auditions. He wrote Dave back, and scheduled a call back.

Dave nailed the call back and ended up taking the lead part in the movie!

Follow up is important. It doesn’t always work out … but you will miss opportunities in your life and business if you don’t try.

The problem for many is HOW you follow-up. Most follow-ups are ineffective, waste time and are sometimes annoying.

Most follow-ups I receive are generic and about the person who is following up. For example, “I wanted to see where you’re at with the decision to hire us for the job”.

Who is that benefiting? Why would I want to respond?

So what can you do to follow-up effectively?

It all begins with your first conversation or meeting. Focus on understanding them and their business or situation. Ask them some really good questions like:

  • What’s most important to you in your decision to <hire for this position/buy a house/select a new couch>?
  • What’s most important to you in your job?
  • What’s does your boss really care about/think is important?
  • What else is important?
  • How do you know when you’ve found <the person for the job/the right house/the couch for your house>?

During your conversation, you may also pick up some personal details. For example, maybe you learn that someone has started eating gluten-free and really misses muffins. You might know the perfect recipe (I do – they are these amazing chocolate chip pumpkin muffins… mmmm). Maybe you find out they are huge fans of the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Team and you happen to know an owner of the team. Or, possibly you just find out they love golf and go every Sunday while their 7 year old boy learns to rock climb at the gym next door to the golf course.

Armed with some great information, you are always well equipped for an effective follow up.

Three Great Ways to Fix Your Follow-Up for Success:

1. Schedule Your Follow-Up With a Promise of Added Value

You need buy in before you leave in almost all situations. If you didn’t ask for the job or the sale and you think you’ll get it when you follow-up, you’re wasting time. You are there now – ask for it and handle any objections or concerns they have (or get so good at influencing others that they close the sale for you).

Assuming you have their buy in, but they are meeting other candidates or have to review it with other people, you will have to follow up. When you ask for the follow-up (always best to schedule the follow up before you leave), offer to follow up with something of value. Maybe it’s a report you’ve read that will benefit their business, perhaps it’s a case study on a competitor’s success,  or maybe it’s just something for them personally. Regardless, when you ask for a follow up appointment, say “That’s great. Let’s set up a time to meet/speak in a week. I’ll come to that appointment with the <thing of value for them>.”

They know you’re following up to get what you want but now they look forward to it because they are getting something they want as well.

2. Keep Connected in a Personalized Way

One of my consulting clients sent me a thank you card after she’d flown to my home city of Nanaimo for a weekend of training. I have received a lot of thank you cards but this one stands out in my mind.  The card contained a picture of us together and the view of the Nanaimo Harbour with a note about how beautiful it was. I am very proud of my city. I care a lot that visitors to our city also appreciate what it has to offer. We had a conversation about my city pride when she was here and she showed me she was listening with this simple gesture.

Other ways to follow up in a personal way include connecting two people who you think will benefit from knowing each other. There’s nothing in it for you. You do it because they will benefit.

Finally, you can send articles, books, collectors items or just about anything else that is personalized and uniquely applicable to that person. Your follow up is to keep in touch for your own benefit, so you need to make sure they know that you’re not just thinking about yourself.

3. Be Polite, Positive and to the Point

Dave’s follow up after the initial rejection was only a few sentences. He was positive about the movie, he was polite but he also got to the point and said “what should I have done differently?”

You won’t always get a response but a lot of people will want to let you know what happened. Some people WILL tell you.

Depending on your business, you may need to follow up because they might not need your services for awhile. Some people will forget you if you don’t follow up. Find that out. Ask when it’s appropriate to reach out again, and then do so again at that time (or, if you have some other thoughtful reason to connect with them sooner).

Bottom line, don’t be a pain and keep calling or e-mailing, but follow up, as long as you are direct and polite are acceptable. In fact, many people and businesses welcome the opportunity to tell you what happened or stay connected.

Influencing others is always about understanding what’s important to them and positioning what you have in a way that shows you understand and care about what is important to them. When you need to follow up that doesn’t change. The follow up should benefit the other person, and when it’s solely for your benefit, do it in a polite and positive way that gets right to the point. Learn to follow-up effectively and you will find a few opportunities that would have passed you by otherwise – like the lead in a horror movie.