Fortune in the Follow Up

I can't believe how few business people make the time to follow-up after they have made initial contact with a prospect, customer or referral source.

Why aren't they taking this important step? This is the move that can mean the difference between success and failure for the self employed professional. Here are some of the things I hear from my clients.

I got busy and forgot. This is so common. We get caught up in the day to day routine of running our business and don't schedule time for follow up. We get stuck in traffic, there is an emergency at home, an anxious client moves a deadline on us and suddenly we are behind in the calls, notes and emails that keep us on our prospective client's radar. The key is to block out a time in your planner everyday to do follow up. Close the door, get out the script and get going.

I don't want to be pushy. It is our responsibility to keep following up with clients until we know whether or not they want to do business with us. Depending on your industry standard, and the typical sales cycle a weekly call is not excessive. Even when a prospect declines to do business with you right now, you can ask permission to call back next quarter, in 6 months, or to put them on your list for your regularly published newsletter. Make sure every time you contact them that you are delivering value. You don't want to waste their time. You also want to think about your tone. If you are genuinely wanting to serve them it will come across and your follow up will not be an annoyance or perceived as pushy.

I don't know where to start. First things first. Start by telling them you will follow up. Tell them when and how. "I will follow up next Tuesday (in two days, whatever.) Tell them how. "I will telephone (email, drop by) to answer any questions you may have." Next, put it in your planner. I also keep a project folder and write important follow up calls on a white board. In the past I have also used Outlook to remind me.

Often, a personal handwritten note is appropriate. Especially after a client has purchased from you, a quick note or personal phone call is appreciated. After that, they need to go into your permanent data base. Then you implement your long range client retention follow up. Quarterly reviews? Holiday or birthday cards? All of these are appropriate for follow up. One of my biggest clients came after fifteen months of non pushy, informative follow up by sending my newsletter on a monthly basis.

The truth is that most business people don't follow up. When you do, you are putting yourself head and shoulders above the competition. Don't take your valuable first efforts for granted. Don't make assumptions that they will call you. They are suffering from the same problem you are: too busy; they forget. And the more time that passes, the less important your service seems to them.

You make the first and second and maybe third and fourth power move: Follow up!