The One-Stop Guide to Effective Follow Up

“80 percent of building and maintaining relationships is just staying in touch.”

Keith Ferrazzi in Never Eat Alone

What is your process for maintaining your relationships?

How do you stay in touch?

Do you follow up at all?

What is the best way to follow up with someone you have met?

Today we are going to answer these questions…and many more.


I have a confession to make.

I am a procrastinator.

If I don’t make a plan to follow through, I can stretch out a task–or avoid it all day long.

It seems like most of us have a third-degree black belt in procrastination…and it’s even worse when it’s really don’t want to do!

No where is this more evident than when it comes to following up with your connections.

Following up is literally one of the most common places that networking relationships break down.

As a matter of fact, even though I KNOW how important following up is, I STILL have a hard time doing it if I don’t plan it out!

This is kind of embarassing, but recently I attended a conference for work and while I was there I made a list of 25-30 people that I wanted to send a note in the mail to when I got home.

I had EVERY intention of doing it — after all, I talk and teach about this stuff all the time, right??

Right.

There was even a speaker at the conference that TOLD everyone to send a note or email to the speakers they liked and thank them — and he TOLD everyone that 99% of people wouldn’t do it!

And I thought to myself — So true!!  I’m glad I’m the 1%!!

So I went home with my list in hand, ready to defy the odds!

But I didn’t have a solid plan in place to do it.

So when I got home, the list sat on my desk.

A day went by. 

(I’ll get to it tomorrow)

Two days. 

(I won’t be so busy this weekend)

One week. 

(Dang it…if I don’t do this soon, it’s gonna be weird when I do…)

Two weeks. 

A month.

(Ok, now it WILL be weird — I know, I’ll send Christmas cards instead!)

Six weeks to Christmas.

(I should probably start working on those…I have quite a few to write…)

Three weeks to Christmas.

(hmmm….if I don’t do it soon, these will be New Year’s cards…)

One week to Christmas.

(dang it, I’ve only written 5 cards…)

Three days to Christmas.

(Yeah, they won’t make it…there’s always next year…)

I became a statistic!

And all the time I had the best of intentions.

However, good intentions have NEVER sent a single follow up email or mailed a single thank you note.

Trust me.  I know.

Embarrassing, huh?

Don’t do what I did!

I LOVE Keith Ferrazzi’s quote at the beginning of this article.  It really is true — the majority of building and maintaining relationships really just comes down to staying in touch…or in other words, following up!


 

Here’s what some other super successful networkers have to say about the importance of following up:

Every time you go to a networking event and don’t follow-up, it’s a wasted opportunity.  Why did you even go?  It means you’ll just have to haul yourself back out onto the cocktail party circuit again.  What a waste of time and effort.” – John Corcoran, Smart Business Revolution – @JohnCorcoran

“Attending business networking events is a powerful way to build up new relationships and find new customers – but only if you follow-up effectively!Richard Tubb – @Tubblog

“Appropriately re-connecting with people shortly after you meet sends the message I am serious about a relationship, proactive and willing to invest the time and effort.” -Judy, Strategic Business Network

“Meeting lots of useful people and then not having the courage or taking the time to follow up professionally won’t accelerate your plans…You must systematically connect and then build relationships over time.”  -Judy Robinett, JudyRobinett.com@JudyRobinett

“Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95 percent of your peers.” -Keith Ferrazzi @ferrazzi


 

As you can see from the quotes above, the experts agree, learning how to–and actually following through–on following up with your contacts is VITAL to the success of your networking efforts.

Here’s what I’ve said previously about following up:

“If you aren’t going to take time to learn how to effectively follow up – and then take time to actually do it – don’t waste your time networking.  I’m serious. You might as well just flip on the TV and catch the latest episode of The Voice or something, because there’s no point to meeting people!”  – “If You Do Nothing Else When Networking

So, I think we all agree, following up is SUPER important.

Now the question is, how do you do it effectively?

Here are the best tips from some of the best networkers around.


 

Stand Out in a Good Way

Elliott Bell over at themuse.com says,

“I once had someone trying to sell me something that I was remotely interested in but that was nowhere near the top of my priority list. Every week, he’d send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold—as well as a suggestion for good pizza to try around the city. Why? He had seen a blog post where I mentioned I’d eat pizza 24/7 if I could, and cleverly worked that into his follow-up. It made him stand out in a good way, and as a result, we eventually had a call.”  (Click here to read all 5 of Elliott’s tips for following up…)

This is soooo true!  One of the ways that I make sure to stand out when I am following up with people is by sending a handwritten (I know…so last century!) thank you card or note to the person in the mail.

Seriously!  It stands out.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has commented about how cool it was to get a note in the mail.  No one does it…so I stand out.

So whether you are writing a handwritten note or suggesting the best pizza in town, find a way to be you and be memorable! 

Ask About Next Steps (Before You Leave…)

Here’s a quote from a article on Forbes.com from TheMuse (yup, same one…apparently those guys know about following up!).

“…if you ask the interviewer what happens next, you know exactly when it’s acceptable to follow up.”  (Click here to read all 4 tips for following up after a job interview…)

Now, admittedly they are talking about a job interview…but the principle is the same for all follow ups.  The easiest way to ensure that a follow up happens…and that it is received well is to plan it during the original conversation!

If you meet Bob for lunch on a Friday and before you leave you tell him that you’ll send him an email at the beginning of the week — and he says that’ll work fine — how do you think he’ll handle your email on Monday or Tuesday?  Pretty well, right?  He’s expecting it!  It isn’t an imposition because he’s already agreed to the follow up!

How do you make sure you don’t forget between now and next week (…because you will…)?

There are several tools you can use.  Do a search on Google for “delay sending in Gmail” and you’ll find several solutions.  Outlook allows you to delay sending emails.  Most CRMs also offer this capability.

Remind Them of Good Memories

The guys over at The Art of Charm have a “charming” way of encouraging follow ups (see what I did there??):

“You know that George follows the Broncos who got smashed by your ‘Niners last week. Remind him of your superior taste in pro football. Stoke those embers!”

Before this comment, they share an awesome example of how to weave great memories into your follow ups.  As a matter of fact, they say that doing this will “…It reaffirms your connection and solidifies that bond. This shows you think of your circle frequently; and it’s an easy way to make a point of personal contact that’s meaningful.”   (Click Here to read the entire story…)

I love this.  It is so true!  I have a friend that I follow up with quite frequently because we are both huge soccer fans — he happens to like the LA Galaxy and I’m a die-hard Seattle Sounders FC fan…so you can bet that any time those two teams play, he and I are definitely following up with each other!  It has, in Art of Charm’s words, “solidified [our] bond” and makes the relationship fun!  It also means that we touch base frequently and keep the relationship “warm”.

I actually have those types of topics with several of my friends and contacts…it makes it easy to find ways to follow up with them on a consistent basis!

Plan a Quarterly Reach Out Strategy

My friend and colleague Matt McWilliams pioneered the strategy of a quarterly “reach out” email (at least that’s who I heard about it from…):

“If you are in my network, you will get an email from me every three months. That’s more than 4800 (and growing) emails every year!…I simply divide them up…What do I say in those emails?Nothing fancy. Just a quick hello, well wishes, an update on how things are for me and my family, and an offer to help in any way that I can.”  (Click here to read Matt’s 5 Ways to Keep Your Network Warm)

I have adopted Matt’s Quarterly reach out email strategy.  As a matter of fact, I’ve even put together a download that has some of the actually emails and templates I have used in my quarterly reach out emails.

…and don’t get me wrong.  If you wanted to do this every six months, you totally could.  The principle is to have a plan to consistently follow up with your network…that way, when you need them they’re willing to help…or when they need whatever services or products you have, they will think of you first!

Click Here to Get your Free 14 Day Trial of Contactually

(The system I use for managing follow ups)

Be the First to Offer Help

Judy Robinett is a fantastic connector!  Here’s what she had to say about following up:

“Be proactive; be the first to offer to help and then follow through. Giving first is rare and builds trust in a world where talk is cheap and people mistrustful.”  (Click here to read Judy’s 4 Key Power Connecting Strategies…)

For me, this is foundational.  Being the first to actually offer (and, if possible, actually give) help is huge.  It creates a sort of “indebtedness” that makes people want to help you in return.

I’m not talking about leverage, really or even blackmail.  I’m talking about our natural inclination to want to help people that help us!  One of the best ways to follow up is to quickly and sincerely help the other person.

Give Them the Gift of Your Network

Super-connector Larry Benet says this,

“Since you met some great people, and found out what is important to them, who can you introduce them to?  Who do you know that they should meet or do business with?  Who do you know that can either be a resource to them or can help them solve one of their “lie awake at night” problems?” (Click Here to read Larry’s 10 Proven Strategies to Make Your Follow Up More Effective…)

This is one of my favorite parts of building relationships (and it will probably get it’s own One Stop Guide at some point…) — Introductions.  Making a thoughtful and beneficial introduction is an AWESOME way to follow up with someone.  It shows them that you were paying attention to their challenges and interests and that you trust them with your connections.

Connect on Social Media

Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International, one of the largest professional networking organizations in the world says,

“Within 7 days, connect with them on social media.  Make a connection via LinkedIn or Facebook.  Follow them on Twitter or join them on Google+.  Find ways to connect and engage with them via the social media platform(s) you are most active on.  Do NOT do this as a way to “sell” to them, do it as a way to start to establish a meaningful connection with them.”  (Click here to read Dr. Miser’s 3-step Follow Up Formula…)

Connecting with your contacts on social media gives you an opportunity to build a relationship that transcends simply a business or transactional relationship.  It allows you to get to know what their hobbies are, what their kids are interested in, and a ton of other things that will help you keep in contact and build the relationship.


 

What’s the Plan?

So if you are still reading this, you obviously understand how important it is to make sure that you are following up.

So how do you actually do it?

First off, let me tell you a few things NOT to do.

NOT #1: Don’t copy exactly what someone else does.  Seriously, don’t copy me exactly, don’t copy any networking gurus exactly.

Why?  Because your situation, your reasons for building relationships and your personal skills and strengths are different.

If you try to copy someone else’s plan 100% the likelihood that you will give up on it is pretty high.

NOT #2: Don’t assume this is “easy” and doesn’t take effort. Building relationships and following up is no different than anything else.  You get out what you put into it.  Building lasting, strong relationships takes consistent effort over time.

So now, what SHOULD you do?

DO #1: Plan your follow ups.   Know how often you want to follow up.  Know who you want to follow up with.  Know when you are going to follow up.  Every time management coach in the world will tell you that what you calendar gets done…what you DON’T calendar doesn’t get done!

DO #2: Have a purpose!  Don’t just follow up to follow up.  Have a purpose to your follow up.  Introduce them to someone, ask a question, give a recommendation, set up another time to chat, etc. Have SOME purpose.  Everyone is busy, so don’t waste their time! You don’t want the follow up to be awkward because you don’t have something to say. You don’t want the convo to be like this scene in Dumb & Dumber:

 

 

DO #3: Add value! This goes along with having a purpose.  This is like the cardinal rule of all relationship building.  Always add value.  When you meet people — add value!  When you email people — add value! When you follow up — ADD VALUE!

Find some way to help them.  Send them an article.  Suggest a restaurant. Introduce them to someone that can help them. Give them a suggestion.  Just generally find ways to be helpful!

The ball is now in your court.  You know why following up is important.  You know what some of the leaders in relationship building say about following up.  You have some basic do’s and don’ts.  Now you just have to actually do it!