Three Tips to Master the Art of Following Up

art-of-following-up

We’re all in this together.

You know what I mean, that deluge of communication that happens across any and every platform we maintain a presence on today.

We get emails, texts, and snapchats.

We get tweets, Facebook messages, and IMs.

And we send just as many, if not more, than we receive.

As we use the internet and social media to grow our networks, we gain the ability to meet many more people than previously possible. But good networking is not just about who we can meet and make that first contact with, it’s about who we can build lasting connections and develop trust with.

One of the easiest ways to build that trust comes from following up.

No matter if you’re interviewing for a new job, working a new lead from a conference, or just looking to further a conversation, following up is a key skill that can often trip people up.

Now I know it can feel somewhat awkward, and you don’t want to be annoying or too eager, but if you haven’t made an attempt to follow up, the connection can’t mean that much to you, and you can never expect to build anything.

So how can you approach the art of following up and break through the noise to develop lasting relationships? Here are a few tips that I’ve found seem to work for me.

1. Timing Is EverythingTweet this

Timing is everything, and while there’s no secret science, you definitely better try more than once.

I typically send emails within a few days after meeting a new contact, and then wait about a week or two before following up.

There’s a difference between maintaining a connection, having a conversation and crowding the people you follow up with. Depending on the relationship you can feel out how these evolve over time.

Naturally you don’t want to make anyone feel crowded in your conversations by becoming too eager or sending too many emails, but remember that just like you’re fighting for inbox zero, so are they.

If your first two emails have gone unanswered, they’re probably receiving tons of other messages too and yours might have gotten lost in the shuffle. Give it some time and try them again in a week or two, just don’t get discouraged right away.

It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s OK to keep emailing them if they haven’t responded yet. At that point you should have a good feeling about whether your efforts are worth it or not.

2. Your Tact Matters — Tweet this

The tone of your communication is just as important as good timing when following up. Don’t forget that the person on the other end of the message is a person just like you. You can be sure that somewhere in their life they too have been in your shoes, so be humble, honest and appreciative.

Make the connection personal.

One of the biggest mistakes you could ever make when following up is using a canned response.

Have a plan before you go in and make it easy for someone to respond with an answer to continue the conversation.

You’re looking to start a conversation, so address the specific interaction you had with that person or give your comments on something that they’ve shared on their social networks.

Sounds simple, but actually get to know the person. Find out what they like to do when they’re not working, what their favorite sports teams are, who their favorite speakers are.

You should want to find points to talk about that they can relate to because that’s what a relationship is about, a two-way street.

Make sure you consider their communication style – do they connect with you primarily through email, phone or social channels?

Sometimes sending a tweet or picking up the phone and calling is far more effective than trying email five weeks straight.

3. Leverage Tools to Help You — Tweet this

Don’t think that you need to manage your relationships all in your head. Be smart and use tools to nurture your relationships, while keeping you informed and organized.

While in the past Rolodexes and black books helped manage your father or mother’s prized contacts, there’s no shortage of apps and programs dedicated to helping you network better.

Here are a few of my favorite tools for following up with people:

Salesforce

If you’re using Salesforce as your CRM provider, you can set a reminder for contacts, leads and opportunities. This sends emails and popup notifications when you’re logged into your account.

Charlie App

Save yourself a little time on research here, the Charlie App scours the social web to find out the interests, stories and social channels about people you have events scheduled with in Google Calendar. You get an instant summary brief of people you’re meeting with ahead of time to help with prep. I use this daily. https://charlieapp.com/

Boomerang

Like we talked about before, timing is everything. While you might have a few hours to catch up on your email, you might not want to send all those messages at the same time.

Boomerang is a simply Chrome extension that allows you to schedule sending mail in the future.

What’s really great is Boomerang’s followup feature. You can select to be reminded if nobody replies to your initial email, or reminded any time just as a followup. http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

Rapportive

Rapportive is another Chrome Extension that brings a quick LinkedIn profile summary of the person you’re emailing with. I find that this really helps to add a human element right inside of my Gmail, where I spend a lot of time writing messages. https://rapportive.com/

Calendar Reminders

Sometimes there’s nothing easier than setting up a meeting in your calendar app. Mine are set to remind me 30 minutes and 10 minutes before any scheduled event.

Set up events for emailing back important people, set up recurring schedules, or even as some suggest, block out certain times in your day just for email alone. Hammer through your inbox for an hour or two and move on to your next task.

There’s no secret science of the follow up, but there is an art to building relationships. Find your sweet spot of timing, tools and tact to start maintaining long lasting connections.

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