Ask anyone who’s in business about the importance of following up, and you won’t be surprised by the answer. It’s vital.  I know this.  So why am I challenged by this skill set?

Initially, I started researching this topic for self-serving purposes. I learned a lot about what I could be doing better to build my business, improve my customer service, and as an unexpected benefit, to enrich my personal relationships.  Now I feel compelled to share the information.

I learned that there are many effective ways for following up.  Some are obvious, and some are creative. Experts, it seems, are all in agreement that different methods of follow-up serve different purposes.  For those of you business owners who have automated your follow-up process, whether it’s by email or text or otherwise, the so-called “experts” want you to change it up.  People are much savvier these days, and consumers are especially sensitive to the possibility that your follow-up message might be originated by way of artificial intelligence.  

Our clients, our customers, and we, ourselves, are individuals.  We deserve better than to be treated like sheep.

When I’m being approached by a salesperson or a business owner, sometimes I bluntly reply that I’m not interested.  Other times, I might ask for some time before giving an outright answer.  I like to think I’m a pretty good communicator, so my interest (or lack thereof) is generally obvious.  What challenges me is when I’m the one seeking the business of others, and I don’t have an instant read on whether they might be interested in what I have to offer.

Accordingly, I’ve narrowed down my research to these five tips for successful follow-up:

Tip #1 – Always be polite.  This should be obvious, and if you have trouble with rejection, perhaps another field of endeavor might be better suited to you.

Tip #2 – Ask what’s the best way for you to follow up.  Personally, I am not a phone person, so I would respond by requesting that the follow-up be by email.  

Tip #3 – Honor the timing.  If your client mentions that she’s having knee surgery next week, take note, and give her some extra time to recuperate.  (It also wouldn’t hurt if you sent her a text after the surgery to see how she’s feeling.)

Tip #4 – Issue a reminder, if appropriate.  Some people need an extra nudge, and others are offended by it.  I vary my reminder policy on a case-by-case basis.

Tip #5 – Don’t give up.  There’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pain.  Figure out where you land and honor that space.

Thanks to my family, I learned good work habits at an early age.  I make “to do” lists, my desk is organized, and my office is tidy.  Why wasn’t it obvious to me before I started thinking about writing this blog that following up is a good work habit?  I guess old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.

Have you mastered the follow-up skill set?  Please share some tips.