While most business professionals know that follow up is important, the fact is that very few are masterful at the art of it. Sure, they may leave one or two voicemails for people or send a couple of e-mails, but those attempts are only scratching the surface of what follow up is really all about.
In truth, following up with a prospect or customer is about attending to the details of business. It's doing what you say you will do and honoring your word. It is committing to what you know you can commit to and then doing it.
Following up is calling your prospect or client not to nag them or harass them, but to remind them of the wonderful, valuable product or service you know will enhance their business or life.
Here's another way to look at it: Follow up is acknowledgment. Most people want to feel acknowledged for who they are and for what they do. Smart business people know that acknowledging people softens their heart.
Therefore, when you say you're going to call back in one week and you do, your client feels acknowledged. You did what you said you would do … and that kind of integrity is rare in today's world. After all, if you're not acknowledging your prospects and clients, why should they form a relationship with you?
If you don't follow up with people, they think you don't care if you get the business or not. Not only are you offending the other person, but you're also sabotaging your success and your company's bottom line.
So if you're ready to take your follow up skills (and your success) to the next level, then practice these strategies:
When Following Up, Don't Give an Exact Timeframe.
Many people fall into the trap of being too specific with their follow-up promises. For example, they may say, "I'll call you back in 30 minutes." However, they tell everyone the same timeframe no matter what the situation or request. As a result, they rarely honor their 30-minute promise.
Rather than give a specific time, a better approach is to say something like, "I'll get back to you when my project is complete in the next day or so," or use some other vague timeframe that is reasonable. That way you're not being held to a strict timeline.
Additionally, if you know you intend to get back to them in an hour, tell them you will get back by the end of the day. Something might come up in that hour that derails your attention and your best intentions.
If you see those minutes rolling away and are supposed to get back to a person but know you can't, then phone them and tell them you are detained.
You could say, "I know I was supposed to have an answer for you by 5 p.m. today and it's now 4:45, but it looks as though I'm going to need more time to resolve this situation. I will call you back with more information by tomorrow afternoon." It's better to make the call than pretend it will all go away. Acknowledging the problem lets the other person see that you can be relied on.
Be F.U.L.L. of Yourself - Follow Up Light and Lively.
When you are talking with someone or leaving a voicemail, put a smile in your voice. If you aren't feeling happy at that particular time, then listen to some upbeat music, read a few funny jokes or stories online, or pick up a humorous book. You absolutely must be positive when doing follow up.
One thing you must never do is get on the phone when you're angry or depressed. No one wants to take on negative energy, and no one will return a voicemail that has a negative tone in it. Your voicemail or message must be light and lively. It must have happy energy. It must be enthusiastic. And it must be awaiting the person's response with glee.
No one wants to speak to Mr./Ms. Grumpy. If you've left a few voicemails and you still haven't heard back from your prospect or client, then you may have reason to be irritated; however, you must never let the other person know that. You must leave a fourth and fifth voicemail with as much enthusiasm and excitement as you had when you left the first voicemail.
Realize, too, that leaving a "guilt" message will never get the customer to call you back. Guilt messages sound like this: "Mr. Smith, I have already left you five messages. Why are you not returning my calls? If you do not return my call in the next 48 hours I will have no choice but to not do business with you again. Please call me immediately. I need your answer."
The result of this message will most likely result in you never hearing from Mr. Smith again. You may have released your own frustration at the cost of a very possible future sale. If you are courteous and guilt-free on your sixth voicemail you leave all doors open for Mr. Smith to be able to return the call to you. It is also possible that your courtesy and enthusiasm may prompt him to not only give you his business, but also because of your wonderful and uplifting persistence you could get all his referral business as well. Therefore, always stay positive and put a smile in your style.
Follow Up for the Fun of It.
Follow up is not about nagging; it is about reminding. Unfortunately, when it comes to follow up, most people think of the telemarketers who call during dinner, and no one wants to be like them. But that is not following up. When done artfully and elegantly, and in the right way, follow up is actually a masterful work of reminding.
Also realize that not every follow up has to be about "are you ready to buy from me right now?" Sometimes you just do it because it's the right thing to do. As an added benefit, when you follow up without an immediate sales goal in mind, you see how it can be. For example, suppose your phone rang and in the caller ID you see the name of your bank displayed. Possibly alarmed there is a problem, you answer the phone. The person on the other end says, "Is this Jane Doe? This is John Smith, your personal banker. I just wanted to call and tell you to have a great day."
Or suppose a product you bought from a salesperson has arrived in the mail. It is now in your home and functioning properly. Two or three days later you get a follow up call from the salesperson asking how the product is working for you. This kind of call will probably result in more purchases from that salesperson.
In both of these examples, the act of follow up is to check in with someone, not to say, "Please buy from me today." When you do a few follow ups like these, calling to ask for the sale later is much easier … and the prospect is much more inclined to say yes and refer others to you.
Become a Master Follower Up
When you implement these suggestions into your follow up efforts, you see how fun and rewarding follow up can actually be. Your prospects and customers will appreciate your efforts to keep them informed, and your company will be grateful for your persistence and diligence to one of the most basic business tasks. In the end, by mastering this fine art, you'll close more business and enjoy greater success in all areas of your life.
Judy Garmaise, CSW, is a corporate trainer, sales expert and professional speaker with a master's degree from Columbia University. With more than 25 years of experience in sales, management and customer service, Judy provides training on Follow Up - her proven system of increasing profitability and success, while maintaining integrity and trust. She is also working on the forthcoming book, "The Power of Follow Upä." To hire her for your next training or keynote, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (561) 445-9955. For more information, please visit www.judygarmaise.com.