Following up frequently and effectively is not only essential for the success of a salesperson, but to anyone who understands that in order to accomplish anything we must actively build relationships with the people who can help us get there. Whether you’re looking for a job, hiring an employee, raising money for your business, trying to break into acting or public speaking, or virtually anything else that involves the decision of another human being, you must know how to reach out and follow up consistently.
Many people are afraid to follow up because they don’t want to be a nuisance, and that’s fair. If all you’re doing is talking about yourself and asking but not giving, then you most likely will be seen as just that. But if you do have something great to offer, when you realize how many reasons there could be for someone not to respond to you, and how many interactions it may take for your message to be relevant to the person at any given point in time, it becomes easier to hit the Send button.
It’s been reported that salespeople on average follow up 1-2 times, yet it may take 5-8 follow ups to actually get someone to act. Sometimes it may even take months or years to get a high value target to respond to an email or call of yours. The key here is consistency in your follow ups and of course showing clear value with each interaction. And it works! If you don’t believe me, here’s how James Altucher spent a year chasing famous hedge fund manager Steve Cohen.
There’s another great example in a book called “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes about how consistent follow up can pay off in any situation. Chet had a very lucrative career in sales before he became an author and public speaker, and at one point he wrote a screenplay on the side that got some positive feedback. He had the idea of selling this screenplay in Hollywood without knowing anything about the industry and its players. After subscribing to some publications listing the top CEOs of major Hollywood studios and their contact information, Chet had compiled his “Dream 100” list and started calling away. After finally getting many of these decision makers on the phone (through techniques you can learn in this book), he was ultimately still turned down 38 times. But, he kept going. Eventually, Chet got a call from one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood, who had a great A-list actress in mind for the screenplay, and a studio (Warner Bros) who wanted to make a movie with her. Once they got her buy-in he was able to sell his screenplay to Warner Bros and achieve his goal. Most people would give up after 38 rejections, but as we can see it pays to be persistent.
There are many approaches to effective email follow up, but here are some basic rules that have worked well for me.
Rule #1: Have relevant subject lines to help the recipient understand why you’re emailing them right away. Getting to the point will increase the likelihood of an open and response.
Examples: “Following Up on My Call,” “Interested in Speaking,” “Introduction from John M.”
Rule #2: Brevity is king. Unfortunately, no one cares how awesome your product/service/resume etc. is, especially if the person doesn’t know you. Every email should take no more than a minute to read and have clear statements as to what you need, and what you can provide. Some of your follow ups can even be simply 1 or 2 sentences to refresh their memory.
Rule #3: Offer value. Include a relevant article or webinar that supports your idea/pitch/product etc. Provide an example of how you helped someone in the same situation or position or market as your target. Take any opportunity to offer value because you never know when your message will become relevant, and you want to be sure your target comes away with a positive feeling from every interaction.
Rule #4: Use you not I. Avoid talking about yourself and make everything you say relate to the person you’re targeting. This is surprisingly difficult to do, but is very important when you’re trying to earn someone’s attention.
Please add any suggestions from your own experiences in the comments!