Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What happens next....

Dear Salesperson,

Congratulations, you made the appointment, you had your first meeting, and now, well now.... what happens next?

Do you have a follow up plan? A follow up routine?

Are you even doing any follow up? Or are you a one pitch sales person that is forgotten.

Look, there's lot's of books, websites, articles, seminars, and training that can tell you what to do, how to do it, even sell you a system to do it easier, but......
Are you going to follow up?

At the risk of repeating advice you may already have heard, I'm going to share with you an article about follow up from the website.

This pertains to follow up after a networking event. Read it and do it!

3 Tips For Following Up On Your Networking Conversations

By Ilise Benun

On my way home from a conference recently, I sat next to a blonde woman in her mid-40's wearing matching Prada shoes and bag. From the looks of her, a successful businesswoman.

I couldn't help peeking over her shoulder and seeing that she was composing email messages in Outlook. I could tell she had just attended a meeting and was diligently doing her follow-up. The problem was that every single message she wrote was the same – and, in my opinion, really boring.

"Dear [Blank], it was a pleasure to meet you at the meeting this weekend and I hope we can meet again soon."

That was it. No reference to who she was, what they talked about, what ideas she had since they met or what they could do together in the future.

Anyone who knows me (or has heard my networking presentations) knows that I am a follow up freak. But I'd say it's better not to follow up than to write the type of generic follow up messages this woman was about to send out.

The problem so many people face is that they have no idea what to say when they follow up, and that often stops them from doing so. So here are a few ideas about how to build on the momentum of meeting someone in person, to reinforce the impact of your personal presence.

1. Set the foundation for follow up while you're talking.

Follow up starts when the conversation starts. As you're talking, be looking for something to say in your follow up. As soon as it hits you, make a note of it on the back of their card. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Find something in common. A topic of interest – whether personal or professional – is perfect for reaching out later (and more than once). After the initial follow-up, when you come across something related to the topic, whether it's an idea, event, article or opportunity, you can simply pass it along, simultaneously keeping your visibility high.

  • Learn something new. It may be uncomfortable, but lead the conversation in a direction you know nothing about, (but they do), and ask lots of questions. For example, a man I met recently mentioned he used to race cars. That's a topic I wouldn't normally be interested in, but I asked a few questions and learned a few things about car racing – and about him. That information later becomes useful when I come across an article or reference relevant to him.

    Doing this strengthens your ties, and you can do it with any topic on earth.

  • Offer an idea, a contact or some other resource. As you're learning about the other person and their interests, search your mind for something or someone with whom you can connect them. Mention the connection, then promise to send them more details. Then, when you follow up with, "Here's the information I promised," it shows you're reliable too.

2. Follow up right away.

Do this to build on the momentum of the conversation and your freshness in their mind. If too much time passes before you follow up, the conversation may slip into the recesses of their mind or blur with that of someone else they met recently. If you wait, it won't have as strong of an impact. Do it the next day if possible, or at the very least, sometime before the week is out.

3. Suggest the next step.

This will be different for every encounter, but the main idea is to keep the ball rolling.

  • If you sense someone is a good prospect for your services, don't hesitate to propose a meeting (phone or in person) to discuss how you can help.

  • If you enjoyed the conversation, but can't yet tell how much business you can do together, offer to take your new colleague out for coffee to continue the conversation.

  • If all you did was exchange business cards, but never actually chatted (this happens a lot), suggest talking on the phone to find out more about what they do.

For each case, be sure to propose a time/date. Otherwise, possible interest might get lost in the sea of everything else they want to do. And finally, always follow up. This is Networking 101 but it bears repeating because no matter how well you know the importance of follow-up, the reality is that very few people actually do it.

Maybe it's because we are just too busy. Or maybe we just don't know what to say. It does take a few minutes to compose a short email message, and, if you don't remember exactly what you discussed, you may assume the other person doesn't remember either.

No matter what, you tell yourself when you're sitting in front of a blank screen with a stack of cold business cards, push yourself to make the effort to write a short note. That way, your email address and message is in their inbox, just in case.

Ilise Benun, a Hoboken-NJ based consultant, is a national speaker and the author of several books, including Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive and Designing Websites for Every Audience. She is also founder of Marketing Mentor, a one-on-one coaching program for small business owners. You can reach Ilise at

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