The first system I set up for my entrepreneurial clients is a follow up system. Usually they have been avoiding it, saving it for later, or winging it. They have mixed, alright, I really mean chaotic, results with that. So, I fix it.
It is a big mistake to not do the follow up required to build the relationships that will help their business run.
All business is about people. The people you work with, the clients you serve, the vendors that serve you, it’s all about the relationship. Building better relationships requires communication on a regular basis.
An easy follow up system takes all the guesswork out of it. Make it automatic and repeatable and you will always know who to call and when. But you really need to know why you are following up in the first place.
1. Start by identifying the types of people you need to deal with. For efficient follow up it helps to work with categories. Most will fall into one or more of these categories:
- Potentials – may turn into any of the other categories as you get to know them.
- Inquiries – they were motivated enough to contact you, they need attention to turn them into clients.
- Clients – these are already fans, keep them happy and feeling special. They already know and like and trust you. A little extra attention and they will send others to you.
- Vendors – help you get your work done. Help them help you by staying in contact about changes, needs, and disappointments.
- Team members – work smoothly by setting up good communication, and things will be done right the first time. Standards, expectations and regular check-ins are necessary with even the most self starting individuals.
- Partners – what can you do for them? Think about and share what you find regularly and your value will be top of mind.
- What kind of relationship you are looking to build. Knowing the outcome, or at least the next step in each relationship keeps individual projects moving forward and customer service up to date. It will also keep a steady flow of clients coming through the doors.
Are you turning a potential into a client? Are you trying to get a better deal from a vendor, or getting a meeting with a partner?
- Then determine the best way to communicate with them. Decide which method, a phone call, a text, an email, or direct message is best for the outcome you are striving for.
- Complete the data. How did you meet the person? Are they on your email list or do you just have their phone number? Maybe you only know them via social media. Time to start filling in the blanks or determine how you will reach out.
- Decide a level of follow up you are comfortable with. Keep in mind that most of the people you are following up with have a much higher tolerance being on the receiving end than you think. Also, keep in mind that on average it takes 9 points of contact to cut through the other information clutter and create a relationship.
When people are on your email list it’s easy enough to set up auto-responders and funnels to remind people that you are there. But thinking through a few phone call, direct message or email interactions is also a good idea.
The plan needs to be structured so the stress is taken out of it and the flexibility needs to be there so when you do find a connection earlier that you thought, you can skip to the good part and get to work.
For the plan to become a system you will need to try it. Then adjust as you get more familiar with it. As with any system, you want to deal with the steps and the timing of the steps.
For example, let’s say you are pursuing a new client. They called you in the first place so they have opted to have you follow up.
Return the call or email with in 24 hours if not by end of day. Most of us do not have a problem returning a call or email fairly promptly, however, by setting this 24-hour standard, your professionalism will shine through.
The problem is after that. If you don’t connect on the return you will need to follow up.
I usually give 48 hours to hear back then I’ll follow up, and again 5 days after that.
If I still haven’t heard back, or if the conversation is ongoing I keep following up, but taper off. One week later, 2 weeks later, 2 weeks after that. I continue to follow up 4 weeks after and then 6 weeks and then at 12 week intervals.
That makes 9 attempts. Most of the time I have at least reached them once and asked if it is ok to stay in contact. From there it goes on what the next time they say is ok to check in. Or every 6 months I’ll call to check in.
All partners and vendors and past clients are checked in with at least once a year, more often when and where appropriate.
This can be somewhat automated in your contact relation manager (CRM) providing the calendar prompts or by entering the next contact date in your calendar manually.
I often hear my clients say they don’t want to bother the person they are calling. That’s without knowing if the person is bothered, or simply busy with other priorities and waiting for the right time to take action. It is important to be there when they are.
The money is in the follow up. Don’t give up – go make some calls!
Another example: when it comes to following up with your team, I recommend an agenda system.
That is where you set up a regularly scheduled time to check in and meet about what is coming up, and what needs to be followed up with. Check-ins might be everyday, once a week, once a month or some custom interval based on the project.
Keep a list of the tasks that have been assigned and review them during the check-in time. Using agendas will keep the interruptions to a minimum.
Add to the list as you discover items to review or assign, so you can pass it on during the next check-in. This will keep projects moving forward, give the team a chance to ask for clarifications or alert you to potential problems.
Of course no one is perfect. Use these ideas to keep you on track. Some days, no calls will be made. Just make a few extra the next day. That’s how it’s flexible. Used regularly you will start seeing amazing results in how much you are getting done and to your bottom line.