How and when to follow up is something that a lot of people struggle with.
Particularly when it comes to potential clients and business prospects.
The pressure here comes from the word ‘potential’.
The fact that they are potential clients or potential business prospects can lead to FEAR. It can lead to people being afraid of scaring off or losing the prospect. Scaring off a business lead, scaring off a client – screwing it up.
Let’s look at the concerns that people have when they’re afraid of losing clients and we’ll see that there’s a very simple way of dealing with this problem.
- Seeming Too Keen
- Responding too soon or too late
- Making or implying a wrong assumption via your writing (e.g. in an email) about them becoming a client, or ‘letting on’ that you see them as a prospect
- Saying too much or saying the wrong thing
All of these typical concerns (and any others you can think of) basically come back to what we started with – HOW and WHEN to respond.
Timing and Communication
Let’s have a look at this in terms of simple communication.
When it comes to communication, early communication is the way to go. i.e. sooner is better than later (assuming it’s the right kind of communication).
A lot of people are busy (and a lot of people want to appear busy).
You don’t want people to think that you have nothing better to do than to write a really long email to them. That could perhaps even make you look a little desperate – and maybe raise concerns about the credibility of your business…
…but we have to look at that credibility issue and weigh it against professionalism and efficiency – and any business can fire off a very quick email which is just to follow-up – and that’s what I want to encourage you to do, when it comes to following up with your networking contacts – particularly with potential clients and potential business leads, the thing to do is to get a very brief email back to them very quickly because this is going to have all kinds of benefits (as I’m about to explain further).
The Solution: The Two Phrase Email Follow-up
This couldn’t be simpler.
It goes like this…
HOW? – Send a very brief email which contains just 2 phrases to the networking contact you want to follow-up with.
WHEN? – As soon as possible. You’re going to send a really brief email and you’re going to know exactly what to put in the email (I’m going to tell you below) so there is no excuse for any delay at all.
To give you an example of what I mean by a 2 phrase email, the email could read something like this:
It was really great to meet you yesterday.
Just dropping you a quick note with my contact details, I’ll follow up shortly when I have a little more time,
Phrase 1: Great to meet you
The first part of the email is basically a polite phrase letting your contact know that you value the relationship, it’s a universal – ‘great to meet you’ is the perfect choice for this phrase.
Though you could use a variation you prefer (also depending upon the nature of the relationship or initial conversation) – perhaps ‘I really enjoyed talking with you yesterday’, ‘How are things with you?’ or ‘I hope all is well with you’ – but if in doubt, just use ‘It was great to meet you’.
Phrase 2: Message inviting next step
The 2nd phrase should be brief but it depends upon the nature of the interaction in the first place, so you could go a few ways with it.
Here are some ideas:
- (use this as a default): Just a quick note with my contact details & I’ll follow up within the next few days when I have a little more time.
- Here are my contact details, let me know if there’s any way I can help you & if I can, I will.
- Following on from our conversation, let me know when you want to have that drink/meeting/game of golf/other activity*
- I’ll get back to you later this week with the information I promised you as soon as I’ve had a chance to dig through my files,
- Something similar which talks about a single next step that you or your contact should take in terms of follow-up
* – obviously choose one of these or replace with the appropriate activity from your conversation – don’t write it all out verbatim as written above!
Any 2nd phrase you choose talks of only one thing – the next step that either you should take or your contact should take.
This is an important choice.
You are choosing whether the next interaction should come from them or from you – i.e. who takes control of the next interaction – and it depends on quite a variety of factors which only you will know from your initial contact or whatever it is you’re following up from… e.g. the nature of the relationship, how long you’ve known the person, how the conversation went when you were talking to them and basically what you’ve agreed in that conversation.
Some things to consider… When you were meeting with your networking contact: did you say that you’d drop them an email, did you say you’d send them something, did they say to you they would like to keep in touch, what was the nature of the interaction? Did it feel very business-like or did you feel like it was as if you’d known that person for years? Did you get that right? You need to base your follow-up – the 2nd phrase in your email – on that.
And it leads to one of 2 ways…
You take the next step (e.g. option #1 above):
I’m going to get back to you shortly when I have more time – so you have set up your contact to expect that follow-up. You’ve very effectively paved the way whilst being courteous, non-intrusive and responsive (a lot for just one little email that took you no time at all, right?)
They take the next step (e.g. option #2 above):
If you are putting the ball back in their court because that’s the impression you got from the initial meeting or that’s what you agreed, then that second line will read something like ‘let me know what works for you’ or ‘let me know how I can help you’ is a great way of putting the ball in their court but also indicating that you’re there to add value, that you care about the relationship and that you’re there to help them.
Even if in that initial conversation they said they’d get back to you, it’s still not a bad idea to drop them a brief email provided it’s done in the right way – i.e. just providing your contact details and saying it was great to meet them.
This is about you taking control of this interaction.
Consider this: If you don’t provide them that contact and then they don’t get in touch with you for some time, it then becomes late in the day for you to follow up. If you immediately give them your contact details in a brief follow-up email it mitigates things like if you gave them a business card and they actually wanted to get in touch with you but they lost your business card – it was in their trouser pocket and got disintegrated in the washing machine or lost at the dry cleaners. There’s just no harm in a very quick follow-up saying ‘great to meet you’.
If in doubt stick with the first phrase above and you’ll get feedback from that (see the point on feedback below).
Why The 2 Phrase Email Follow-Up Works So Well
The 2-Phrase Email is simple.
Super simple but extremely powerful.
And just in case you don’t believe how powerful this actually is, here are 8 benefits you get with this approach.
1. It Saves Your Time and Their Time
This method is super fast. It requires little to no thought and is easy to do. You just write it and send it off, you have a method so it takes any worrying out of how & when to follow up.
Take this approach and you not only respect your time, you influence others to respect your time too.
And should you not hear back from them, you could also then be assured in the fact that you’ve hardly wasted a lot of your time.
This approach is really non-intrusive which is really a good way to go in this modern, ADD world. If you get in the habit of sending these really brief, courteous, non-intrusive initial emails, what you’ll first of all get is an appreciative response from people because, believe it or not, it’s very rare that people respect each others time and send really brief emails.
Quite often, when you’re polite like that in mails, someone will come back to you eventually and say sorry I didn’t reply to your mail, I was really busy’ or whatever… you never know why people aren’t replying to things.
2. It’s Courteous, Professional And Establishes Credibility
People are going to find it quite courteous of you to be getting back to them so quickly and so nicely. The tone of the email is friendly but professional. “Great to meet you” is a pretty universally accepted expression, it can’t be easily misinterpreted and therefore you can’t really go far wrong with it.
Letting people know what to expect next and when is also a sign of professionalism and good networking.
When you’re efficient and take this approach, people will assume you’re busy so probably quite credible in your market space, probably quite competent. That would be inferred by that kind of approach in most cases in my experience. Because short efficient emails is what successful busy people end up having to do anyway. That’s the point and that’s where this comes from. If you are successful and you are busy and you do want to maintain relationships, you have no choice but to send a brief email just to say ‘I haven’t forgotten about you’.
3. It Gives You Feedback
Possibly the best and perhaps most underrated benefit of this approach is that it is a great way of getting feedback whilst having a quick and effective approach that takes very little of your time. Even if you get no response, that’s feedback. You may get a response with a lot of feedback telling you exactly what that contact is looking for (e.g. if they know what line of business you’re in and want you to help them or recommend someone who can). By sending the quick 2 phrase email, you’re going to get feedback that you can act upon to decide the appropriate next step.
4. It Mitigates Any Risk
The contact could have lost the business card you gave them. They could have forgotten to get in touch, they could be well meaning but for whatever reason the contact doesn’t happen. There’s no need to assume the worst. Send this quick but effective 2 phrase email and in a brief, polite and professional way you have provided your contact details so you will know for sure that that person has your details and from the feedback you get mentoned above what to do with this contact next.
4. It Establishes A Window Of Opportunity
If you’ve sent that brief email, even if you do wait another 4 weeks, what you’ve done is you’ve made contact, you’ve left them your details. It’s quite convenient for them, if they wanted to, to quickly reply to your email saying ‘look, I’m about to go with somebody else, could you get me those details quicker…’ they’re more likely to do that at least if you’ve already dropped them a brief email.
So that brief email, even though it’s something very small, is really, really powerful. It just opens up the opportunity.
5. It ‘Proposes’ a Convenient Initial Level of Communication
Another great benefit of this approach is that it sets a certain tone, polite and professional, yes but also brief and convenient. Taking this approach you have also just made it really easy for the contact to get back in touch with you with a similar brief email. They will feel less obliged themselves to ponder a longer communication and instead you can efficiently build the relationship from a strong footing, with good early communication and communicating only what’s appropriate to each other.
If after some initial feelers such as this you discover that you get along famously and you both prefer long, witty emails 1000 words or more, then great, send them to each other but go with the brief approach first so that you’re sure that’s what’s appropriate and you don’t send you’re long witty email to a very busy person who doesn’t have time for it or someone who thinks you’re taking liberties and being a little too forward with a relationship that is hardly yet established. If you find out that you both prefer to communicate via skype or n the phone, then go with that but start with the brief 2 phrase email first. You get the idea.
6. It ‘Paves the Way’
The second phrase of this email paves the way for what’s coming next. If you tell someone you are going to get back to them within a week, and you do get back to them within a week, then that builds trust because you have done exactly what you said you were going to do. In addition to that, the contact in question will be expecting the next communication in that timeframe so they’re far more likely to have time and enthusiasm for it than if it came out of the blue.
7. It Shows You Care About That Relationship
Not only have you communicated effectively and efficiently, but responding to someone quickly and telling them you enjoyed meeting them clearly shows that you care about that relationship.
8. It Keeps The Door Open
If you later find out that you can’t provide something that’s specifically tailored to them and something that will actually help them, and something that they’re going to welcome, you should simply rest at that brief email and then you could still say that person is in your network. You’ve got their email address, you’ve got their details, it’s in your records, and it’s in their records, so if ever you need to go back to that contact for some reason – for example, in the future, you do have something that person would be crying out for. You happen to come across something, you remember that person… Again, you can adopt a similar approach, you can send a very brief email, maybe with a link to something saying something like ‘I came across this, I know it’s a bit ad-hoc but given the conversation we had I thought of you – let me know if it was of use.’ Something like that. Something brief.
This method is so simple that you may think it’s overkill to have such a long article about it.
But although it’s all very basic and simple, it has a powerful effect.
And you’d be surprised how few people do this.
In some cases, you will know exactly how to follow up and when, particularly with people you’ve already had some contact with. Sometimes, it will be appropriate to follow up sraight away with lots of information – particularly if in that initial conversation you’ve promised lots of information (particularly if that information is to hand or you want to give the impression it’s to hand).
BUT… for all those other times, you now have a go-to default method of follow up. For new contacts or any time you falter, ponder or worry about how to follow-up, DON’T. Just use the approach above and you’ll never have to worry about how to follow up with a new contact again.
… and if you do, please let me know how it worked for you.