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Persistence Persuades: The Lost Art of Follow-up

Have you ever wondered how some people get ahead in life? I know that I have. These people succeed in careers that they seem to have marginal talent for. They exist in every business, every profession. So how do they do it? They are persistent. They are focused. They don’t let setbacks derail their dreams. They never give up. And this stick-to-itiveness is incredibly persuasive. After a while, if you are still there, still pushing your wares, people begin to believe that you really are good, that you really can deliver, and they will give you a chance to prove it. Now just imagine the heights someone who is persistent and talented could attain.

Follow-up is a process by which you make contact with someone to reinforce and further an end. For instance, if I have just met with a client, I would follow up with a thank-you note or a letter that summarized the conversation and thanked the client for his time. Another type of follow-up is calling on a prospect and continuing to maintain contact, even if there is no need at any given moment. Follow-up is a lost art. It is so lost and so rare that people can stand out merely by doing it. Follow-up serves the following purposes:

  • It let’s people know you care.
  • It identifies you as responsible for the process.
  • It keeps relationships alive and invigorated.
  • It provides opportunities for new interactions.
  • It plants seeds for new ideas.
  • It shows a high level of commitment.
  • It demonstrates self-confidence.
  • It regularly reminds people you are out there and available.

Follow-up takes organization because you have to keep records. Today there is an enormous selection of contact management systems ranging from paper planners to software that does an outstanding job of keeping records, reminding users of appointments, and scheduling follow-up contact.

Many people resist regular follow-up because they don’t want to be viewed as pests. There is a very fine line between following up and pestering, and it’s important to know where one ends and the other begins. A great deal depends on the relationship, the type of situation, the urgency, and the agreement you have with the follow-up party. When I am calling clients, I always ask them when a good time to follow up would be. The responses vary, but merely asking identifies me as taking charge. They can relax because they know I consider it part of my job. If I’m prospecting by making cold calls, the follow-up sequence usually ranges from one to six months, depending on the time of year, budgets, fiscal year, and other considerations. Some clients insist that they have no need for services and do not anticipate ever having a need. In those cases I ask if it’s all right if I put them on my mailing list so that I can send them articles I may have seen or keep them abreast of what I’ve been doing. I can count on one hand the number of times people have said no. So with that group the follow-up takes on a different look, but it is still follow up. By the way, for the few who are adamant about not being contacted again, they should be respected, and no further contact should take place. But a simple “no, not interested” means to me, “not interested now.” In those cases, I will keep such people on my mailing list.

My persistence is working. I have had clients tell me that the way I follow up is the best they have ever experienced and that they appreciate it that I take this responsibility and don’t feel pestered or manipulated. This is gratifying to me because it takes so much effort and discipline. Nothing good is ever accomplished without persistence. Because so many people are not persistent and thus fail to follow up, it is a fantastic differentiator in a world in which differentiation is harder and harder to come by. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Copyright 2007 Ruth Sherman.  All Rights Reserved.

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