This is the 3rd post in a series of three concerning networking.

How good are we at follow-up? You attend well-organised business networking events. You meet great individuals, connect well with two or three at each event and exchange cards. What do you do then?

How good is my follow up?  How good is yours?

I kept a newsletter by Robert Middleton, an American consultant who teaches professional service companies how to market.

Seven Strategies for following-up

Robert provided seven very practical strategies for effective follow-up.

1. Follow-Up Soon

It’s easy to delay, but if you do, the impact of the follow-up fades dramatically. If you meet someone through networking and say you’ll follow-up, do so the same day or the next. If you give a talk and promise you’ll send something to those who give you their card, follow-up within two days maximum. Make sure to set aside time for this follow-up so you can easily fit it into your schedule.

2. Organize Your Follow-Ups

First of all, make it a game. Find some way to make it fun, not a dreaded chore. Reward yourself for doing a certain number of follow-up calls. Make the process a regular part of your business and follow a certain process every time.

3. Script Your Follow-Ups

That is, know what you are going to say and where you want the conversation to lead. A follow-up call is not a sales call. It’s a marketing call to explore possibilities. So know what you’re going to say and have a track that leads to setting up an appointment or adding that person to your keep-in-touch list.

If you have to leave a message, suggest times to meet instead of just asking them to get back to you. “I have time to talk at 3:30 on Thursday. I’ll call you again then. Let me know if that doesn’t work and we can reschedule.”

4. Do Some Research

Imagine that someone follows-up with you after a networking event and says, “Hi, I met you at the Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Can you tell me more about what you do?” Or better still: “Hi, I met you at the Chamber of Commerce last night and I just spent some time on your website learning about your business. I wanted to talk with you about…”

It’s amazing how little interest we show in potential clients. No wonder you fail to make a connection that leads anywhere.

5. Use Value-Laden Messages

Don’t do this: “Hi, this is John Brown from ABC Consulting; we met at the Chamber last night. We offer a complete range of consulting services designed to meet your needs. I’d like to get together with you to explain our services and how we can help you.” This will get a brush-off or your call won’t be returned.

Instead, lead with a client value proposition and give a reason they’d want to speak with you:

“Hi, this is John Brown from ABC Consulting. After I met you at the chamber yesterday, I thought about your issue of lost productivity among your top managers. I’d like to share some ideas with you about how we’ve increased productivity by 25% or more in companies similar to yours.”

See the difference?

6. Use Friendly Persistence

If you meet someone that you sincerely think you could provide value to, don’t give up after one follow-up call. It can take many contacts before something happens. That message above might be followed-up with an email and a link to an article online. This might be followed-up by another message. If someone doesn’t get back to you right away, it either means your message did not contain enough value or that they’re just busy.

You can control the first and apply friendly persistence to the second.

After a few messages and emails without response, you might leave a final message. “Hi, this is John from ABC Consulting. I regret it that we haven’t been able to connect. I would really like to talk to you about increasing productivity among your managers. I’m just working with a client now where we’re making big changes that will result in huge savings for them. But I don’t want to keep bugging you. If you’d like to speak, here’s my phone number and email.”

This will often get a return call when they realize the ball is in their court.

7. Follow-Up doesn’t mean “Hassling” Prospects

One of the biggest reasons for not following-up is that we believe we are hassling people. We think we’re a nuisance and that we’ll be rejected. Well, if you follow-up incorrectly you can be! But if you make sure you add value to every call and you are firm in your conviction that your service is valuable, you are doing people a great service by following-up.

After all, think how you’d feel if you discovered someone else had followed-up and gotten this prospect as a client. You’d realize that this prospect needed this service and the only reason you didn’t get it was because of poor follow-up.

Master follow-up and you master a marketing skill

The bottom line: We avoid follow-up because of fear of rejection. But we also avoid it because we don’t know exactly what to do and how to do it. Make it a priority to learn, as there may be no more important marketing skill.

Thanks, Robert!


Robert Middleton owns the company, Action Plan Marketing. Visit his new website for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.