Almost everybody is bad at following up, myself included. These days there are too many emails, social media messages, texts, and phone calls to respond to. Even worse, most big companies have eliminated executive assistants so people’s precious spare work time is filled with scheduling meetings and filling out expense reports. People running small companies and solopreneurs are on their own too. This message overload is why when you do follow up, it is almost always appreciated and answered with a positive response. Following up is wonderful because it helps whomever you are reaching out to with a gentle reminder. Whether you are trying to set a lunch, say nice to meet you, or get a project approved, you are immediately top of mind and busy people are grateful for the help.
Thank you notes and updates are the two most powerful follow ups. Thank you notes are impactful because, sadly most people don’t write them. A simple thank you note, either emailed or handwritten, will make you stand out from the crowd. You can combine a thank you note with an update, if someone helped you or offered advice. A quick note about how you implemented a suggestion or even how a project is going can make someone’s day. I can’t tell you how many people I have asked to keep in touch with me and haven’t. I would be thrilled to hear from any of them.
Keith Ferrazzi in Never Eat Lunch Alone says that a 24 hour follow up after meeting someone new is optimal. He may right, but that is not always possible, especially if you are at a conference meeting hundreds of people. Keith’s rule actually made me stop following up for a while, because I often didn’t do it within 24 hours. And then I realized that it is never too late. Even if it is months or sometimes years since you promised you would follow up, people will be glad to hear from you. You know why? Because they haven’t followed up with you either! They’re not going to be upset that you haven’t reached out because they haven’t reached out. Instead, they will be glad to hear from you. So when in doubt follow up!
My challenge to you today is to follow up with somebody that you’ve been wanting to reach out to, but feel uncomfortable because the amount of time that has passed. Just do it! What is the worst that can happen? I always ask myself this when I’m feeling some resistance to doing something. The worst thing that can happen is you get no answer and so you are the same place you were before you reached out. But most likely you will reconnect and reinvigorate either a work or personal relationship, and who knows what happens from there!
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