How important do you consider your network of contacts to be to your business?
Whether you want to generate a new client project, ask for advice, make a sale or grow your network, your creative business relies on the effectiveness of the communications you make with people who you can serve, and those who stand to benefit you (money, advice, referrals, influence…).
[Scroll to bottom for SoundCloud audio version, read by Alex].
For most of my career as an illustrator I never saw the significance of following up with people.
I would contact someone, and then if they did not respond, I’d usually leave it at that. Or I’d
connect with lots of people I knew all at once, when I was desperate for work.
I was not a great communicator, and I missed many opportunities because I didn’t get follow up. Now I get it.
So many people I work with are missing out on the value of following up when they attempt to reach out to someone who could prove valuable to them.
You don’t want to lose out on adding someone valuable to your network when you have the opportunity to succeed.
Beyond sounding like some annoying corporate buzzword, what does ‘following up’ actually mean?
A follow up is not simply one communication after you’ve met someone. It is any communication that is not a first meet or a first-time connect.
Follow ups keep the conversation or interaction going, and they can go on for a long time. Don’t waste the effort of cold contacting some new prospect by letting the dialogue fizzle out.
You must follow up even if you don’t get a response.
This is extremely common for most new prospects you want to connect with, especially via email. A lot of people will not respond on the first, even second, fifth, sixth time you reach out to them.
Some people don’t check all their emails. A lot are distracted. Some people are subconsciously testing you to see whether you truly do persist in getting through to them. I’m serious.
So you need to be persistent.
All a follow up needs to be is to ask whether that person got your last message, and remind them of what you were asking them about or what you were sharing with them.
The ’National Sales Executive Association’ says that: 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect, though 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.
Read that again if you didn’t catch it.
This concept applies to you if you’ve ever tried to connect with someone you wanted a reply from, and you’ve given up because the communication didn’t seem to go anywhere.
And that quote applies to professional sales people. Think of the effect you could have if you factored in the importance of following up to your interactions with cool people you want to work with.
Your aim for each and every potential client, customer, friend, adviser, and mentor that you begin a conversation with should be to keep things going until you close some kind of a deal.
For a customer, that is making a sale. For a potential friend, that might be meeting up for a dinner. For a prospect, that could be landing a job and turning that prospect into a client or getting referred to someone else.
But you don’t want to stop at a sale either. Get in people’s headspaces over time and the opportunities will continue to come in. I’ve seen this on many occasions in the work that I do now.
When I was hired as a remote illustrator with Google+ a couple of years ago while living in Tokyo, it was not a one-off event.
I had been communicating with someone via the Internet for months before anything actually happened. That person was a UX designer at Microsoft Bing who had been reading my blog.
Knowing that he worked for a company that was in my ideal clients list, I kept in touch with him. I was also a fan of his work and so we had plenty to talk about.
Eventually he got transferred to Google. Because we had been talking, I was front of mind when they had a requirement for an illustrator. He recommended me to the head of design at Google+ and I landed the job after a Skype call.
With persistence, everyone turns into a lead or an opportunity. I really mean that, and you will find this out for yourself.
Following up means either taking decisive action to lead someone through the process of building rapport and closing a deal, or simply taking enough repeated actions to get someone to respond to you in the first place and become a lead.
You really need to hang in there with doing as many follow ups as it takes to get to a close, whether that close be a job or getting a referral.
It takes time and persistence. Not only that, it requires you to be organised about the contacts you do focus on.
I have a simple spreadsheet contact list capped at 150 people, and I make sure I connect with all of them regularly.
My course shows you how to do all this to ultimately win clients and generate opportunities.
Though it’s nice to develop a relationship with someone, your business is not generating revenue until you actually close a deal with them and you get paid.
So always be pushing to generating a close too. Make the work you put in worth something.
Regular following up is often all you need in order to close a deal because you are front of mind, but also make sure that if someone does show interest and the rapport is there, to ask for what you want.
If you have a product or service that is well-suited to someone and can potentially improve their lives, it is your duty to get it in front of them.
If you annoy a few people along the way, it’s not a big deal. It’s simply information for you that they weren’t right for you anyway.
Pushy sales people are pushy when they push products you don’t want on you.
That’s different. Present your services to people who will benefit from it.
They will thank you in the end.
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