Your follow-up falls short
December 31, 2007
It seems like a lot of people have trouble with selling not because they’re not doing the selling part right, but because they don’t follow up.
I teach networking to many people, and most of my clients need to know how to network. I continuously hear that they go to all these events and they don’t get any business from them. I’ll then ask them, “What do you do at these events?” and “What do you say?” I can get most people to understand they should ask questions instead of walking up and trying to sell their product or service to someone. I can help them understand what to say in 30 seconds that helps people understand what they do. I can even help them ask for what they want. But it seems like the biggest problem is follow up. What do I do after the event?
I think it’s important to really take a look at what your follow-up process is. I think making networking events profitable and making them generate revenue for you is truly dependent on what you do before, during and after the event. Not so much during the event, but before and after. For every event, it’s important to think about what it is you want to accomplish at that event. Who is your audience? Who’s going to be there? What kinds of questions will you ask to these people? What is the message you want to give them and what is it that you want to ask for? What are the kinds of things that are going to get them excited? For example, if you sell IT services, and you go to the Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology meeting, those people are going to understand IT technology kinds of issues really well. So you can probably say something technical about IT services. But if you’re going to go to a Commercial Real Estate Women meeting and talk about IT services, what you’re looking for is women with small businesses who need to outsource their computer needs. You may not even want to use the word IT because some may not know what it is. So you have to think before you go: What is the message, who is your audience and what message do you want to deliver to them? Be specific in what you want. For example: “I’m looking for companies with five to 10 employees who have their computers on a network and would like to stop wasting their time on computer problems by having someone outsource their IT and do preventative maintenance.” Getting set up ahead of time and being ready for your audience and what you’re going to say is really critical. Once you’re there, executing beautifully is important as well. Making sure you’re asking good questions. Making sure you’re moving and meeting a lot of people. Those kinds of things are probably easier, but if you meet a lot of great people, collect their business cards, go home and put those business cards in a stack and leave them there, then nothing’s going to happen. People need the opportunity to know what you do and you need to provide them that opportunity in such a way that gives them information.
Once you’ve left the networking event, take those business cards you’ve collected and enter them into them into your system. So let’s back up for a moment to what you did before the event. Since the event is obviously on your calendar, you also needed to schedule follow-up time on your calendar so you would have follow-up time blocked off in the 24-48 hours after the event because after that, you’ve basically missed your chance. Sort the business cards. There are ones that don’t seem like somebody that will do business with you or refer business to you, and they have nothing you need. It’s OK to throw those away. Just throw them out and get rid of them. Don’t bother entering them into your database. Now take the cards that are left that are the people you want to meet. Enter them into whatever database you have. Hopefully you’ve written notes on those cards to remind you who they are, what they do and what you talked about. Put all the information into your database. In the notes section, put the date of the event and what the event was so later you’ll know where you met them. Also put in the notes anything you talked about that was important or interesting, and any information you promised to give them or follow-up that you promised to do. Then follow-up with an email, a phone call, a letter, something interesting to them – possibly an article. The letter can be something like this:
It was a pleasure to meet you at the Get Connected event. It sounds like your business is growing and you have lots of things on your plate. I’d love to learn more about your business and any way that I can be of help to you. I will call you to follow-up and schedule an appointment.
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Do this within three days of sending out the letter. Then if you do call someone and they don’t get back to you immediately say, three days you may think the person never called back because they don’t like you. It’s not true. They’re busy, and you’re not their top priority. They probably even feel bad that they never called you back. So give them another opportunity. Call them again, and leave a voicemail:
Hey, sorry we’ve been trying to connect and I missed you again. I would love to connect with you. Let’s get together. I’ll look forward to talking to you soon.
Then three more days go by and you still haven’t heard from them. I’d say give them one more try. Give them another phone call and if you reach them great, if not, leave another message:
So sorry we’ve been having trouble connecting. I know from our conversation you must be really busy with your business growing. I have some ideas I’d like to share with you about how to make that process easier. Give me a call if you’d like to get together. I look forward to that.
If they don’t call you after that, that’s fine. You could put their e-mail into your list and send them a note in a couple of months. Or if they were interested, put them on your newsletter list. Make sure you continue to stay in front of them so when they do need something, they think of you. Please be sure in those newsletters that you’re “giving” something and that it’s a short easy read, because when sending a newsletter as part of the follow-up, you really only get one chance. If they read it and there’s nothing there that they’re interested in they are probably not going to open one again or they’re going to ask to get off the list. So really be sure you give them something they can use, and follow-up, follow-up follow-up.
Alice R. Heiman is president of Reno-based Alice Heiman LLC. Her Web site is http://www.aliceheiman.com.