Even in today’s nontraditional business world, online communication is no substitute for traditional methods of follow-up … and it could cost you new clients.
Bryan walked into his office and flipped on the lights. It had been one month since he had submitted his proposal to an industry-leading executive team, and today was the date of their decision on whether or not to retain his company. Securing this contract would be a pivotal moment in his career and in the future of his small business.
As the minutes turned to hours, Bryan became increasingly worried, but he had covered his bases and kept in touch. Just last week he engaged in some brief social media banter with the team’s CFO, maintaining an air of informality while ensuring that the lines of communication remained open.
His inbox dinged — it was the company’s CFO: “Bryan, we appreciate your proposal submission, but we have decided to go in another direction. We require more consistent interaction from our business partners, and while we scheduled today to finalize our decision, we had yet to hear from you in the interim. We wish you the best of luck.”
The email hit him like a freight train. Bryan had avoided a formal follow-up process in fear of seeming overeager or pressuring his prospect, but he had maintained casual connections through his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts just to keep his name top of mind. While Bryan assumed the company’s executive team would appreciate his distance while they were making their decision, it actually became the nail in his corporate coffin. They were awaiting his traditional methods of follow-up, and his lack of correspondence instead conveyed that he was not the right man for the job.
In an ever-expanding digital business landscape, Bryan’s story is all too familiar. Many working professionals are exchanging established means of follow-up, such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings, for quick messages over social media or email, and it is impacting their business relationships and bottom lines. They sacrifice professional courtesy in an attempt to appear casual, and regardless of the many ways we can now communicate, when it comes to follow-up, the best practices are the traditional ones.
Consider the following:
Social media can be bad form
Do you have a friend or relative who limits all contact with you to digital convenience? That person never fails to comment on your timeline or feed, but you cannot recall the last time you actually spoke.
These individuals also exist in the business realm, and they’ve attempted to streamline their communication by relying on their social media accounts. It’s not just a bad business practice — it’s bad overall form. Social media can prove invaluable when creating connections, but maintaining them, which is the objective when conducting a follow-up on a potential deal, should always be reserved for traditional modes of correspondence. Anything less borders on lazy and unprofessional.
Attention or annoying?
Once you’ve curbed your inclination to follow up online, there are parameters that should be adhered to when following up with leads. The first — and most important — is to establish an agenda when touching base with your prospects and ensure that each subsequent call or meeting provides new information. There should be a concrete reason for picking up that phone and a distinct benefit to the individual on the other end.
Any parent can describe road-trip trials and tribulations, including the constant, maddening cries of “Are we there yet?” from the backseat. That same irritated feeling occurs with continuous follow-up business calls. There is a distinct difference between being attentive and being annoying — learn it, because your potential client is already well aware.
Two to tango
To avoid flooding your prospects with phone calls, give them the freedom to lead the interactions a bit. Allow them to dictate the follow-up flow by inquiring about their timeline and preference for the next call or meeting, and set a date. Whether your next meeting is in two weeks or two months, your prospect has provided an appropriate date and time for it to occur. The onus is now on you to follow the plan and pick up the phone.
Stick to your calendar
Today there is a palpable aversion to following up with established leads in favor of “keeping things casual.” This only leads to one thing: missed opportunities. Let your calendar hold you accountable. Before the end of a meeting or call, be sure to pencil in an appropriate time to follow up with your prospect, and stick to the date on the calendar. Keeping things casual may maintain pride, but it does not promote sales.
BETTER PLAN NEXT TIME
Because Bryan was remiss with his follow-up practices, he lost out on an important deal for his company and for his professional growth. Lessons are often learned through unintended or unwanted consequences, and going forward, Bryan will make sure to devote a large amount of energy and attention to the manner in which he follows up with prospective clients.