One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs and job applicants face is how and when to follow-up.
Unfortunately, there are really no set rules that govern the follow-up, but persistence is always rewarded—so long as it doesn’t cross into the realm of being a pain in the butt. Jeffrey Gitomer wrote in The Little Red Book of Selling that 45% of business is lost because people don’t follow up for the fifth time. Selling—whether you’re selling a product or yourself as a prospective employee—is all about relationship building, and the more you are able to speak, on the phone or in person, to your prospect, the more they will feel they know you on a personal level, and the more inclined they will be to consider you when the time is right for them to buy.
You will need to establish your own guidelines for the follow-up based on what you’re seeking, and who you’re seeking it from. Here are some tips.
- When you send a resume, include a note in the cover letter that indicates you will be following up. The hiring manager will then know to expect your call. The same goes for any marketing materials you’re delivering via e-mail or snail mail.
- If you’re an entrepreneur cold-calling prospects, only leave a message the first (and perhaps the second) time you call. After that, try to get the person live on the phone.
- After sending your resume, follow up with one or two phone messages; after that, try to get your contact live. Give the hiring manager a reasonable span of time to respond before calling back: she’s probably buried in resumes, and you don’t want to come across as insensitive to her tight schedule.
- Listen to your gut. You’ll know when you’ve hit a dead end, and you’ll only feel discouraged if you continue once you know it’s futile. Also, if you’re selling your product or service, you’ll want to avoid gaining a reputation for harassment.
- Build relationships through social media and networking. Once you and your prospect have something in common, it’s easier to strike up a conversation. If you have a company or are starting one, using these vehicles can help to familiarize prospects with your product before you even say a word. If you’re looking for a job, using your networking contacts can gain you an ear where you might not otherwise have found one.
- Pay attention to how the conversation is going. If the dialogue is still dynamic, there’s nothing wrong with following up fifteen or twenty times.
- Don’t take it personally. If a hiring manager or client doesn’t get back to you, or doesn’t respond well to your offer(s), it can feel like a real blow. But keep in mind that they have their own concerns, which may not be apparent from an outsider’s prospective. Maintain a professional demeanor at all times, and even if you don’t get the job or make the sale, you’ll make a great impression.
If you’re searching for a job, or starting to sell a product or service of your own, you’ll need to become a master at the art of the follow-up. It takes time and practice, but it’s a skill that will never fail to serve you.