The gold standard – reasons to follow up

It’s the rare and beautiful first meeting with a new client when you actually walk out with a deal. More likely, many months of work have gone into developing a client relationship before a client chooses you and your company. Maybe you’ve demonstrated expertise in a niche where they have a need. They trust that you’ll do what you say you’ll do because you follow through. They know you’ll shoot straight with them before during and after the transaction. Perhaps they’ve learned that you’re a problem solver, a generator of solutions, not a problem creator. They like you.

But how can you build this awareness in one or two face to face meetings? How do you build relationship and trust, short of working on a transaction together?

Going into a meeting with a desire to build a professional and personal relationship with a prospective client suggests a different set of behaviors than aiming to walk out with a piece of business. The currency of relationship building? Reasons to stay in touch. The jewels you mine in any meeting with a potential new client are reasons to follow up. Go into the meeting looking to uncover and store opportunities to follow up, and you’ll walk out of the meeting with currency that’s useful.

One salesman said to me, “If I walk in when a piece of business is available, I’m lucky, not good. When I’m good I occupy enough of my prospect’s headspace so that when they do have an opportunity, they think of me. I’d rather have 100 people who’ll think of me when they have a piece of business than 10 people who will give it to me right away.”

Here’s a behavior that’s consistent with the stance of looking for follow up opportunities. When you’re in a sales meeting with a potential client, draw a line down the middle of your note page. On the left side of the page, capture important information and questions that come up in your dialog; the stuff you would normally take notes on in a meeting. In the right column, make a list of possible reasons to follow up as they occur to you during the discussion. They do triathlons? Find out their next race and send a good luck email in advance. Log on to the race results after and drop them a note with a comment on how they did. They expressed interest in a particular transaction you are working on? When the deal closes make sure they get a link to press release or a deal summary, or send an email reminding them of the relevant points and letting them know you got it done. Any questions you ask them that they can’t answer are perfect reasons to follow up. The same goes for questions you can’t answer. Every time you say “I don’t know” you’ve flagged a follow up opportunity. Follow it with, “I’ll find out and let you know as soon as I do.” Then find out and send the answer in an email several days later.

Reasons to follow up that are unrelated to the job are as good as business reasons. Pictures or artwork on the wall of a prospect’s office offer opportunities to make contact again. Remember their interest in impressionist painters and you are recognizing them as a human being not just a possible client. Sending them a review of, (or if you can, a ticket for), the Degas exhibit that is in town is a great way to maintain a little headspace in a future client’s memory. Like most things, if you’re deliberate about looking for them, more follow up opportunities will manifest.

When the meeting is over, go back and read through both columns of your notes page and dig out any reasons to get back in touch with the person you met. If you’ve done your job well, there’s always another gem in your bag, another reason to check in.

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