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Archive for October 19th, 2011

Follow UP for unfathomable success!

Time for another parable.

Stacy’s been trying for several years to make inroads to have her novel made into a film. While on vacation in the Adirondacks, she meets the personal assistant to a bigshot Hollywood agent. Stacy is an SBM* and she’s taken Marcie’s advice, rehearsing her pitch till it flows off her tongue effortlessly, so she makes an excellent impression on the assistant. He gives Stacy his card and asks her to be sure to drop him a message when she gets home – he will do what he can to get her idea in front of his boss.

The perfect setup, right? But Stacy never makes it to the end of the rainbow – and not for the reason you might think. It’s not that the agent turned down her script, but rather that she never sent that e-mail.

Sounds crazy, but people in this very situation commit similar self-sabotaging acts every day. Fear of success shows up in all kinds of ways; failure to follow up is one of the most common. It’s also a situation over which you have 100 percent control.

On the face of it, the reasons people fail to follow up are quite understandable:

  • They have no plan, and they don’t know where to begin. Even the simplest tasks usually have multiple moving parts. When we don’t have systems in place or haven’t completely mapped out our strategies, we can become frozen and keep from starting at all.
  • They tend to overthink things, making them much more complicated than they need be. We tend to “what if” ourselves out of good decisions, like picking up the phone or typing those e-mails.
  • Sometimes we get bogged down in the details about how much there is to do and wanting to do it perfectly. Perfectionists are quite often perfect at just one thing … watching the door hit them on the way out, after someone else has gotten there first.
  • Much like having a system, knowing one’s priorities is essential. But anyone who is out of control with their time can let even the most important things slip through the cracks.
  • Sometimes they just get bored. The thrill of the chase excites us; once we’ve “arrived,” we’re quickly ready to move onto the next challenge and, as a result, feel that following up is the routine, unexciting part of pitching or prospecting.
  • While it is only an excuse, stress is very real and often quite debilitating. When we don’t manage our processes, have no sense of time, and/or procrastinate out of perfectionism, it’s no wonder we get stressed out. Stress is a distraction that can cause depression and other paralyzing behaviors that stop us from making what should be effortless progress.

These are all real reasons that smart, would-be successful people fail to follow up. However, when you get down to it, they are just superficial excuses. What it really comes down to is that we are likely afraid of success.

The only way through this fear
is to change your mindset.

Know that you are worthy of succeeding. Know that you have the skills, contacts, experience, support – whatever you need – to watch your book(s) power their way to the top of your markets. And then pick up the phone, send that text, or message your new friend on Facebook. Follow Nike’s advice and just do it™ – and then be ready to embrace the success you deserve.

Things to keep in mind and help improve your follow-up skills:

  • Make notes about the person with whom you are trying to connect. These might include an array of topics: hobbies, interests, family, alma mater, future plans. This will make a conversation easier.
  • Pre-arrange the follow-up. Before you end the initial meeting, establish a day and time for a subsequent conversation. ” Does next Tuesday morning at 9:45 work for you?”
  • Do it right now. While you’re thinking about it. Take action before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it. Just pick up the phone!
  • Keep your emotions in check. Regardless of how well you facilitate your follow up, you will find people who forget about your appointment, get busy, change their minds, or even cut you off. You remember the old deodorant commercial – Never let them see you sweat. Don’t let the other person know you’re overly excited or disappointed. Just make another plan to follow up again, and continue the conversation.
  • Be personal. Address them by name and review the issues you touched on in your initial meeting. In addition, do your homework and offer other useful, relevant information to further the conversation.
  • Be thorough, but be brief. Deliver your pitch so that the other person understands precisely why you are connecting with them, but remember he or she is probably very busy and has a limited attention span. Make sure to contain your conversation to the aspects that pertain to them.
  • Become a resource. While your goal is to get your message across, avoid focusing entirely on yourself, your book, your request. Convey the impression that you are a resource, that knowing you and building a connection with you can be of significant assistance to them in some way.
  • Grab their attention. Be creative with your follow-up. If you’re connecting virtually, consider including multimedia elements such as relevant graphics or video. If you’re meeting them in person, take with you high-quality leave-behind materials. Leave them with a good impression.
  • Provide a clear call to action. Make clear at the end of your conversation or message your expectations for the next steps. Keep it simple, but be specific and tell them exactly what you want them to do next and by when.
  • Never be perceived as a pest! Though you may be bursting with excitement over the possibility of this connection leading to the next phase of your success, do not under any circumstance chase them. This will make you look desperate and pathetic, but it also is amateurish and annoying. Keep in touch regularly, but don’t ever be the person that makes this person think, “Oh, God! Not him again!”

One important thing to keep in mind is that you only know what you know. So don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions. When someone doesn’t immediately return our phone call or e-mail message, we very often assume the worst – they’re just not interested – even if we have no information to back up that assumption. Sure – it could mean that they’re not interested. Or it could mean they had a death in the family and everything work-related has been put on hold for a while. Think about your own lack of follow up – the very topic of this post. Are you not following up because you’re not interested? Sure – once in a while that’s true. But equally often, you’re very interested – nevertheless, you don’t get around to the follow up for some reason. If the other person were to contact you, would you jump all over the chance to resurrect the conversation? If your answer is yes, put yourself in their shoes, and quit making assumptions.

Follow-up is your friend. It is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolbox. Make my friend Helen Goodman, of Primo Promos, your role model. Helen has the most outstanding follow-up skills of anyone I have met in all the years I’ve been in business. She gets back to you the same day, goes out of her way to get you accurate quotes and help you order your products, and she does it all with knowledge and cheerful aplomb.

Happy following up!

Laura

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