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Archive for October 10th, 2012

Make your networking pay off by FOLLOWING UP!

Much of this content is taken from our October 19, 2011 post.

We spent a few weeks discussing the importance of networking as a tool for authors to build their platforms. Here’s a recap of those posts.

Finally, we’re winding up with some advice about the single most important aspect of networking, and the one that is often the most overlooked: FOLLOW UP.

An All-Too-Realistic Scenario

Ever since he wrote his book, Taylor’s been envisioning it as the stepping stone to a keynote speaking career. While volunteering at a large community event, he meets the cousin of a booking agent for a prestigious speakers bureau. Taylor is an SBM* and he’s taken Marcie’s advice, rehearsing his pitch till it flows off his tongue effortlessly, so he makes an excellent impression on the cousin. The cousin promises to introduce Taylor to the booking agent, giving Taylor her card and asking him to be sure to drop her a message in a day or two.

At long last it’s all falling into place for Taylor. But he never gets to meet the booking agent – and not for the reason you might think. It’s not that the booking agent declined to represent him, but rather that he never sent the e-mail.

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

Perhaps your situation is not quite so extreme. You’ve just met the speaker coordinator for a small community group. But you hit it off and they like you and appear interested in having you come to address their next meeting. They’ll even let you set up a table at the back of the room from which to sell your books. Are you primed to respond in a timely manner, or will you fall into one of the following traps?

Self-Sabotaging Excuses

If they were to explain it to you, people’s reasons for failing to follow up might seem quite understandable:

  • They haven’t been trained to follow up and they don’t know where to begin. Even the simplest tasks usually have multiple steps. When we don’t have systems in place or haven’t completely mapped out our strategies, fear of the unknown can cause us to freeze, sometimes keeping us from starting at all.
  • They tend to overthink things. Sure it’s great to have a plan, but beware making things much more complicated than they need to be. Some of us tend to “what if” ourselves right out of good decisions. “What if they don’t respond?” “What if she was just being nice?” You won’t know until you pick up that phone or send those e-mails.
  • They fall prey to the Perfectionist Monster. Certain people get bogged down in the details about how much there is to do and wanting to do it perfectly. Perfectionists are too often perfect at just one thing: watching the door hit them on the way out after someone else has gotten there first. Follow this mantra instead: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.
  • They don’t prioritize their time. Much like having a system, knowing one’s priorities is essential. But anyone whose time budget is out of control can allow even the most important things to slip through the cracks.
  • Sometimes they just get bored. For adrenaline junkies, it’s the thrill of the chase that excites them. Once they’ve “arrived,” they’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. How many books do you think these folks sell?
  • 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 might otherwise be effortless progress.

These are all reasons smart, would-be-successful people fail to follow up. However, when you dig past the surface, they are just superficial excuses. What it really comes down to is that every one of these folks is likely afraid of success.

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

Regardless of what you’ve heard from the people in your life … regardless of your own negative self-talk … it is imperative that you realize that you are worthy of succeeding. Remind yourself 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.

Tips to Improve Your Follow-Up Skills

  • Make notes about the person with whom you are trying to connect. These might include anything from  their hobbies and interests to their spouse’s name to their alma mater to their future plans. Doing so will make your follow-up conversation easier.
  • Pre-arrange the follow-up. Before you end the initial meeting, schedule a day and time for a subsequent conversation. ” Does next Wednesday morning at 10:15 work for you?”
  • Do it right now, while you’re thinking about it. Take action before your gremlin has a chance to talk you out of it. Just pick up the phone!
  • Don’t take things personally. Regardless of how well you employ your follow-up plans, you will find people who’ve forgotten about your appointment, are busy, have changed their minds, or may even cut you off. Do you remember the old deodorant commercial? Never let them see you sweat. And don’t take the situation personally. Just make another plan to follow up again and continue the conversation.
  • Be personal. Address your new friend by name and review the issues you touched on in your initial meeting. In addition, do your homework and if the opportunity presents itself, be ready to offer other useful, relevant information to further the conversation.
  • Be thorough, but be brief. Remind the person of where you met them (if it’s a brand new contact) and why you’re calling so they understand precisely why you are connecting with them. Remember, however, he or she is probably busy and may have a limited attention span. Make sure to limit your conversation to details they will relate to.
  • Become a resource. Remember that your goal is to create relationships, so avoid focusing entirely on yourself, your book, your request. Let your new friend know that you are a resource. Make them confident 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 request 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 that this connection could lead to the next phase of your success, do not under any circumstance chase the person. This will not only make you look desperate and pathetic, but it’s also amateurish and annoying. Keep in touch regularly, but don’t ever be the person who 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 might mean that they’re not interested. Or it might mean they had a family emergency and they’ve put their work 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 networking 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 a cheerful attitude.

So what’s YOUR follow-up plan. Share your tips and ideas in the comments section below. And in the meantime, happy networking!

Laura

*Savvy Book Marketer

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit our website to read up on more networking tips and advice, including links, ways to make connections, and day-to-day networking scenarios. If you’d like help setting up YOUR book marketing strategy, call us today for your complimentary 30-minute consultation! 602.518.5376

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