You’ve met a valuable contact, and you’d like to build a relationship with them. How should you follow up? Most people would send an email.
The problem? Emails get lost and ignored. As of 2018, 124.5 billion business emails were sent and received each day. The average professional will receive about 90 emails per day with CEOs and senior executives receiving many more.
If you want to get a busy professional’s attention, get out of their inbox. Here are five ways you can level up your follow up game, and start building more valuable relationships.
- Set up your next meeting in person. When you meet a person, with whom you’d like to build a relationship, think of a reason you need to meet with them again, and set up the next meeting before you exit your conversation. A reason for a follow up meeting request could be: learning more about a topic you discussed, presenting an idea, helping them with a project, or asking them to do an activity you know they enjoy. You’ll never have their undivided attention more than you do when you’re speaking with them one-on-one, which makes this the best time to schedule your next meeting.
- Contact them on their preferred platform. While setting up your next meeting in person is ideal, there will be times when you can’t get it done. Alternatively, figure out what applications your new contact likes to use, and connect with them there first. If they’re a Slack user, try and connect with them through communities. If they’re a big Twitter user, send them a DM via Twitter. If you can find out where they spend their time online, you’re more likely to get your message viewed. Additionally, you’ve catered your follow up based on your conversation, which shows you listen and respect their preferences.
- Snail Mail. Don’t mail them anything you could email, but in the appropriate context, snail mail can be effective. Again, it comes down to being prepared and using your initial conversation to discover something about that person. If you discuss a book or article, and they mention wanting to read it, send it to them along with a personal note. Sending them an item they value from the context of your conversation without being too audacious is a great way to get on their radar. Follow up with a phone call asking if they received it, and use it to set your next meeting.
- Use a mutual contact. If you discover you have a mutual connection either during or after your conversation that has a relationship with your target, ask your friend to put in a good word for you and mention you’d like to meet with them again. Your new contact may invite you to reach out through your friend.
- Call them for a reason. A follow-up phone call to ask for another meeting can be less effective and less appreciated than a follow-up email. However, if your phone call adds value, it will be more effective and better received. You may end up speaking with a gatekeeper or going to voicemail, so be prepared to deliver a concise message. The reason for your phone call could be to offer a favor, give them a tip, or ask a question. For example, if you discussed a new restaurant they said they would like to try, your message could be the following:
“Hey Michael. It’s Jack Lawson. Really enjoyed our conversation at Bistro Annie’s last night. So nice chatting with another foodie. Alexandra’s, the restaurant we were talking about, is having a soft opening on Thursday night from 6-8pm. I plan on going and wanted to let you know in case you’re in the area and want to check it out. Hope to see you there.”
With any luck, your contact will show up, and you can have another great conversation and schedule your next meeting. But even if they don’t, you’ve given them valuable information and gone beyond the generic email follow up requesting a meeting. Your next attempt at contacting them will likely be received positively.
Keep in mind, all of these initiatives need to be genuine and are dependent on having a good initial conversation that is used to get to know your new contact better. Asking thoughtful questions and keeping your conversation about them is essential for discovering a tidbit you can use for a good follow up. Email is not a bad way to communicate and can be an effective way to network. The point of this post is not to discourage its use, it’s to encourage taking your initial follow up out of their inbox so you stand out. Once you’ve established a relationship, you can use whatever method of communication you both like; for many people, that’s email. The same rules applies regardless of how you choose to communicate: (1) Make it about them. (2) Add value.