Meeting's over. Did you make this BIG Mistake?
You just finished a long meeting. The client (or business partner) seems excited about it. You were spot-on with your proposals, got a verbal agreement from them, everyone is happy. But no decision has been made. No official decision, anyway. And you never hear from them again.
People are busy, sure, but that doesn’t explain why there has been no action on their part. Thing is, you can’t expect people to be proactive. Not even when it’s in their best interest. To get someone to do something, you have to take charge and remind them what they have to do.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not following up. Or, worse, not doing it properly. You can do it right, though.
But, before you do, end the meeting with a variation of this phrase “I’ll be sending you a brief email about what we’ve discussed.” - this way, you’re making sure they will feel uneasy ignoring your email. Because now you both know an email is coming.
Creating Your Follow-Up Plan
First things first - ask yourself :”Why would they not respond to my follow up?”. By identifying possible reasons for which they ignore you, you’re preparing for rapport-building. It’s this simple question that shows you What They Want, When They Want It, How and Why they want It. Let’s say you’re a car parts manufacturer, selling your merchandise to a big car company. This is what your research should point out:
- What parts were they interested in when you held the meeting?
- When would the parts be needed?
- How should they be delivered?
- Why would they want these parts from you?
- Why would they turn to your competitors?
Take an hour or so to find out the answers to these questions. Then, pull up your note pad and check what you’ve jotted down during the meeting. Add those points to your research and ask yourself some more questions:
- What are the next steps? How are tasks distributed?
- What would convince your partners to act more quickly?
- When are they most likely to respond, based on your past interactions?
You’re almost out of the woods, now. Compile everything into a neat, short and to the point text. Only 2 more questions to go and you’re in the clear:
- Who is going to be the decision maker in this matter? If you’re not addressing them directly, make it easy for the middle-man to paint a favourable picture of your company’s offer. Do the heavy-lifting for them.
- Is there one single goal the follow up looks to achieve? Make it clear and easy to understand.
Writing The Follow Up
Even if you plan to call and follow up, you still should write everything down. It’s good practice.
First of all, thank everyone for their time and effort - be polite and humble. Next, name the purpose of the follow-up. If you’re on the phone, ask for permission to continue - if you don’t get it, ask for an alternative (email works best).
Manage expectations - write a short paragraph about what the email will contain. A summary, if you will. Then, list the points that were discussed in the meeting, what has to be done and what you and your company have already done. By highlighting your proactive nature, you build rapport and show you’re dedicated and professional. Under-promise, over-deliver.
What you should do next is edit the draft you’ve fleshed out before, based on the 10 questions above - cut the text to its bare minimum. No adverbs, no adjectives where they’re not needed. Use strong action verbs. Breathe a little life into the text, to make it stand out.
If possible, refer back to your conversation in the meeting room or at least hint at something that happened during that conversation. Make relevant small-talk. This way, your message’s chances of being remembered grow considerably.
Last, but not least, make your PS matter - add a quick note after you’ve finished what you had to say - send an article, a whitepaper or something along those lines. It has to be relevant to your discussion and should either emphasize your company’s competence or show what a great opportunity they miss by not working with you. For instance, if we take the car parts manufacturer example, let’s say you talked about prices. Those are already agreed upon. If you can link to a study that shows how costs in your industry are going to explode, you create a sense of urgency - your partner will think twice before turning you down, because their next deal might just be more expensive.