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We're more connected than ever but can't always reach prospects. We might get voicemail. They may ask that we email instead of phone. What if they don't reply?
Following up directly has two drawbacks
- you risk looking needy rather than proactive
- you risk causing annoyance (remember when mom reminded you to clean up your room?)
Here's what you can do instead
- give more than you take
- have more than you can handle
- stay in touch informally
These steps dampen the emotional hurt of feeling snubbed and the chance of acting rashly. You're also more likely to get endless referrals.
Give More Than You Take
When you give more value than you receive, you become a resource: others need you more than you need them. Doesn't that feel good?
Warning: You may think you're giving value but they judge and may not value what you're giving.
When you give more, you strengthen the power of reciprocity. Contacts of high calibre will feel obligated to give back. They may not buy but will feel the need to reply. This still doesn't mean you'll get a response as quickly as you want.
Have More Work Than You Can Handle
If you have plenty of work, statistics are your friends. You know some (perhaps many) wonderful opportunities go nowhere. With enough prospects, you'll have enough business. You won't be emotionally attached to a particular sale. That puts you in the position of power. You can even reject less-than-ideal prospects. Being busy even increases your value: we want what we can't easily get.
Yes, you care about outcomes but you're not too attached to them. Next please.
Stay In Touch Informally
People forget about you. Why not practice consistent persistent generosity? Send valuable information without mentioning your unanswered message. If you're connected on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or Google Buzz, continue posting useful items. An eNewsletter or an occasional personalized email on a non-related item might help too. You show that you're thinking of them, which gets them thinking of you and the outstanding item. You may get an apology for the delayed reply. That again shifts power to you.
Have you tried Google Buzz, launched last week? It integrates social media with your Gmail account and removes the 140 character limit on message length. Buzz also makes your Google Profile worth revisiting (e.g., here's mine).
Send a reminder if you think they forgot due to travel, holidays or busy-ness. Be friendly and light. Pretend you didn't send your previous communication. Sometimes messages get lost, blocked or deleted as spam.
Maybe you'll get a reply and get thanks for not pestering.
- When Your Voicemails and Emails Go Unanswered, What Should You Do? (Harvard Business Review blog)
- How to Handle Silence, the Worst Kind of Feedback (Harvard Business Review blog)
- image courtesy of Blue Sky (United States)
PS A request with $2.7 million at stake didn't reach me. Luckily the client followed up.