Your Follow-up is Awful

Seriously, I want the ants gone. I want to pay for the service. I will hand over my credit card in an instant. I just need you to call me or email me or courier pigeon me to remind me that I wanted to pay you to do a thing.

"Mitchell you're lazy. Why don't you be the one to follow up if you want the ants gone so badly?"

That's cute. You seem to have no appreciation for (1) how busy I can get or (2) how forgetful I can be. I truly appreciate when people follow up with me and remind me that I had agreed to or at least had expressed serious interest in doing some sort of business with them. This happens to me all the time. I for sure want to have my car detailed before I sell it. And if the car detailing guy had followed up with me to proactively schedule that appointment, he would have made the $80 bucks without hesitation. I'm definitely interested in a new mattress. In fact, my marriage is likely to end if I don't do something about my wife's back ache. But I get busy and distracted and I forget. If you would just follow up with me in a polite and timely way, you would make a sale.

But this of course goes double for me as I run my own business. When I think about all the ants crawling around on me and my food and how easily I would have said yes to the ant guy if he had just followed up with me, I think about all the times when a client had approached my company to do some work that they totally wanted to get done. We just never followed up. In some cases they really needed us and were very glad to pay for good help. We just never followed up. And we lost that money, that client, and the word of mouth ripple effect of doing good work for someone who really needed it done.

Why are we so bad about it sometimes? We get busy, or we convince ourselves that we get busy. We forget, or we convince ourselves that we forget. Which brings me to the point. I think we actually fear follow-up. I think we fear persistence. We have all had some exposure to salespeople who badger. We have all experienced the high pressure sales situation. We've even bought stuff that we did not need or want because of sales pressure. So I think we fear coming off like that. It could be even more simple though. We more likely fear the 'no'.

I'm going to skip over the tangent here why I talk about how we all fear rejection and blah blah. That's axiomatic. What I think is interesting is that a lot of us — I'm speaking primarily of freelancers and small business owners who do not consider themselves salespeople — what's interesting is that there is such a gulf between our type of follow-up and high pressure sales tactics.

Like I said, I literally have ants crawling on me and my breakfast right now. I need the ant guy. I'm busy writing this blog post though, so the ants have to wait. If the ant guy were to call right now, I would drop this blog post and do something about my situation. The person who needs that web thing built is ready now. It may even be urgent for them like my ant problem is. But I am too fearful of coming off as high pressure or of hearing the 'no' that I don't call the person and remind her that she expressed some interest a couple of weeks ago. There's such a distance between a friendly reminder and badgering to make a sale that I have little excuse for myself.

When I have followed up with a potential client to remind them that we wrote them a proposal or that they had previously emailed and expressed interest, they have thanked me, actually thanked me. They were grateful, just like I would be if the ant guy would call right now.

"Oh totally, I've been meaning to call you. I just got busy"

Or, "I lost your phone number (email) but I'm glad you reached out. I still want to buy that thing you sell."

It's happened enough times that follow-up feels like a favor to the person I called. It's happened enough times that I am now able to get out of my head and stop obsessing about how desperate I must sound when I remain persistent. It's happened enough that I feel more relaxed about doing it because I can fairly and reasonably expect that the person I am contacting will actually be glad to hear from me. So much is in the psychology when doing sales work. I have learned that I can think one thought and easily make the call or I can think another thought and feel terrified and never dial the phone. Human contact and fear of rejection are plaguing our modern era. Maybe that's part of it.

When it comes to persistence though, do it. Use your imagination. It's a powerful thing. Right when you are too fearful to make that follow-up phone call, imagine the person you are about to dial being covered in ants like I am right now. Imagine that they are not even able to dial you on the phone because it's covered with creepy crawlers. Now imagine how grateful they will be when you call them or find some creative way of reaching them and bringing your service to their door? They need you. You merely need to come their way.

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