Your Follow-up Is Still Awful

Right. Still with the ants. Still with the guy who hasn't called me back to follow up and schedule the ant killing appointment. And still with me being the guy who is perfectly capable of being proactive and calling the ant dude, but I don't because I keep getting distracted by more important stuff.

At least I have the good sense to follow up a blog post about the importance of following up by writing another follow-up blog post.

You have left so much money on the table over the years. It makes me want to cry. I bet you could have put one of your kids through college if you had practiced better follow-up all this time.

Here's what happens: you make a connection with a potential client, they express interest in your thing, but then they say, fairly, that they need to get a couple of other things organized before they can make a decision about buying your thing. I bet you made the first mistake before you hung up the phone didn't you? You didn't secure permission to follow up and you certainly didn't schedule it.

I've never done this correctly. I have always been so prideful of not wanting to chase after business that I would rarely follow up with someone. I most definitely wouldn't proactively ask the person's permission to reconnect with them or call them again at a specific time. But I recently tried it as an experiment after hearing some advice from a friend of mine. He told me that once he gets a lead, he doesn't let loose of it until the person actually tells them that they are not interested. This is a bit much for me to be sure. It's too far on the other end of the continuum for me, but I can certainly go more his direction than I have thus far.

So I am trying an experiment with a potential client that reached out to us a few weeks ago. We emailed and she told me to please call her. I tried to email to schedule the call but got no response. Then I remembered my friend and his hound dog behavior. He would tell me to stay after this lady until she explicitly told me 'no'. So I called the nice lady. She didn't sound like she was happy to hear from me, but I pretended I was my friend instead of me. I pretended like I didn't care one wit whether she rejected me or shut me down or not. I pretended like I had 10 more solid leads like her and her rejection would be just a drop in the bucket. (This was in fact true thankfully.) I continued the conversation with her as if she were interested. Turns out she was from New York. No one from New York is ever happy to hear from a Californian. That explained a lot and I felt better. We discussed the thing I wanted to sell her and she said hmmm... this was my chance to be the old me and run away or be my hound dog friend and pursue. I chose to be my hound dog friend. So I said, "Would you like a proposal for this work? I would be very glad to prepare it for you now and send it over?" She said, "Sure that would be great." Then I did the best thing so far. Again, inspired by my hound dog friend, I said, "I will send the proposal today and I will follow up with you early next week." I didn't give her a choice; I was polite, nice but firm. If I am going to write you a proposal you have to pay for it by at least taking my follow up call.

So I sent the proposal on time as promised, yet another uncharacteristic move by me. (Remember, I've been running my business all these years borrowing from the rules of the pickup bar. If you're mysterious and aloof, the girl will wonder what's going on over there and come to you. Of course that never actually worked for me when I was single. My friends who were outgoing and pursued good leads with good follow up were the ones who got dates with the cute girls. I just tagged along as wing man.)

So I sent the proposal. Then I followed up early that next week. This time the New York lady was nicer to me. She sounded pleased to hear from me, but she was still curt like a New Yorker. She pleasantly said, "I need more time." So I again pretended to be my bold hound dog friend and said, "No problem, I'll call you again next week." She said, "Sounds good."

This was a different me. I liked it a lot. I was in control. I was going out and seizing the day. Why am I 42 and just now learning that you should go out and grab life? I don't know. Why am I writing this sort of thing in my blog? Why am I exposing myself and basically telling potential clients and business partners alike, in public, that I am still learning, that I still feel like a novice? Well mainly because I know a lot of you feel the way I do. You let fear control more of your life than it should, even though you, like me, may really love and cherish the virtue of courage. I am writing this stuff because I have in fact been very successful in my field. I have 15 years of success as a web developer and business man to show for it. So when I tell you people that in a lot of ways I still don't know what I am doing, it's ok with me. If I can admit my frailty, so can you. If I can admit that I'm not so great at some really important things, so can you. Doing this makes me stronger and it can make you stronger too. Is my business floundering? Not really. It's the same as ever. I'm the thing that is different now, and you can be too.

So what's going on with New York lady? I owe her a follow up this week. I am looking forward to talking with her. She's very, very likely going to reject me. I'm ready. I don't even care. Now that I am older I know that she has a life of her own, family, friends, debt, rent, problems of all kinds. She's very much like me. So when she rejects my proposal, it doesn't actually bug me. It's just business. She's a good person and so am I. Some other time we may be compatible, or not. Some other client may need my thing, or not, but doing the things to maintain the right psychology, which is to say, doing the things to stay engaged and moving forward, like practicing good follow-up and thinking healthy thoughts about yourself and others means you can weather whatever. It makes you stronger, more resilient. It helps you own your life and live it fully.

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