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What follows is a bold statement, but sometimes it takes a bold statement to get people's attention.
One of the most important and yet overlooked skills in business today is follow-up.
This applies to many parts of our business: Customer service and care, marketing, leadership, networking, branding, and more. It is a habit and a discipline that, when used effectively and regularly, will change your results and your life.
Here are seven ways to incorporate more follow-up into your practices - and therefore seven ways to increase your results.
1. Say thank you. First and foremost, the must-do follow-up habit is to say thank you. Send an email, make a call, or best of all, send a hand written note. Tell the Customer thanks for the new order. Tell the employee how much you appreciate their extra effort (or their normal effort over the long haul). Thank a person for a referral. Thank a colleague for the book or website recommendation. We all sent thank you cards after receiving graduation and wedding gifts. And while you may have done it because it was expected, it was really good practice for the rest of your life. I have a recurring task on my task list. It reads "Who do I need to thank today?" Who do you need to thank today?
2. Ask for feedback. After completing a project, meeting, training session, consulting engagement, or whatever, ask for some feedback. Preface your request by saying that you want to not only make sure that you have met their needs, but that you want to know how to continue to improve. Be open to what will be shared and show your gratitude, by referring to item 1 above.
3. Keep track. You've given an employee some coaching or help on a specific issue, so follow-up to see how it is going and how you can help now. You completed a project for a Client six months ago - so follow-up to see how it is going now and if the results match what had been expected. Follow-up isn't just a one time deal - it is an on-going commitment. You likely are interested in the progress others are making. Let them know by staying in touch and seeing how things are going and how you might be able to help.
4. Remain interested. This is one step beyond keeping track. It is remaining interested in the other person or group's progress over the long term. Continue to check back on progress. Remaining interested shows that you care and have made the effort to remember about events and goals important to the other person.
5. Remember important events. Holly on my team calls friends and colleagues on their birthdays and sings them Happy Birthday - live or on their voice mail. I have done this occasionally in the past - but have made it a more normal part of my routine as well. Why? Because it makes people smile. Your kids and paren'ts expect a happy birthday wish, but do your Customers? Your employees? Your vendors? Maybe you don't sing, but you can still wish people happy anniversary, happy birthday or happy St. Patrick's Day - especially if they are Irish!
6. Share information you know matters to them. Have a colleague who has a rose garden? Send them the article about roses that you read last week. Have a co-worker who graduated from a certain college? Congratulate them when his team wins the big game. Have a Customer who loves tennis? Send them a link to the website you heard about that helps people improve their game. You get the idea. Follow-up by giving people information or comments that they know is just for them.
7. Have a plan. I have a process to call and track my conversations with my key contacts regularly. We have a process to connect with our most valued colleagues and Clients monthly. Our plan continues to be tweaked, but we have a plan because we know how important follow-up is. What is your plan?
Within my seven suggestions I have shared examples from all phases of business in order to show how pervasive and how valuable follow-up can be.
There is little about it that is hard. Being exceptionally good at follow-up requires focus, dedication, discipline, and a decision to do it. If you will make the decision you will become a more effective leader or supervisor. You will become a better networker. You will have greater sales. You will retain your relationships longer.
Any of these are reasons enough to make this decision. All of them put together prove my initial bold statement:
"One of the most important and yet overlooked skills in business today is follow-up."
Where are you going to start?
Kevin Eikenberry is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on "Unleashing Your Potential" go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/index.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.
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