The Follow-Up: A Lost Art?

For the past six years, I have had the privilege of serving as a judge for an awards competition sponsored by a local business publication. In that time I have met many successful entrepreneurs who have inspired me to stretch my limits of professional and personal growth. It is a service commitment that takes time and has no extrinsic rewards, but the people I have met and lessons learned are payment enough.

A fellow judge and I observed a trend over the years we have judged the competition: the act of follow-up from contestants does not occur as frequently today. We visited with top executives at 12 companies this year, and only two of them followed up with a “thank you” message. Follow-up from a company is not a judging criterion nor are companies excluded from consideration because they did not follow up our meeting with an email, call, or postcard.

Our surprise is that more managers do not pursue the small task of following up with judges, just as a salesperson would follow up on a meeting with a prospective client or a key account. The acclaim that comes being named a winner in this competition can enhance a firm’s visibility in the community, not to mention potentially attract new clients that recognize the firm’s accomplishments. The two managers that took the step of following up our visit (one with a handwritten note, one with a phone call) stand out from the others simply by taking a few minutes to say “thank you.”

The intent of sharing this experience is not to indict the other 10 companies. The saying “when you point a finger at someone, you point three fingers at yourself” rings true for me. As I reflected on the trend we observed, I realized my follow-up communications do not always meet my personal expectations. So, rather than criticize anyone I am using this experience to become more consistent in my own practice of the art of the follow-up.

Investing a few minutes to thank a customer, prospect, mentor or someone else who has invested time with you is often perceived as an indicator of someone paying attention to details. A salesperson that regularly practices follow-up with clients can create confidence that he or she is on top of things. And, follow-up is good, old school customer relationship management.

Labels: ,