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How to Follow-up Without Being a Pest

You’ve seen the commercial where the clueless Millennial is being interviewed for a job.  When the guy says, “We’ll call you” the phone rings.  It’s the Millennial across his desk following up after the interview. 

There’s a fine line between efficient follow-up and being a pest.  Business owners and managers respect efficient follow-up.  They avoid pests.

Follow-up can become a real problem.  The job your firm won through aggressive bidding includes several PBCs.  Getting these documents is a priority if you are going to deliver on time.  Sales is another area where follow-up gets awkward. Since most people avoid conflict, their idea of saying “not interested” is to ignore your emails and phone calls.  Unless you look like a celebrity, you’ve experienced this in dating before.

This isn’t an article about sales.  You are an accountant.  Follow-up often involves getting what you need to complete the job or bringing the interview process to a logical conclusion.  Your strategy is simple:  Communicate better so clients make you a priority rather than an afterthought or an annoying chore. Here are some ideas:

Schedule a date:  The simplest and most businesslike follow-up is the scheduled date.  You see this with Requests for Proposals (RFPs).  There’s a timetable including notification of the winner bidder.  You can call on or after that date if you haven’t heard.  It’s similar to learning the date grades will be posted after college finals. There's an expectation built-in, so your counterpart knows the timeline.

Share new Information:  You are part of a team competing for business.  You’ve made a personal connection with a member of the other team.   Wanting to stay top of mind, you get in touch to share new information that might influence their decision.  It might involve pricing, delivery time or additional services provided.

GIve them the scoop:  Clients often develop cordial relationships with professionals providing services.  You are a known quantity.  Companies are always curious about what their competitors are doing.  We are talking about publicly available information here.  Their rival announces earnings or a key hire.  You call as early as you dare, assuming they already had this information but you wanted to be absolutely sure.  They associate talking to you with learning something new. 

Spread some knowledge:  You work for a major firm with a business consulting division.  They publish periodic reports on your prospect’s industry.  Calling to share these observations is another valid reason to get in touch.

Dates and life events:  Your contact is a manager at the firm where you are interviewing.  You are professional colleagues.  You aren’t naming your children after each other, but they like you and relate to you.  You call before the holidays to swap vacation plans.  You ask how they celebrated their anniversary.  They may want to help and make a call on your behalf to add a personal recommendation.

The chance encounter:  One of the (undocumented) reasons for London winning the 2012 Olympics was the UK bid committee’s strategy of learning what hotels the Olympic selection committee would be staying at in other cities.  They would send one of their team (who met the committee earlier) to that hotel’s bar to hang out and “happen” to come across a committee member they knew.  Small world.

Seminar follow-up:  If you run a small practice, client acquisition is a major part of the job.  You may do seminars to attract new clients.   Call attendees the next day.  Sound the attendees out for event feedback.  Suggest an appointment.  Determine the level of interest of those who couldn’t attend.

The technique to avoid is the “have you made a decision yet?” approach.  That really gets them annoyed. How do you follow with prospects, interviews and clients?

Image: iStock/Gajus