The #1 Barrier to Effective Follow-up (and what it’s costing you)

A little fact about me you might not know…

I’m deathly afraid of heights. The better way to put it would be edges of things that are really high. I’ve flown airplanes before, so it’s not so much being up high, just being near the edge that gets me.

A few years ago we were in Toronto and went to the top of the CN Tower. If you haven’t been, there’s a glass floor up there (1,122 feet from the ground) that you can walk on…not me, but you could do it while I stand on the other side of the room. 😬

When you’re up there, they have a whole wall with info on the engineering that went into making that glass floor. It’s 2.5 feet thick and has five layers of tempered glass that are loadtested annually. It’s not going anywhere. Logically, I know my fears are unfounded.

With follow-up the biggest barrier most people experience is fear. Like my fear of that glass floor in the CN Tower the fear is both real and unfounded.

There are three common factors that create the fear:

  1. The fear of being annoying
  2. The fear of rejection
  3. The fear of doing the wrong thing

Let’s deal with all three, shall we…

Follow-up Fear #1: I’ll annoy the prospect!

Can I be honest with you? Chances are you will annoy the prospect, if you follow-up the way most people do.

So, what causes this annoyance?

In a word…selfishness.

Most of the follow-up that you and I receive now is 100% selfish. It’s designed to serve the self-interest of the person sending the follow-up.

As my wife likes to say… Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Just this week, I’ve been getting pounded on LinkedIn by a guy that wants me to hire him to do lead generation for our firm. I’ve received three messages (in one week!), all pitches. And, by the way, did you read anything in my profile…NO!

He doesn’t care about me one lick, unless I’m going to become his client (not likely).

Am I annoyed…you bet!

But I also get follow-up that’s smart, helpful and aligned with my self-interests. I read it. I appreciate it. I respond to it.

So what’s the difference?

One little thing…

Value.

The follow-up we welcome is valuable to us. It serves us first, while serving the goals of the sender. It is possible and necessary to do both.

How do we create that kind of valuable follow-up?

First, you need context to inform your follow-up. I wrote an entire article on how to gather and organize relationship/follow-up context, so I’m prepared to follow-up when I need to.

Next, you need to understand what’s valuable at each stage of the buying process.

You want to answer the question, “What’s the next logical step that will move this prospect forward?”

For my lead generation LinkedIn friend, he’d have been far better off sending a message like this…

”Hey Steve, not sure if you have any interest, but we just published an article on the top 3 lead generation strategies for agencies in 2019. If you’re interested, I’ll send you a link.

Just reply with a “YES” and I’ll get it to you.”

There’s a good chance I’d say yes to that…it’s relevant and valuable, and since we have zero relationship so far, it matches the level of trust and familiarity (both are scratch right now) I have with the guy.

With each new follow-up you send, you want to match the ask or action to the stage of the buyer’s journey and the stage of your relationship.

All of this can be pre-planned and templated to make follow-up easy.

Follow-up Fear #2: What if they reject me?!

Rejection is a huge fear. It’s pervasive in all of sales. In fact, I think it’s the #1 biggest challenge in sales.

There are three thoughts I’ll give you for overcoming the fear of rejection:

  1. Get ‘OK’ with the reality that some people will reject you. Welcome it. See it as positive progress towards your goal of sifting and sorting the market to find the best clients. When someone says “Don’t contact me anymore.” Say, “Thanks! You’ve just saved me so much time I would have wasted on you.”
  2. Have more leads than you need. Often the fear of rejection is a fear of lost opportunity. We’re very good a deluding ourselves into believing that as long as they don’t say “no”, they might be a “yes.” Sometimes, but there are more silent “nos” out there than you think. Better to clean up your system so you can focus your time, energy and money on the real opportunities.
  3. Reframe the goal of your follow-up from trying to get a client, to trying to disqualify prospects. Well crafted follow-up messages will have this affect. At the same time, those messages will help you connect with the real people you can help. Focus on the positive 😉.

Follow-up Fear #3: I might do or say the wrong thing!

Yes, you might. But it’s unlikely. I’ve watched our clients agonize of follow-up messages (which is why I wrote The Follow-up Formula).

All of that worry is unnecessary. You’re writing to humans. Be human yourself. Communicate with prospects the way you’d communicate with a business friend, with candor, humor, a sense of familiarity, and a casual tone.

It will all be fine. Prospects want real help and they want to work with a human being they can relate to, so ditch all the stuffy formal language. Be professional, not stuffy (there’s a BIG difference).

You’ll rarely, if ever, say the wrong thing. Yet, by not saying anything (because you have this fear) you miss the opportunity to help someone who needs your help.

You lose, and you’re prospect loses. What a shame.

Want my best ideas for growing your firm, plus winning ideas from successful firm leaders?

Twice a week I’ll send the latest actionable ideas to your inbox. Just tell me where to send them and let’s get some clients rolling in…