The fortune is in the follow-up is a line I’ve both heard and repeated many times coming from a sales background. And it’s true. Research shows it’s more effective to work with a client you’ve already established a relationship with, rather than go after new business.
But I’m not just talking about business when I speak of your fortune. To me, personal relationships in the way of family and friends are even more valuable. Yet, many of us get consumed by life and the follow-up drops down the list. We focus on what we consider to be more urgent tasks and never quite get around to it … or them — similar to that diet that was going to leave us svelte by summer.
No matter how good our intentions, without a plan to stay connected to everyone from your family to your friends, your colleagues to your clients, it’s just not going to happen unless you follow the 3 steps to follow-up:
1. Create a hit list you can access. Think through the categories of your life and figure out who brings you joy, laughter, opportunities, business or whatever you deem important. Who do you want to serve or support? Keep your list accessible in a notebook, database, spreadsheet, Facebook or LinkedIn group so it’s easy to reference.
2. Determine time-frames. How often do you want to reach out or see your peeps? This could be quarterly for some clients or weekly for a walking buddy. Is it once a year in the form of a birthday card to a distant friend or former co-worker?
For 5 of my girlfriends, it’s yearly and I deem our list “The Six-Pack” which shows how long we’ve been hanging (pre-wine). This yearly rendezvous began as a result of my discouraging them from attending my wedding. Unlike most women, I never dressed my Barbie’s as brides, nor wanted a big ceremony – only marriage and children. But, I compromised – the first of many. When I found out they were all planning to attend, I encouraged them instead to come for a long weekend following my honeymoon (he had to leave) so we could connect. Rather than leave it at, “This is so much fun we should do this again!” we committed to this happening, and we just got home from our 19th annual trip together. This ritual out-lasted my 18-year marriage! How?
3. Block and book the time. All of us lead busy, productive lives and could easily justify not showing up, but we place such value on our friendship it’s not an option. We’ve only had 2 health related absences over 19 years. Once it was me, and if I thought I could have flown without using every available barf bag, I would have gone. The other time, my girlfriend’s mother broke her hip after arriving to care for her children. Excused absences in my book. It means we block our time almost 6 mos. out and say “No” to other opportunities that show up. Even if it costs us business or results in a frustrated child, partner or supervisor at times.
Another colleague I know books the flight for her next trip with her dear friend while they’re still on vacation. Then at the end of their trip they can say, see you in X days! Also, it’s harder to back out of plans or let other things interfere if you have solid components, like a flight or reservation. Choose a specific block of time or day each week to reach out to your rotating hit list to insure it happens.
Yea, yea, I know I’m not telling you anything you already don’t know. But what you don’t know is when life is going to knock you off your feet. In those moments, it’s usually your relationships that not only break your fall, but help you get up and go forward again. They’re worth a fortune, so follow-up.