After any encounter, if you want it go further than just someone you met somewhere, you need to follow up. These days a follow-up is almost done entirely on email.
Now, here is where many many leads are lost (I myself am quit guilty of this). We collect business cards, we collect emails and iffy LinkedIn contacts and are told and encouraged – follow up with me so we can connect further on <insert topic>. Sometimes, you are asked to follow up because there isn’t time at said event to discuss the topic in-depth. Other times, you are following up on an application (the hey, did you forget about me), or after an interview (the thank you note) or sometimes you need someone to take an action. I can tell you, out of the thousands of people I have spoken in front of and shared my contact information, less than 50 have followed up directly with me afterwards.
So, even before you read this post – commit to following up with everyone for a month.
However, all follow-ups contain a few key common elements.
First, remember that if you are following up, you have already had an encounter with the person. It’s a really wonderful thing to start off with a warm contact. This could be someone you met at a networking event, a speaker, an interviewer. In your note, make sure you indicate how you met and feel free to utilize something to help them jog their memory (I was the one who told the story about hand-gliding). I know it seems obvious, but depending on the length of time since your last point of contact, they may not remember you. It also sets the stage for how you will structure the rest of the message.
Second, keep it professional. I have heard story after story of how people lost the job, or ended the connection because they were “too familiar” with the person, or over-shared or something else that wasn’t professional. Generally, if you are following up, you want something from the person. You need them to do something for you (meet with you, hire you, etc.). This means pay attention to your grammar, and don’t say things like “Wow, it was great seeing that not all middle-aged people are blowhards.”
Third, think about the content of the email. This follow-up may be your last shot (if it’s a thank you note for example) or should set the tone. Do you want to highlight aspects of your experience, you didn’t get to talk about in the interview? This is where you need to be deliberate and specific about your request of the person. If you need an in-person meeting, then state that. If you need them to respond to something then state that too. However, if this is a follow-up from a networking event, this is NOT the time to ask them – hey, can you hire me. Or if you interviewed, this is NOT the time to ask “How did I do?” or “What are my chances?” If you aren’t the best writer, ask a friend to review the email before you send it. Before sending emails where I want a response, I often type a first draft. Wait at least an hour, come back and read it and then check – Is it clear? Does it have a specific ask? Does it outline what’s in it for them? Does it push my brand? Are there any typos? And be warm and friendly.
Last, don’t stalk the person. I have been a victim of the “professional stalk” and all it does it turn me off from wanting to help me. Remember that people are busy. You should allow at least one week for a response. As I said in my earlier post on The Cold Email, you don’t want to stalk people.