"Want to Grow Your Business? Follow Up!"Do you want to grow your small business? Would you like to win friends and influence people? Would you like to be thought of as a consummate professional in your industry? Do you find yourself challenged with finding time (and the drive) to follow up?

For me, following up can sometimes be a real challenge. So much so, I wondered if others had the same issues as me. I mean, we are taught that the “gold is in the follow up” and that more sales are closed when professionals follow up; so why is it so difficult for some of us to consistently do? I think it is because we have never developed a follow-up strategy. So I asked. I asked people about their follow-up strategies (or lack of) on my social networks, in conversations at networking events, while on the phone with friends, customers and prospects. And the replies were not surprising, what was surprising is how few people are actually good at it. At least half of the people I talked to said they make it a point of following-up once but few said they do more than that. And the other half said they seldom, if ever follow-up and when they do, they aren’t even sure about the proper way to connect with their prospects and clients.

In fact, most people I talked to said they don’t follow-up because they don’t want to be perceived as pushy. While this may be the case with a very small percentage of professionals, I think it is safe to say that if you ask a prospect when they would like you to follow up and you do it, you are not being too pushy. You are being a professional. I recommend that unless or until you know for a fact that the prospect will never do business with you, set goals to follow up at regular intervals. That could be once a month, every three months or even every six months.

Here are five offline marketing tips to help you with your own follow-up strategy for your small business.

1. Do what you say you are going to do. I am always amazed at how little effort it can take to follow up and yet how few people do it well. Myself included. The important thing is to set a goal of following up and following through on “promises” you make to others. It will surprise some and make others feel like they made a good decision working with me.

2. Set follow up goals. As I mentioned above, set goals to follow up at regular intervals. Knowing your industry and the company or individual you want to do business with will help you determine a proper follow-up timeline. If you sell insurance and the “prospect” just renewed theirs, ask when their policy is up for renewal and if you could call back a few weeks prior to offer a comparative analysis. Simple.

3. Create your follow-up schedule. Put your follow-up goals on your calendar. Once you have established the follow up at the times that are convenient to the prospect and at the agreed upon times. This will eliminate the forgetfulness we all experience in our busy lives. Putting a follow up plan together and then putting it on your calendar will greatly reduce the “forgetfulness” of being a busy professional. What gets scheduled, gets done.

4. When you do follow up, get to the point. Don’t waste your prospect’s time. Touch base, ask if the time is appropriate to chat and if not, schedule a follow-up to the follow up. Brevity will win you more friends and customers than going on and on about nothing. On the other hand, if the prospect is in the mood to talk, let her (or him). You can find out a lot about people by their “side chatter” and idle conversations.

5. Offer additional value. When you follow up, share one key benefit of doing business with your company that the prospect or client may not know you offer. This is a good way to increase your return on investment of time and give your prospect a reason to do business (or more business) with you over your competitor.

What happens if you forget to follow-up? Nothing. Except that just maybe the prospect (or current customer) has taken their business elsewhere. In that case, pick up the phone and apologize. If you had good reason to not follow up at the scheduled time, chances are the person will understand. On the other hand, admitting fault will let the other person know that 1. you were truly sorry and 2. you have integrity. Oftentimes that is all it takes to get a second chance.

What happens if you follow-up and have to leave a message? And they don’t reply. Don’t assume the worst. Assume the person is busy (just like you) and follow up again. Some of the ways you can follow up include picking up the phone, sending a note or postcard, sending an email, and/or touching base on social networks. Once you receive acknowledgment you may find out why you were “ignored.” It may have just been that the person was busy, or out of town or maybe just is not in the market for your services or products at the moment. This is your opportunity to create a stay-in-touch campaign so that when the time is right, the prospect will be ready to do business with you.

Other tips: in addition to telling your prospect or client that you will follow up, tell him or her when. Be as specific as possible (date and time). Mention how you will follow-up be it by phone, in person or by email. Be sure to enter this information in your calendar as a reminder.

If you have just done business with someone a really good customer-centric strategy that will surprise most people is to follow-up after the sale. This is your opportunity to thank the customer for doing business with you and to make sure they have no concerns about the product or service. If there are concerns or problems it is the perfect time to correct those problems and keep the customer. The bottom line is to stand out among your competition, you must follow up! Your small business depends on it!

In my next article I will share Follow-Up Tips That Build Relationships and Referrals.