in Networking

The Art of Following Up

followupFollowing up isn’t always fun, but damn is it effective.

It might feel a little aggressive.  It’s natural to think to yourself “I don’t want to annoy them. If they didn’t respond, maybe they just don’t want to talk to me.”

The truth is there are a lot of reasons that people don’t respond. People are forgetful.  People procrastinate.  People lose track of emails. Even if they just ignored you the first time, there’s a good chance they’ll respond when you check in again.

That doesn’t mean you should be pushy.  Be polite…

“Hey Barb, just wanted to shoot you a quick follow up.  Let me know if you have time to chat for 10 minutes on Friday.”

They won’t think, “man, what a dick, following up with me like that.”

They’ll think “oops, forgot to respond to that. Better get back to them.”  Hell, they might even feel guilty enough to want to help you that much more.

If they’re really not interested in whatever it is you’re offering, then they’ll tell you no.  Good, now you know and you can move on.


Now how do you become a master of the follow up?

In order to follow properly, you need to have a good system of keeping track of your communication with people.  Otherwise you’ll forget to follow up, just like they’ll forget to respond to you.  I forget to follow up with people all the time and it’s just missed opportunities.

1. Get yourself a CMS or use a spreadsheet.

I recommend trying Streak CRM which works with gmail.

I use it for blogger outreach, fundraising, managing contributors to blogs and any other situation where I need to keep track of who I need to follow up with.

2. Follow up more than once.

I typically will do two follow ups before calling it quits.  And you’d be surprised how many people respond to me on the second follow up.

3. Don’t wait too long.

Ideally, you want them to remember getting the first email.  I typically follow up anywhere from 3-7 days after emailing someone.

4. Set reminders for yourself.

If it’s really important, I’ll add an event on the morning of the day I plan to follow up.  You can also use boomerang (another awesome gmail plugin), which sends you reminders if people don’t get back to you.

5. Make it easy for people to respond.

If they respond once, there’s a better chance that they’ll respond again.  So if they don’t respond, in your follow up emails make it so easy that they could literally just say “yes” or “no”.  Then get into more details after they respond.

What’s your follow up strategy?

  • evanhamilton

    Good tips! Not positive I agree with the example in #5 though. I feel like when I give people that easy step they respond, but then ignore my next email with more details. The fewer steps, the better, in my experience.
    …though maybe I’m just not doing a good enough job following up! 🙂

    • DavidSpinks

      Good point. IF you can, then fewer steps is better for getting shit done. But if they never get back to you, then you’re guaranteed to fail. At least this way you create opportunities to smooth them over.

  • NateMunger

    I use Asana. It works well, I have a template that I copy and set up for important conversations. I just set a subtask with a due date for each follow-up. Also, thanks for the reminder that people aren’t going to think you’re a dick for a short, polite follow up.

  • DavidSpinks

    natemunger thanks Nate. How are you going man?

    • natemunger

      DavidSpinks very well. I’m working at intercom now and loving it. Thanks for asking 🙂

      • DavidSpinks

        natemunger very cool, how long have you been there?

        • natemunger

          DavidSpinks one month this Friday.

  • ajpennacchio

    Really good post David. Glad you wrote about it. I don’t see many people talking about follow up and how important it is. I’ve spent most of my career in customer facing positions, sales, support & business development and one of the biggest keys to success is following up. I’ll admit early in my career I wasn’t good at it, not because I didn’t have a good strategy because I was worried about bothering someone or getting rejected. As you correctly point there are lots of reason people don’t get back to you and most of them have to do with them not you. But if you don’t follow up you’ll never know 🙂

  • DavidSpinks

    ericbieller thanks man

  • DavidSpinks

    ericbieller thanks man