One of the most common problems that people face when following up with someone is that they don't want to come across as annoying. This can be especially true when the reason you're following up is that you need a job, feedback, or you're trying to close a deal. Depending on your personality type, confronting this issue can be the cause of much stress. You may feel at a loss for control.
There is a fine line when communicating on issues such as these. You know that if you follow up too much or at the wrong time, you can destroy that relationship. The truth is that the exact timelines for following up vary with each scenario.
However, that doesn't mean you have to leave everything to chance. Here's the best way to follow up without making a bad impression.
1. Set expectations early.
The main reason that people struggle with following up is uncertainty. They're not sure if it's okay to follow up or when they should expect to hear back from the other person. Your first step to successfully follow up is to set clear expectations from the beginning.
Before you leave your job interview, ask them when you should expect to hear back from them. Normally, they'll tell you that you within two weeks. Now that you have a specific time frame ask them if it's okay if you follow up. Most likely, they'll tell you that you can.
If you're waiting to hear back from a client about the work you completed for them, then before you start the project you should need to create a two-way deadline. It's normal for a client to tell you when they need the work. But you should tell them that you also need their feedback in a respectful time frame so you can do your job effectively.
Another common scenario where setting the expectations early can help you avoid stress later is when you've had a sales call and you're close to closing the deal. Clients might need time to think over all the information that was discussed. To get a clear idea of where their head is at, before getting off the call, you should ask them when's a good time for them in the next few days for you to call so you can continue discussing your solutions with them.
The goal is to get clarity on their schedule and give them clarity on yours. I found that this helps most with the stress of not knowing.
2. Send a thank-you email.
After you've set expectations, you'll understand whether it's okay to follow up with them or not. Few people will tell you that it's not okay to follow-up with them. That's okay too. Respect their wishes, trust that they'll contact you when needed and focus on the people who don't mind getting gentle reminders.
For most people, send your thank-you email within 48 hours of your initial contact with them.
Thank them for their time and let them know that you're excited to hear back from them on their decision. You should also use this opportunity to recap what was discussed and to remind them that you're going to be following up with them.
3. Keep your follow-ups relevant.
If the time frame has passed where they said you'll hear back from them and since you've made your intentions clear, and they agreed with them, it's time to start sending you follow-ups.
Your first follow-up should be a quick check-in with them asking them how's everything been and if they had any updates or questions for you. Depending on how busy they are, you might not hear back.
However, it's important that you keep every follow-up after the first one relevant someway. Also, after your first email, send one weekly or bi-weekly.
One way to do this is by adding them as a connection on LinkedIn, and, if they're an avid poster, your next email can be about a conversation they started and your thoughts and opinions about it. By doing this, you're showing them that you're trying to build a connection with them.
Another option is to send them industry or company-related articles that you think they'll be interested in.
Even after all your efforts, there's no guarantee that they'll respond after the second or third email. The key to following-up is by staying respectful and persistent. Though in some circumstances, you might need to be more persistent, especially when you're looking for feedback.
Either way, silence isn't a no. No is no. As long as you have permission and you're staying relevant, continue respectfully following up with them until you get an answer.