Open innovation is a relatively new phenomenon. More and more companies are putting specific procedures for reviewing submissions in place, but there are still plenty that don't have any. Taking a look at an independent inventor's product idea might be completely novel to a smaller company. After you learn how to get in to companies to pitch them on an idea, there's a good chance you'll know more about how this works than the employees you speak to. All of which is to say, if you want to be successful, you will need to guide people to get them to do what you want them to do. You will need to embrace being in the driver's seat. This is ultimately a good thing! It also means following up is essential.

Never forget: You are your product idea's number one advocate. It is you who will ultimately champion your idea across the finish line. Following up is a big part of that. You can't submit your idea to a potential licensee and wait around for a response. Don't assume potential licensees will get back to you if they're interested or that someone has even looked at your sell sheet until you know for sure.

My perspective is: You can't follow up enough. If you don't follow up, all your efforts will have been for nothing. That sounds dramatic, but it's true. I've been teaching people how to license their ideas for more than 14 years now. In my experience, people rarely follow up as often as they should. It makes all the difference.

There are numerous reasons why following up with companies you submit an idea to is so important.

1. Most companies will need to see an idea several times before expressing interest. Don't take it personally. Employees are distracted, busy putting out fires. You are merely a blip on their radar screen. Your goal is to open up a dialogue. Don't be a pest, but do be persistent.

2. The employees you submit your idea to have other priorities. In all likelihood, their email inboxes are full. Don't assume that an employee looked at your sell sheet (even if you sent it three times). Until someone gets back to you, all bets are off. To keep moving forward, you need to touch base with someone. If you need to get creative, do so.

3. It can take time to get your idea to the right person. The first person who comes across your sell sheet might not be your best ally. You might need to send your sell sheet to a different employee to get the response you are looking for. Don't be embarrassed about following up. You're a professional! This is serious. When you follow up, you send a clear message. You're committed and looking for a response. If you adopt this mindset, you will set yourself apart from other inventors. Your persistence will be respected.

4. In order to move on, you need to know if the company is interested (or not). This is a big one. No one likes being told no, but leaving things hanging is not in your best interest. You might have to ask pointblank, "Are you interested?" You need to be able to scratch a potential licensee off your list and get closure.

5. You could gain extremely helpful insight. So you get a no. So has every other successful inventor! Put your feelings aside and use the opportunity to ask why. What was it about your concept that wasn't a good fit? The insight you gain could help you redesign your idea to submit it again. You'd be surprised. David Fedewa, inventRight coach, had a potential licensee tell him, "We like it, but it's too big." So he downsized his concept and resubmitted it. The company was game!

When you follow up, don't send emails that ask, "Did you get my other email?" Reattach your sell sheet every time. Employees don't want to dig through their inboxes to uncover an old email. Remember, at every turn, your job is to make working with you easy.