I have a problem: I talk myself out of following up.
It’s ironic, especially because I’m the founder of a follow-up email reminder service.
Following up seems like a no-brainer. You meet someone, you sense they might be interested in your consulting services, you follow up with them via email later on. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is, I get in my own way. And so do dozens of other consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs I know. We have these negative mental scripts, these harmful thought spirals that stop us from getting in touch even when it’s the right thing to do.
Here’s an example.
I met a cool guy who was really excited about TouchingBase.io. We had a phone call about three months ago to chat about it, and he was incredibly pumped. After our call, I followed up via email.
Then I followed up again.
I didn’t hear anything back. At this point, my negative mental scripts kicked in. I started to think his “interest” was just him being nice. So I sent one more email that basically said, “Hey, I assume you’re not interested. I’ll leave the ball in your court in case you want to talk more.”
He emailed me right away to say he was still 100% interested. Apparently, he’d been dealing with a lot of issues and didn’t have time to respond.
We had a little more back-and-forth, and I thought we were on the right track. But after that, it was back to radio silence again. Another mental script kicked in, the one that tells me that I look stupid emailing this guy over and over with no response.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. Do I email him again? Do I let it go? What’s the right thing to do?
I knew that the right answer was: keep following up. As long as the door is still open, you have to keep walking through it. But my negative thought process was stopping me.
The most common thought spiral I encounter is what I call “I Guess They’re Not Interested.”
You probably find yourself thinking this every time you send out an email and get no response. Or when you’re talking to someone and you can’t pick up on whether they’re interested or not. Or, when you’re feeling shy about sending an email and you want a good reason to not do it.
You can defeat “I Guess They’re Not Interested” with a positive mental script called “Yes, They ARE Interested.” Unless a potential client has told you flat-out that they don’t want to hear from you ever again, they are still interested. So keep growing that relationship. Don’t give up.
Another common script, I call “Hey, The Ball Is In Their Court.”
This is what I say to myself when I haven’t heard from someone in a while, but I don’t want to follow up with them again so soon. “The Ball Is In Their Court,” I think, “and it’s up to THEM to get in touch with ME.”
This a great excuse, but it’s not going to help me (or you) build a business.
Instead, replace “Hey, The Ball Is In Their Court” with this instead: “If I Want Something To Happen, I Have To Make It Happen.”
It’s true. If you let the ball sit in someone else’s court forever, you’re at their mercy. Potential clients are DESPERATE for you to get in touch. They want to be pushed into action. They want to hear from you. They need your help.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve followed up with someone after thinking “The Ball Is In Their Court,” only to find that my original email had disappeared from their inbox, or they had forgotten they owed me a response. I’ve had clients thank me profusely for reaching out again.
Like I said, if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. And your clients will thank you for it.
Another mental script that gets in my way: “My Emails Are Annoying Them.”
This script usually strikes when you’re sending frequent emails, and you start to worry that they’re just too much. You think you’re cluttering up your client’s inbox, imagining that every message from you is met with an eye-roll and your client saying “This guy again? Why doesn’t he give it a rest?”
Fortunately, people don’t react this way at all, no matter what your imagination tells you. I’ve NEVER met a client who’s annoyed with frequent communication. Ever! Even if you feel it’s awkward to keep following up again and again, you have to understand that your clients or networking buddies don’t feel the same way.
Instead of thinking “My Emails Are Annoying Them,” think this instead: “My Emails Are Not As Big A Deal As I Think They Are.”
Think about that for a minute.
People get dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails in a week. Your email is not going to push your clients over a cliff — trust me. It’s one of many that they’re dealing with, so email with abandon. You’ll only regret the emails you don’t send…because if you don’t send the email, you won’t sign the client.
One surefire way to avoid all of these negative mental scripts is to shift your focus away from your comfort zone and toward your clients’ needs.
Sure, sending follow up emails can make you feel a little uncomfortable or awkward. So what? Get over it. Focus, instead, on the people you’re networking with. What will make them happy? What do they need? How can you make their lives easier?
When you think about your clients first, you’ll know what to do. And those negative scripts will fly out the window.