There are a lot of different business situations that require an appropriate follow up:

  • Following up with a potential employer after an interview
  • Following up with your team after a meeting
  • Following up with a sales lead who has expressed interest
  • Following up with a potential partner after a conversation

Surely there are more. But that is enough to illustrate the point.

No matter what the reason for the follow up, it’s the execution we want to focus our attention on here. Because how you follow up matters just as much as whether or not you follow up.

First, it is important to clearly define the goal, the reason you are following up and the desired outcome. For example, if you are following up with a sales lead who has expressed interest, your desired outcome is ultimately to convert them into a paying customer. But the goal of the initial follow up may simply be to gauge their interest, or set up a meeting, or establish a rapport.

Without a clearly defined goal, you don’t know how to follow up. Recognize that there are any number of ways to follow up. Of course, there are the standard methods – an email or a phone call from a salesperson, using the example above. But what about a text message? Or an automated email sequence? Or a robocall? Or a handwritten letter?

Once you define the goal, it is important to consider your audience. Who you are following up with will help you determine the most likely way to get their attention. For example, a hiring manager that you met with doesn’t want you to call them. And the CEO of a company you are trying to do business with won’t likely pay attention to an automated email.

Design your follow up process for the person you are following up with.

Finally, once you choose the most appropriate follow up method for your goal and your audience, you should test to ensure that you’re correct. What is the success rate of your chosen method? Now try something else with a few people and see if that works better or worse?

Testing is a great way to optimize your follow up process over time anyway. And so you should use it as a check against your gut.