It’s a good question. I come across different opinions all the time. Some folks say it isn’t important, while others say it is. Personally, I like to look at any activity or task from the perspective of what beneficial impact it will have on maintaining and nurturing one’s relationships. Because your relationships are very personal and hold different meanings, depending on who you are and what you do, the answer to the question of importance can only differ from person to person. I will share some thoughts and then ultimately let you decide for yourself what is most appropriate for your relationships.
- Network Relationship Management is a game of inches. Just like baseball, the difference between winning or losing can depend on taking a few extra steps or not.
- This is exceptionally true if you are competing in a commoditized market in which the next guy has more or less the same to offer as you do.
- Sending that extra follow-up email that shows you care, can listen, are competent, and have what it takes to follow through, might just push you over the winning line.
- Lastly, if you take a look at how much it actually “costs” to send such a mail, it’s sort of a no-brainer. It’s simply proper relationship management hygiene.
I have fewer arguments about the value of sending follow-up emails than about the challenges of getting them sent. So let’s take a look at this rather intriguing problem.
Why is not everyone doing it?
Have you ever come to the conclusion that it would be great for your business if you wrote a follow-up email for every meeting you attended or led? Yes? You start by making a commitment and launch into it right away. The first few days go really well. You are even getting great feedback for your effort. Then less than 2 weeks into it, fires break out that require your full attention. You put out those fires but you also successfully put out the “fire” for writing and sending your follow-up activities to meetings. You probably do not even notice until weeks later. Sound familiar? It’s the old story of the failed attempts of creating new habits.
The best follow-up emails are those that simply get written and sent.
Here is what helps to keep sending these follow-up emails:
- Write them as a draft before you meet, as part of your meeting preparation and turn this into a great objective finding exercise.
- Make the effort short, yet meaningful. A two liner, twitter length follow-up email is still better than nothing. But, do include something specific to the meeting (see below), so that it doesn’t feel completely copy/pasted.
- If you can afford help – get it. People value the fact that you sent the email, not that you have written it. So, if you have an assistant, use the car ride back to dictate the follow-up email and have your assistant turn your content into a great email that will be sitting in your draft folder, waiting for you, by the time you get back to the office.
Ok, let’s assume you solved the issue of getting the emails out, but what content makes a follow-up email great?
What makes a great follow-up email?
The best follow-up emails are written with gratitude, are personal, show that you are competent and 100% genuine.
It’s best to strip an email down to its components.
- Standard Components
- Thank you Component
- Common Ground Reference Component
- Key Take Aways Component
Let’s get pragmatic and take a look at best practice through some examples :
“COPY/PASTE and Twitter Length Follow-up”
Better than nothing, but not a winner
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed it very much and I look forward to meeting you again.
The “Thank You” Component
Saying thank you is a given, most people do it in a follow-up email. So, why even mention it? Because there are two ways of saying thank you; one is just saying it and the other is meaning it. More importantly, you want to make it feel real. One is a standard phrase, the other is a little more thoughtful.
Think of it as the difference between “What’s up” and “How are you doing today? You seem to be quite happy.”
Using sentences like “I really appreciated the time you spent with me today. I hope it was time well spent for you too.” or “Let me start by saying thank you for your time today” are a good place to start. If you can fortify these statements by adding reasons why you are thankful, it’s even better. “I learned a lot today from your suggestions” or “I feel I will be able to act upon the advice you offered” are good examples. The key is to make sure your recipient perceives that you are genuine.
“Short And Sweet”
A brief message that connects on a personal level
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed it very much, and was particularly intrigued by your passion for tea. As you know, I love tea as well, and it’s not every day that I run into someone who appreciates a great cup of tea. I look forward to meeting you again.
The Common Ground Reference Component
Add a sentence about what you enjoyed most during the meeting. This has several benefits:
- First, despite this message being very short you are sending something personal and something unique to the meeting. Why not display that you care, can listen and are thoughtful, as long as you are being genuine?
- Second, you are pointing to something you liked, in a positive manner. Most people like positive people and respond well to them. It might even support the feeling that the meeting was a success.
- Finally, and most importantly, it allows you to emphasize common ground. We connect with people by finding common ground. This is what leads to likability and what’s not to like about being liked? So use the follow-up email to remind folks of what you have in common.
“Best Practice Follow-up”
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed it very much, and was particularly intrigued by your passion for tea. As you know, I love tea as well, and it’s not every day that I run into someone who appreciates a great cup of tea.
Besides the getting to know you a lot better, there are the key take-aways from our meeting:
- You are in need of hiring great engineers and find that very difficult to accomplish in today’s economy
- We agreed to meet next week to discuss how we could work together to solve that problem
- I also offered to introduce you to Riviera Partners, the top engineering recruiting firm in Silicon Valley
If I left out any important aspects of our conversation, please let me know.
I look forward to meeting you again.
The Key Take-aways Component
This is your opportunity to show that you are doing your homework and that you are committed to investing into this relationship by going the extra mile to capture the results. The results summed up will underscore that it was a productive meeting and give confidence that there will be follow through on your part. Besides these benefits, you also get an informal agreement to which you can refer to in the future and which will allow you to follow-up if the next steps get stuck.
My final advice: focus on the components of a great follow-up email – not just the examples listed here. They might not be right for you. The most important rule in NRM (Network Relationship Management) is that you are genuinely yourself. If you are inclined to say: “I would never write this”, than simply think about how you would express gratitude, point out common ground, and sum up your key takeaways. We all have our own style and this is an opportunity to find yours.
Article Written by Patrick Ewers