I'll keep this one brief today. It's another of my public service announcements. Today I'm talking about following up, be it on sales calls, pitches, partner acquisition, whatever. Use it as dating advice if you must. Yet, no matter what you do, remember that you always have to follow-up. Your competition will if you won't and then you are toast.
It's not rocket science but it's so often forgotten. I'll address it from my perspective as a VC but it works in so many other situations. If you come to pitch me, ask while you are here what next steps are. Don't ever leave a meeting without knowing what will happen next. Ask first but if you do not get a clear answer, go ahead and define it yourself. "Don't call us, we'll call you" is bullshit and you shouldn't buy it. Define a timeframe before even leaving the meeting as to when and how you'll follow up. For example, say "I'll give you a call in a week's time and let you know that we closed our million dollar deal!" It doesn't matter what you propose but make sure it's understood.
Now, after leaving the meeting and having understood what the follow-up entails, do it! You can't imagine how often people leave meetings with us and never call. Sure, we try to give feedback to everyone but sometimes things slip through the cracks. It's adamant that you pick up the slack and stay in touch. You may think you're annoying the person on the other end but we're all getting called non-stop. No one is sacred and unreachable. They are "working" and hence when you are doing your job calling them, you are not "imposing" on them. Get over your fear of rejection and call.
It may happen that when you follow-up, you're told to be patient and await next steps. Again, ask what they are. Always define things and never leave next steps open. As before, if something is not offered, do so yourself. Keep momentum up and try to keep intervals short. Sometimes you can't force decisions but you can stay in touch. User the phone, or email. Link up on Facebook or LinkedIn. Regardless of what...keep the "channel" open.
Finally, you will often hear "no"! Shit happens. You will fail and hopefully often. But don't give up so easily. A no isn't always a "no" but a "not yet". (Except for dating! But I'll leave that up to other bloggers!) Getting around a "no" means following up yet again. Even if you are not pushing a deal forward, use the fact that you've met with someone to maintain a relationship. Give them a call for an "update" if that gives you the opportunity to stay top of mind on their end. Propose a breakfast or lunch to catch up. Grab a coffee together at a conference you're both attending. It doesn't matter what, just stay on top of it. Don't wait too long for this either. People do forget and especially in my case as a VC, we're seeing so many companies and their business cases that at times you forgot whom you met two days ago. Imagine what we remember after two or three months of that which you pitched to us.
There are plenty of posts on how to follow up. Mark Suster has done some good ones on this. Go find them for yourself. If you want one take-away from this, it's simply always to be following up.