It’s been said many times that follow up is key to success, but I would suggest that it goes deeper than just a simple follow-up if you want to dominate in your field.

Just like a good golf swing, the best hitters in baseball, and a great slapshot, the key to exceeding the expectations of your clients and colleagues is the follow through.

Following up is a simple one time activity that anyone can do.  Leaving a meeting with an expected ‘follow-up’ date or meeting is easy (provided the meeting went well), but committing to something of real value during a meeting that would require you to ‘follow through’ is much less common.

I had a meeting at the end of last week with a new network connection in which we both spent some time going over the types of services we provide to our customers and the types of customers we are most interested in being introduced to, and I was surprised and pleased with the outcome.

Most of my previous new network meetings of this type have gone something like the following:

Me:  Great to meet you, let me describe a bit about Key Consulting, the services we provide, and the types of people that I would be most interested in meeting that can help me in my business… (description follows)

Them:  Thanks Tim, that’s great information and I will keep you in mind if I ever come across anyone line that in my travels.  Let me tell you a bit about us… (description follows).

Me:  Wow, that’s a great business and you seem very passionate about what you bring to your work.  I can think of one or two people immediately that you should probably meet.  I’m not sure that there is necessarily business waiting for you with them, but I think that the two of you would get along well and might have similar interests or complementary services and be able to help each other build your businesses.  I’ll send you a couple of emails later introducing you to them and I’d encourage you to follow up with them.

You can see the difference in what we are bringing to the table in terms of real value in the relationship.  I always try to bring something to every meeting (whether it be a networking meeting like this one or a meeting with a prospective client) that brings value to the other party without any commitment to me for anything in return.  I’m a strong believer in the principles of balance and karma and I know that the value I give will come back to me in spades at some point and often in ways that I didn’t expect.

The difference with last week’s meeting was that I had my normal meeting turned on its head.  I finished the description of Key Consulting and our business needs, and during my discussion I watched as the person I was meeting with took the odd note and genuinely listened to what I was saying.  He asked intelligent questions when things were unclear and really took the time to understand what I was putting out there.  When I was done he said, I can think of a few people that you need to meet and I’m going to set you up with introductions today.  He then proceeded to give me a high level overview of the people he was going to introduce me to who were a mix of community contacts, business leads, and potential collaborators in my own business development.

The follow-through moment came later that afternoon when I got back to the office and checked my email.  I had received five separate emails from him copying different people that he felt I should meet and who he felt should meet me.  Not only did he provide a simple email connection to put two people in touch, but he included a personal touch by including a little something about why he thought the two people should meet based on his own knowledge of each person and their businesses or positions.  This was true follow-through!

The truth is, for the first time in a while I didn’t have any immediate leads that I could provide to him of people that could help him to build his business, people who might be interested in his services, or people who may just be plain interesting to him.  What I got in return was several warm introductions to people who clearly have the same kind of respect for him as I now do, a respect that was no doubt garnered through the same thoughtful and caring approach to follow-through.

Learn to offer up real value for nothing in your day-to-day business life.  Offer connections that can help your clients and colleagues improve their businesses without expectation of return.  Give advice freely in order to build relationships not because they bring the promise of a big paycheck down the road, but because you are genuinely interested in the success of others.

The information, ideas, and opinions I share in this blog is one of the ways that I try to give back to anyone who’s interested in listening.  By sharing these ideas I’m not looking to make myself feel important or hoping to necessarily win business based on what I’ve said, but rather to vicariously share in the success of anyone who happens to be able to identify with something I’ve written that can help them in their business.

Some days, my willingness to give and share on a daily basis in my travels will pay off like it did last week when that generosity is paid back in spades.  Some day, (hopefully soon) I’ll be able to repay Brian for his efforts in helping me build my business by returning the favour.

I’ll end this note with a little tidbit I found in a Mackay column from last week.  It’s from a little card that NCAA Coach John Wooden received from his father entitled ‘Seven Things to Do’ and I think it captures very nicely the type of commitment and behaviours it takes to be great at follow through:

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Help others.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Do you have any great ‘follow through’ stories?  Feel free to share by adding your comments below.

In the mean time, if you are looking for someone to help you achieve your financial dreams through a life planning approach to your finances, I highly recommend my friend Brian Weatherdon from Sovereign Wealth Management.  Tell him Tim Empringham sent you his way!

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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