Follow Up- An Important Success Mantra

Commander VK Jaitly

Last week, I conducted an Offsite/Outbound program at Ranthambore for a highly reputed organization. One of my activity was a self-analysis through a detailed questionnaire designed by me. It has two parts: ‘Know Yourself as a Person’ and the 2nd part is ‘Know Yourself as a Professional’. Against the question: write down your five weaknesses, one of the person had written one of the weakness as: ’Poor in Follow Up’.

The moment I saw this, it raised my ears too. I myself have been a victim of this weakness and those who know me a bit shall vouch for this. And the fact is that, I have neglected it for a long time. I started working on it, that too half-heartedly, very recently. I always had the fear in my mind that if I follow up again and again, the other person may get upset. This doubt in my mind resulted into negligible follow up from my side most of the times. May be I didn’t understand its importance fully.

Now here was a person in front of me admitting that he too had the same weakness. And I was expected to give him gyan (tips) so that he can overcome this weakness. I told the gentleman that the biggest step had already been taken by him that he realized his weakness and admitted it to himself and me by writing it on a piece of paper in black and white. The problem with the human mind is that it is expert in finding mistakes in others but when it comes to finding mistakes in oneself, it draws a blank. Most of the people in my workshops express difficulty in listing down their weaknesses. My advice to such people is to just consult their spouse and see the long list ready for you.

So it is very important that we identify our weaknesses. Unless we realize our weaknesses, there is no chance of getting rid of them. However, the beauty is that once we know about our weakness and we admit it openly and write down in our diary, the mind starts working on it sub consciously and chances are that we shall overcome that weakness over a period of time. But if that weakness is coming in the way of our progress, we have to be proactive and take necessary steps to eliminate it totally. The sooner the better.

Let us remember that we are living in a world where nobody can claim to be self-sufficient. Can anyone say that he/she doesn’t need any support from anyone? Let us understand that it is an interdependent world. It is a world of collaboration. Many individuals have to take appropriate actions before a project is executed or a mission is accomplished. Sincerity levels of individuals are not same. What is a priority for you or me may be of least importance for the other person and therefore it is in my interest to follow up with him or her. In common parlance, some people may like equate this situation with the common idiom: ‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours’.

In the absence of appropriate follow up, many things continue to remain on our mental drawing board and never see the light of the day. We just wish things to happen and believe that everything has a time and will happen when the time comes. Therefore, many of us just don’t follow up at all or follow up very sparingly and cautiously. The life for such people at times become stagnant or moves at a very slow pace. It is like sitting in a sail boat in the open calm ocean and waiting for wind to take you in the desired direction.

When you know that a simple phone call from your old friend who is in a powerful position in a big multinational company can get a contract for your small scale industry and push your company out of recession, why not contact him? May be, that big company is also in search of more suppliers of the item that you manufacture. So it could be a win-win situation for you and your friend’s company too.
It is quite possible that no action is taken by the other person whom you had approached some time back. There could be many reasons for no response from the other party. He could be too busy in some other important things. So it is very much in order to give him or her a polite reminder. The worst that could happen is a simple ‘No’ despite your follow up a couple of times. Just accept it graciously. But that should not stop you from following up with others.

There is one profession, where I have seen agents doing a consistent follow up is the insurance business. At times, you may get irritated with them too. But this is how they increase their business and meet their targets. Many times, too much follow up and particularly with senior people may become counterproductive. Too many phone calls, too often are obviously irritating. Blind calls to unknown people from a call center for a loan or a flat or a membership of a club can’t be considered as follow up calls.

Follow up is reminding a person about the contact details he/she mentioned to you in a seminar for a specific purpose. While doing a follow up with a senior person, make sure that you are not intruding in his/her privacy and busy schedule. These days, you can follow up through a simple SMS or a WhatsApp message. You can even request suitable time for a concall through SMS so that he/she is free and prepared with necessary details to speak to you at the designated time.

If some of you feel that you are weak in follow up, act NOW and things will start improving. Just make a list of people in your regular touch who you feel are very good at follow up. Now analyze their style of follow up. You will realize that some of them are irritating while doing their follow up. Just delete their names from the list. Now there will be some whose follow up style is quite mature. It is neither too much nor too little and they do it in a pleasing manner. Nothing wrong in copying the style of someone you like. You may modify it a bit as per your tastes. Follow up could also be just a meeting over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer or even a dinner meeting or a game of golf. Yes, follow up automatically happens in such situations.

The second step is to make a list of things that are pending for a long a time because of some action/response from someone else. Start the follow up with all of them one by one NOW. Don’t forget that the style of follow up and the frequency of follow up with different people will be different. Just be at it. Be regular, be courteous, be prompt, be extrovert and become good at follow up. Very soon, you shall find that things have started happening at a faster pace.