The difference between follow up and nagging

Follow up is like your cholesterol. You need some, but too much of it and you could be in a lot of trouble.

As a leader, sales professional or parent, you have to master the art of effective follow up. If you don’t follow up, will it really get done? Will your message get lost in their crowded life?Photo Nagging small image

If you can become better at providing appropriate follow up you will leverage your time more effectively, strengthen relationships with the people that matter, your sales results will improve, and you’ll become a better leader.

Consider for a moment how many emails you will receive today? I would guess that this is more than double the amount you would have received 2 years ago. Throw in the noise from LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook updates, and you can see why it’s getting harder for people to remember your message.

I hate nagging people? I’m not a nagger. Never been one, never want to be one. It doesn’t suit me. I don’t want to be nagged. In fact the more you nag me, the more I enjoy, out of spite ignoring your request. I have learnt this technique from my teenage daughter. She wrote the book on it.

Do you know of anyone who responds well to continuous pestering or harassing? Do you remember when you were a teenager how your parents would ask you to clean up your room or ask you to empty the dishwasher? At first they’d be quite reasonable about it. In response if you were like me, you’d do nothing. After nothing happened for a while the requests would become louder and more frequent. Polite requests became minor nagging. Then minor nagging became major nagging. Eventually with enough follow up the job would get done; normally badly.

Good Follow Up

When you follow up with people, if you do it well you won’t be seen as a nagger. Good follow up normally involves these three things:

  1. Polite tonality
  2. A degree of patience
  3. A combination of communication styles – eg: Email, SMS, LinkedIn, Telephone, Twitter
How quickly should you follow up?

Like most things in life; it depends. Most important to consider here is the relationship you have with the person. As a guide, if I have heard nothing back within 48 hours I’ll usually try a few different options. Sometimes I use, actions resend this message in outlook and I’ll add in a line at the top, asking any news on this yet? I normally prefer to pick up the phone and call them at a suitable time for them.

Should I call them?

Most of the time a well-timed follow up phone call, will be at least 5 times better than sending another email. If calling, be polite, relatively punchy and ensure that you have a few questions ready to ask.

Do not start your follow up by saying did you see my email.

From my experience anything that you say at the start of your call will be better than that. I like to start a follow up call with a clear greeting and a reason for my call. It might be to offer a suggestion, invite them to an event or ask them for their advice or feedback. Sometimes just asking 1 or 2 open or clarifying questions can kick start the dialogue. This is normally the real purpose of follow up.

If they are not there when you call, listen to their voice message and then decide whether it’s worth leaving a message. If you do leave a message, like a good email, be brief. The longer your message, the less likely it is that it will be returned.

The reason they haven’t replied yet is normally that they have other priorities. If you become too pushy, you could potentially damage the relationship. All you are trying to do is remind them of your needs. You need to be aware of their needs and their timelines.

Nagging rarely works

In the long run all that nagging does is make the relationship worse. It creates guilt for one party and often anger for the other. You won’t strengthen a relationship if you can continue to nag. There is obviously a reason why they are not responding to your requests. Work on finding out what this reason is. Keep looking for other options for making contact with them. Become more creative and less repetitive.

If you can build in timelines, scarcity, false deadlines or some sense of urgency you will have more success. As your career unfolds you will need to do a lot of follow up. Not nagging. Be persistent. Persistence is the son of success. Nagging isn’t even a distance relative. Don’t do it. In the long run, it doesn’t work.


Posted in Leadership; Tagged Sales, Tips; Posted by Steve Herzberg

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