Following Up Without Being Annoying
“Just following up…”
“Hi, I’m just following up.” These are words we’ve all read too often. The dreaded follow-up email.
Whether you refer to it as “touching base,” “circling back” or just a “quick reminder,” following up is a part of business, and life. Sending and receiving a follow-up email can be annoying. The recipient hates to get one and the sender wishes they didn’t have to write the message. It is a Catch-22 for everyone involved.
In reality, we’re not “just following up.” We’re actually trying to accomplish something: receive a definitive response to a previous discussion. Yet, being able to do this without being a pest is a critical skill for today’s professionals. There are more meaningful and effective ways than saying, “just following up.” Consider the following advice next time you have to follow up:
1. Make it Easy – Most of us struggle with managing inboxes as it is, so you need to make it worth someone’s time to reply to your follow-up. As author Jocelyn Glei notes, “If that person didn’t respond to your email the first time, resending the same message is probably not going to get better results the second time.” Instead of sending a generic message – “just following up” – provide a condensed recap of your request. Saving your reader time will increase the likelihood you’ll receive a reply.
2. Make it Personal – While you may want to check in about a work-related matter, what spurs your follow-up message does not have to be about work. For example, share a relevant article that you came across. Or reach out with a topic that is mutually exciting – Game of Thrones is a safe bet. The shared interest can help create a connection and foster a relationship, which will help generate a response and in multiple other ways.
3. Pick up the Phone – Today’s professionals rely too heavily on email. Picking up the phone can be more effective and efficient, with less back and forth. Calling can also prevent misunderstandings. Hearing one’s voice can avoid possible confusions found in the written word. Also, with cluttered inboxes, many messages are simply unread or missed altogether, whereas a phone call can cut through the commotion more cleanly.
4. Share an Insight – Instead of focusing on the “just following up,” message, it can be effective to lead with an insight, news update, or industry specific information. Appropriate topics range greatly. An interesting article of relevance to the recipient – based on their personal or professional experiences – is effective. Sharing an idea or insight is more approachable than just pestering for a reply.
5. Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You!” – We’re all busy, and it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. Don’t make the mistake of assuming they ignored you on purpose. Perhaps your email truly did fall through the cracks. And then, if you do get a response, be sure to thank the individual, even if it’s not the response you wanted. We do a lot of outreach to reporters (seriously busy people!). Not every email goes returned, and some receive a reply of, “Not interested.” But even in those instances we still thank the reporter for their time and consideration.
When it comes to business and relationships, following up is critical to building and fostering meaningful connections. Remember we’re all busy, so keep your follow ups simple, thoughtful and polite. These are a just a few tips to consider before your next follow up, especially if you need a response urgently.