My first job out of school was on a political campaign.
I always recommend campaigns to soon-to-be graduates because you quickly learn a bunch of general skills which are valuable and relevant across sectors. So even if you don't end up in politics, you will acquire skills which you can put to use anywhere.
I worked in campaign finance, so one of the skills I learned was the art of the aggressive follow up.
In almost any job, you need things from other people.
Can you guess the #1 mistake that I see people make when they are trying to solicit a response or help from someone?
Mistaking silence for a "No."
Enter the art of the aggressive follow up.
The art of the aggressive follow up includes five simple steps:
- Always follow up.
- Always follow up again.
- Always follow up again again.
- If you still haven't received your desired outcome - cut your losses and move on.
- In 3 - 6 months, if it's still relevant, follow up again.
In my campaign days, following this protocol led to the donation of hundreds of thousands dollars that we would have otherwise not received.
And in the business world, it has led to all sorts of great accomplishments that would never have been realized if I had failed to make it past step one.
Here's one example:
Earlier this year, I was looking for a debt partner to help us grow. I asked some people I knew in the startup finance world for some leads, which led to an email introduction.
From there, I sent this follow up email (step # 1):
The person never responded, so after 6 days, I followed up again with a voicemail and another email (step #2):
Again - no response. So after another week I moved onto step #3 and followed up one final time:
BOOM. 30 minutes later I got a phone call from the person.
And that one phone call eventually led to a multi-million dollar partnership.
This isn't an isolated example. It has happened over and over again in my career.
It wasn't always easy though.
I remember early on, struggling with steps 2 through 5 (everything beyond the first follow up).
"I don't want to annoy them."
"If they didn't respond, they're clearly not interested."
"I don't want to come across as desperate."
Then I realized that all of these insecurities were backwards.
If you are offering something of value, then busy people actually LOVE IT when you follow up.
It's really hard for most people to keep up with all of the incoming stuff they get, so even if your pitch is awesome, it can quickly get buried and forgotten.
It's not personal, it's just a bandwidth problem.
By taking the time to bump a compelling pitch back into their scope of attention, you are actually doing them a favor.
So please do yourself and your future partners a favor and master the art of the aggressive follow up.
Peter Koehler's Writing Archive