The Power of Follow Up!
If there's 3 key pieces of business advice I could share with you, to achieve what you set out to do, it is;
Running and leading a business can be full on, there is always mountains of things to do, whether dealing with incoming emails and phone calls, customer queries and enquiries, managing employee's, being in meeting after meeting, building relationships with suppliers, associates and partners and so on.
However, at the end of the week, when you feel as though you achieved something and cleared the decks and gained fulfilment in having accomplished your task list, what do you do next week?
Do you just go through the same process again and again, week in week out?
Whilst you may feel you are in control, I question; are you really moving your business forward and being proactive, spending your time doing the right activities, to realise your goals and vision for your business?
Chances are your just treading water, and each week's routine has become a bit of a habit, with the same familiar outcome.
Therefore, I suggest you stop the "being busy doing" habit and park some time to consider and plan specifically what you need to "Follow Up" on to make a positive difference.
- From a Business Development (Sales) Perspective.
Do you and the team follow up after you have sent out a new proposals? If so, based on what time period and how many times do you follow up?
I worked with a client recently who complained they were "very busy" but not achieving their revenue targets.
Does that sound familiar?
They had 221 live quotes on their system and hadn't followed up any, "we just don't get the time, as we have so many enquiries to deal with". I asked what's the best use of your time? Doing quotes or following up and obtaining new orders?
If you can't physically follow up on every quote, pick out those which will help you get to where you want to be. i.e., the higher margin, strategically aligned opportunities. Then park some time each week and just follow these up.
It doesn't have to be a sales call, just check in with your potential or existing customer that they've received the proposal, and ask "have you fully understood their requirements? and do they have any questions on the proposal? Chances are they will tell you where they are in the purchasing process. It's then worth agreeing to scheduling a call to follow up with that potential client again. I suggest follow up a minimum of 3 times over a period of a month, before you park each proposal. And then as an exercise log these as pending and revisit them in another month or so. Again, on the basis of just checking in.
- In respect to Customer Queries and Complaints. These need to take precedence, as a business you can't afford to ignore customer issues and should you, the likely hood is that over time customers will leave and you'll be constantly paddling like mad trying to fill a leaking bucket.
On first receiving a query and complaint you don't have to immediately answer or look to resolve, just acknowledge receipt of the query or complaint and share that you'll look into it, or a member of staff will and you'll get back to the customer with a number of days.
Then either delegate or schedule in some time to review what's happened. I'm not saying the customer is always right, but the chances are, you/the business hasn't fully understood their initial request or someone, somehow the business hasn't followed the due process. There is always a learning to be obtained. And from experience, by dealing with a customer complaint professionally, appropriately and in a timely fashion, that customer can actually become much more loyal and may even spend more money with you in the future. So, it will be time well spent following up on these issues and good for the business brand and reputation too.
- Employees issues, queries, complaints and grievances.
As your business grows, you are only as strong as your weakest link and as good as the people around you. Whilst staff are a valuable asset, unless you create an open environment and give your employees the time and space, to give feedback, and then you and your leadership team spend the time to listen and to fully understand, you will really struggle to build the culture desired to deliver your business goals.
How often have you had to get involved, step in and deal with an issue that has blown up and all out of proportion? I'm sure when you reflect, there were signs much earlier and that you could have stepped in and nipped things in the bud!
So regular communication is key and this needs to be two way. So, if something is apparent or been raised to you, follow up and look into it further. This will definitely save you and the team time going forward and all the repercussion and impact on the business that may be caused too.
- Meetings and Actions
When it comes to meetings, always ensure at the end of each meeting, you recap to make it clear who is doing what, by when. As a business or senior team leader, you don't want to be taking the majority of the actions. Ensure they are shared and delegated across the team. But don't just leave the meeting and do nothing till the next.
a) Always send a follow up note, not necessarily a full set of typed up minutes, just to confirm any agreed actions, objectives and expectations on time scales. Use MS Teams of similar if this helps in managing the follow up process too.
b) Then follow up between meetings, that may be in a 1-2-1, or even as a casual catch up over a brew. You can ask "how are you getting on with X, Y and will you be able to complete that task in the agreed timescale" and "Do you need any assistance or help?".
c) Send out the appointment and agenda for the next meeting well in advance, at least a fortnight. But again, copy in the actions from the last meeting as part of the follow up.
d) Then at the next meeting, there should be no need to go through the last set of minutes, just ask for an update on the outstanding previous actions, then spend the remaining part of the meeting working on the new agenda and looking forward.
There are many other areas within the business where an efficient follow up process can add value. However, to start being effective, it's just getting in the habit to create and park the necessary time to carry out this important discipline. Unless you take a good hard look in the mirror and make a change to your daily routine, yourself, you will never move forward.
If you want to step off that busy roundabout and chat through your current business operational challenges and opportunities, I'm more than willing to listen, whether virtually or face to face. Just by taking a step to create the space to share, may just be the catalyst for you and the business to kick forward.
My contact details are below;
Director, Business Consultant, Business Advisor.
Peter Fleming Business Consultancy.