By Will Kintish

We attend business events not least of all to meet new potential clients. Whilst networking isn’t selling, other than oneself, sometimes we get lucky and meet someone who wants or might want our services or products. I call it ‘the ahaa moment’. It’s when your heart races a little faster and you’re thinking “Ahaa there could be an opportunity to do business sometime in the future.” This moment is your signal to start to follow up. Unless you and they have your electronic calendar (where you could arrange a date in the diary there and then) then ask permission to call them to arrange this meeting a day or so later.

Whilst you are excited about the prospect of doing business on the night, when it comes to making that call my experience tells me the biggest barrier to being as enthusiast about that call is the fear of rejection. We don’t like hearing ‘no’ which means we often don’t follow up opportunities as much as or persistently as we should.

When the day comes for that call some or all of the following voices appear in our heads:

- I don’t want to seem too pushy

- They won’t remember me

- I feel like a salesman

- If they want my services, they’ll call me

- I’m not sure how they’re going to react to me

- I’m not really certain that I’m going to get anything out of it

- I’m not sure what to say

- I’m anxious about gatekeepers

If you believe you add value to your clients’ and customers’ business through your services and products you are following up to HELP NOT SELL.

Don’t take the ‘no’ personally; they are not rejecting you, only the offer of your help. It’s business, they will only buy when they are ready, willing and able.

If you don’t follow up you’ll never know what might have happened and it could be worse than that. If they did want to do business, you have lost their trust and damaged your own and probably, more importantly, your business’s reputation.

The big issue in our business is not following up, we’re brilliant at that! It’s getting people to say either yes or no. In my view, no is the second best answer to yes; you know where you stand and you simply get on with the next part of your work.

Pest vs persistent

So, how do you ensure you aren’t the pest, but always follow up. Simple two guidelines:

1. Always ask permission to follow up. If they show interest or even say ‘not at the moment’ say “Do you mind if I call you next week/ next month/ after the holiday/ in the autumn to explore ideas/ meet/ talk it through further or whatever it is you think will be mutually beneficial.

2. If you feel there is no enthusiasm for doing business offer the escape. “If you’d rather I didn’t follow up again do tell me and I won’t bother you further”.

Two Personal stories

‘No’ in business doesn’t mean no, it generally means ‘not yet’. Early on in my presenting and training career I had a serious disappointment. The prospect had shown great interest in lots of training - such that I called Mrs. Kintish to suggest she could book the holiday she’d always wanted. Then out of the blue came a message that he’d changed his mind. "Cancel the booking Mrs K" I hesitantly called.

I decide, 6 months later, to try again; we then did business for the next five years. Why did it stop after five years? It was a bank client and when credit crunch came...

When I did get the business I asked him why he’d suddenly changed his mind six months previously and his simply answer was, ‘things change’. For those who want more clients and more business, learn those two words. I believe the only time it is ‘no never’ is when they don’t like you; then give up; you’re wasting your time.

I did training with client A and the boss lady moved to company B. I emailed her to say, “If I called you to talk about some training at your new company would it be a good idea?” I got an immediate response saying politely “No, it wouldn’t” and she gave me a good reason why not. I saw her two weeks later at a conference and thanked her for her ‘no’. It saves so much time for everyone. When I am following up I very often say ‘Am I wasting my time keeping following up? Please tell me because I don’t want to appear as a pest’. When I get silence I believe they still want me on their radar!

The big issue I have realised is we don’t like hearing ‘no’ but most people, including me, don’t like saying no either. I push people to say it. It can save so much time and effort.

The author of this article is Will Kintish, a leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of networking.