For the past three weeks, I've been sharing a list I made for myself before I quit my job at Apple Inc. almost a year ago—ever since I've kept a copy of the list with me wherever I go. Leaving my job wasn't easy, but I knew if I was going to step out on my own, I was going to have to do something different. The list is a reminder to be available, to engage, be responsive, follow-up, and share knowledge freely. Over time it has become my measure of daily success, pushing myself to work smarter, harder, and more intentionally. Last week I shared my thoughts on the importance of engaging and the ways I've been able to engage—by way of a two inch sticker I gave away for free.
This week I want to share about how I've taken advantage of following-up with clients and the important role it plays in my daily success.
As always I hope you know I am still learning even as I write this and hope you may find something here encouraging, inspiring, and worth applying in your own life.
Thanks for reading.
When I was younger my parents always told me "it never hurts to ask". At the time this was encouragement to ask for anything I wanted, but what they were really trying to teach me is that you can never know for certain what the outcome of life may be.
I received an email from a prospective client some time ago inquiring about my design services. I was really excited for their project and seemingly they felt the same about me. We spent a week going back and forth negotiating terms, arrived at the starting line, and then I didn't hear back from them for about two months. I was disappointed to say the least, I wasn't depending on their project, but I was really excited to work on it.
Weeks later I was thumbing through my archived inbox and decided to send this person an email just to find out how their project was coming along and if there was anything I could do to help. In the same email I reminded them of how excited I was for their vision and would love to join in their work. Simply put—I asked them to hire me.
The next day I received a response and deposit to start the project and everything was underway. I'm not sure exactly what happened in the elapsed time, but for the sake of this it doesn't really matter. What I learned from this interaction was that it doesn't hurt to ask. Sometimes that is all it takes, but if you don't ask you never know what the outcome may be.
"It never hurts to ask" is a nice sentiment and a good life lesson, but the truth is sometimes you can ask the wrong question, or worse the right question at the wrong time. Knowing when and what to ask a is really important.
Have you ever dined at a restaurant with a server that would not leave you alone? Have you ever dined at a restaurant with a server that was never available? Both experiences are not very enjoyable—somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. In the hospitality industry I've heard this skill named "reading a table". Observing your patrons enough to know when you are needed and when you are to give them time and space to enjoy their meal.
When it comes to working with others, it's the same. Don't be obnoxious. Emailing about every little detail can be exhausting. Remember everyone is different and will require an increased or decreased level of attention. Learn to discern that.
A key aspect of following-up is to remind yourself and others what you've accomplished. When I lead training sessions at Apple Inc. we always ended our time together reviewing what we just spent the majority of our time together on. A positive review helps close a project, meeting, or conference on a high note and (hopefully) reinforces for the attendees why they came / why they hired you.
I do my best to make follow-up emails and calls with all of my projects, events, and connections. It's a little step in my daily to-do list, but the benefits I've received are monumental.
If you have any questions or comments on what it means to follow-up, ask questions, or leading reviews—email me firstname.lastname@example.org—I'd love to hear from you!