November 21, 2012

If you don't want the relationship, don't ask for the favor: Part 2

I decided to add a Part 2 to my post If you don't want the relationship, don't ask for the favor after a recent experience where I gave a group of people a compilation of resources that they requested, and not a single person responded, even to let me know they had received it.

In the previous article, I talked about getting to know a person and building a relationship with them before asking for favors. In this post, I want to talk about follow-up and why, if you're an entrepreneur or professional, it's critical to do it.

Here's a common scenario. You meet someone at a networking event, online, at a conference, or at a speaking engagement. In the course of your conversation, you discover that they have important resources that will help you in your business, and they are happy to offer them to you.

You give your contact information, and in a timely manner, the person replies with the helpful resources you asked for (there is an assumption that you receive the e-mail and it doesn't get lost in cyberspace). Now, you have three options:

1. As soon as you open the e-mail and see what's inside, you click "reply" and send a quick thank you note.

2. You read the e-mail, get distracted by either the resources or other things, and when you come back to it weeks later, you finally remember to send a note.

3. You read the e-mail and never respond.

Honestly, I don't know how you could ever make the choice to do #3 if you're a person in business, and here's why:

You have just shown this person that their time and effort mean nothing to you.

You have shown them that their help and assistance are unimportant to you.

And you've just demonstrated that, if they ever contact you again, you are unlikely to respond.

You have just shown them that you are not a person whose services they should engage.

Public speaking and business are both about building relationships, with your prospects, your clients and your audiences. Showing someone you don't care about them, especially when they've helped and supported you, will backfire and hurt you in the long run. You don't have to send an elaborate engraved thank you note, but a brief acknowledgement that the item has indeed been received is the minimum someone should expect from you, a professional.

Ignoring one e-mail is not going to derail your business, of course. But if this is how you treat everyone, your inconsiderate behavior will derail your business, or at least prevent it from flourishing.

Here are some solutions you might want to implement, if you want to be considered a responsible and responsive person worth doing business with:

1. When giving a colleague your contact information, use an e-mail address you actually check regularly.

Don't give out your old Yahoo or Hotmail address if you haven't looked at it in months. Don't give the address you use to sign up for newsletters and sweepstakes. Give a valid and active business (or personal, if that's what you're using) address, and then check it daily.

2. Check your spam folder regularly.

Occasionally, legitimate e-mail will go to your spam folder. Don't assume everything in that folder is junk. I can't tell you how many times I've followed up with people who "never got my e-mail." When I ask if they've checked their spam folder, they reply back, "Oh, it was in my spam." Check it!

3. Follow up yourself if you don't hear from the person who's supposed to contact you.

If I say I'm going to send you something, I will. I do. So if you don't hear from me in a timely manner, say, a couple of days, let me know. Because if I sent you something and you didn't receive it, then there might be an e-mail problem on my end or yours, and this would be good to know. I will resend you the information from a different e-mail address to see if you've received it (and I have both e-mail addresses listed on my website, so I can always be reached at one or the other).

If you want to compete in the business world, you have to be reachable and responsive. Period.

What other solutions do you have to help those people who never reply to your e-mails (besides writing them off as flakes and never doing business with them)? Please share in the comments!

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7 comments. Please add yours! :

Harry Wilson said...

Hi Lisa, I totally agree with this post. I always check my spam folder for the very reason it might happen. I hate not getting replies so I always make sure I reply straight away!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, Harry. It's just a little extra work to remember to check spam. But it makes a big difference in responsiveness!

Donn King said...

Hi, Lisa!

You are a model on this! One of the things I've noticed in interacting with you is how quickly and reliably you respond. You are right on! So here's a related question: how about responses to responses?

I remember my mother worrying about who "owed" whom a response in exchanging letters, and I even remember once when she had me (a child of about 9, I think) write a thank-you note to someone for sending me a thank-you note. Obviously, you're encouraging building real relationships, which will tend to be self-correcting, but at some point the relationship moves from responses to simply staying in touch. How much is too much, or too often, so that it becomes an annoyance? Does the question make sense?

Thanks for your insights!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for noticing my responsiveness, Donn. :-) Regarding the responses to responses... when we're talking about business relationships, I don't think it's necessary to keep responding. One "thank you" or acknowledgement is enough. If someone chooses to keep the conversation going by engaging and asking questions and so forth, that's another story, and at some point, one person has to make the decision to end the conversation!

Ellen Finkelstein said...

Right on!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Ellen. :-)

Priscilla said...

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