Successful financial services professionals need to have a variety of different skills. While many of these are practice-related, often, good business development practice is developed over time. No matter the industry, networking and business development meetings with individuals who are potential clients or centers of influence are essential to building your practice. Getting a meeting is a skill unto itself, but equally important and often neglected is the ability to effectively follow up after a meeting. Here are some tips:
Follow up as soon as possible
It might be obvious but worth mentioning – one of the most important things to do after a meeting is to follow up quickly. You should try not to wait any longer than two business days in following up because the meeting will still be fresh in your prospect’s mind. Also, it will show that you want their business and are willing to do what it takes to get it. If you wait several days (or even worse – a week) to get back to them, it can show that you are not interested in working with them. Further, try and follow up on days of the week when your prospect is likely to read your email and not have it lost in the shuffle of the work week; Tuesday – Thursday works best.
Make it personal
You might think it’s old school, but handwritten notes still work. Depending on the length and scale of the interaction, it might be appropriate to send an email, it might be appropriate to send a note, and it might be appropriate to do both. Don’t count any method of communication out – add and use all of them in your arsenal. Here’s an example – say you have a dinner meeting with a prospective client. At the prospect’s insistence, your dinner meeting turns into a night out on the town. At this point, you’ve spent several hours interacting with that prospect on both a professional and personal level. It would be great if you sealed your new client that night, but if not, it would be appropriate to send an email the next day saying that you had an excellent time, reliving one of the highlights of your meeting, and including a timetable for what your next step is. It would also be advisable to send a handwritten note by mail simply saying that you enjoyed spending so much time getting to know the prospect and ending with a personalized salutation. The email interaction can help cement the professional relationship and the personalized note can help further the personal relationship.
Briefly review the meeting
When sending a follow up email, it is a good idea to review some of the information that was covered in the meeting. Meetings will often cover a lot of information and may even be focused on an entire project. Take some time to review your notes as well as anything that was handed out. You don’t need to go into specific detail but mention some of the things that were talked about in the meeting. This will show that you absorbed everything and will help avoid any misunderstandings. It will also allow both you and the prospect to review a written record of what was covered in the meeting before your next step.
Establish a few deadlines
You may be given a few deadlines or assignments in a meeting that may not have firm deadlines. It isn’t rare that the only deadline given was for the next interaction or followup. When you follow up after the meeting make sure to establish a timeline of when they should expect your next interaction or deliverable to be completed. To make things easier, you can create a few different deadlines for each step of the process. Doing this will let them know that you are confident and efficient in your practice. Remember though – once you have outlined a schedule, you must stick to the deadlines – so make sure they are realistic and give you enough time to actually complete the task.
Be respectful of their time
In the early stages of building a relationship with a new client, it is important to show that you respect their time. Work around their schedule for future meetings and phone calls. You should also expressly thank them for their time in early follow ups. This will go a long way in showing the prospective client that you understand just how busy they are and are willing to work with them on your future projects together.