How to Follow Up Without Being Annoying

Here’s the question:  What happens when you have extended an invitation to someone for a networking meeting and they fail to respond?  How do you follow up without being annoying or a nuisance?

 

People ask me this all the time.  Let me say this:  It requires a special kind of patience on your part, assuming you are the one doing the asking.

 

Having been guilty of the delayed or complete lack of response on an embarrassing number of occasions, all I can claim is, “it’s not you, it’s me!”  The fact is, we are all super busy.

 

Turns out, as the recipient of a networking invitation, that individual is not standing by idly just waiting for your invitation.  No.  Instead, he/she is bombarded with competing emails, tasks, opportunities, responsibilities, highs and lows.  All of the urgency is on your side – not theirs.  There may not have been space in their day today or this week or this month to have received your message, let alone to respond.  But, please, do not be discouraged!  A non-response does NOT (necessarily) mean that they don’t want to hear from you or get together for a networking discussion.

 

If this happens to you, consider this advice:

  1. Be understanding.  Know that people have busy lives with many competing priorities.  If at first they don’t respond, try, try again.
  2. Create a timeline for yourself.  If it is not pressing that you get in contact with the person immediately, wait a week or so from the date of your first outreach and then, reach out again.  If you sent an email to begin with, forward your original message with an add-on note, “Just confirming that you received my note last week.  Looking forward to getting together with you soon….”  If you don’t hear back after that, try a different mode of communication (e.g. a phone call) or simply send another follow up email.  You can do this as many times as you like… but after three or so tries, maybe wait a month and then try again.  No need to give up completely, but do move on to more promising prospects.
  3. Enlist help.  If you have reached out to your contact and have not received a response, try touching base with another one of your contacts who knows that individual.  Ask if he/she will make a warm introduction urging the individual to give you some time.  Assuming your target knows and respects the third party, you are more likely to quickly get a meeting.
  4. Show up.  If you’ve tried and tried without luck and yet, you really, really want to meet that individual, show up at their office!  I did this once.  I was nervous.  I was thrilled with the outcome.  When I first began my networking journey, “Denise’s” name came up again and again and again from different people, in different contexts.  Everyone said, “You have to meet Denise!”  Everyone also said, “I will make an email introduction.”  Everyone did and Denise did not respond.  I even tried sending her a direct message, listing the scores of people who had suggested we connect.  Again, she did not respond.  I was crestfallen.  Instinctively, I knew that I really did need to get to know Denise.  So, one day I tapped on the door of her office.  I apologized for the intrusion, but said that I was eager to meet her, hoped she had received my message and would be delighted to have 15 minutes of her time in the near future.  Denise couldn’t have been nicer.  While I stood there feeling kind of awkward, she pulled up my email (which she had not had time to read previously), apologized for not getting back to me and scheduled a coffee meeting with me right there and then.  The story goes on… but the main point is that she became an important center of influence in my life, a great friend and mentor and it took at least eight tries to get to square one!  So glad I kept trying!

 

Remember, there is something to be said for persistence.  However, I encourage you to be persistent in a respectful, positive, optimistic manner.  Definitely do NOT plan to send hate mail like, “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you and I am highly offended that you haven’t bothered to respond to me!”  I can guarantee you that that approach will not get you a meeting anytime soon.

 

And, hey, if you are on the receiving end of the invitation, whether your answer is a “yes,” “no” or “maybe,” please, do the requester the courtesy of a rapid response.  (Note to self here… I’m often guilty of the delayed response… so very sorry if you have been my victim!)  Your reply will close out this part of the dialogue, get it off both of your plates and enable all parties to move forward!

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