Half my consulting practice involves improving people’s selling efforts. And in that work I warn everyone:
Research tells us that people who don’t know you, don’t know your services, and don’t care will often say “no” as many as 5 to 7 times before they say yes to your offer. So you’ll often have to find reasons to reconnect, to keep yourself and your offering top-of-mind without being irritating, giving yourself the best chance that your prospect will act.The same advice is key for leaders – for the best shot at success, timely follow-up on your requests is key.
Sure, your efforts to motivate your team members are different than selling efforts -- these people work with you, and should care about you getting what
you want and need.
But they're operating in the same busy workday world you are, and, in that environment some things always seem to fall through the cracks. Don’t let that happen to your requests!
When you make a request of anyone, put it on your calendar to follow-up a few days before the due date you set – or, if you didn’t set a due date, at a reasonable interval after you’ve made the request. Put that follow-up activity right on your calendar for a few days (or even a few hours) before you need the work to be done, and then do the follow-up.
How to follow-up? An email with the Subject line “(first name), URGENT!” and body copy reminding the team member of your request (or forwarding the original
request, if it was emailed) should be enough to catch the eye of even the busiest person – and if there’s still time to meet the deadline, you have
the greatest chance of getting their best effort right then and there, rather than their best excuse.
When you make a request of someone on your team, in theory you’ve off-loaded that work, and can turn your attention to other things. But remember that the recipient of your request may be busy, otherwise engaged, out of the office or overwhelmed when it arrives; by calendaring your follow-ups and then making an effort to reconnect with the person before the deadline, you have the best chance of getting even the busiest person to act on your request.And if your team members are slow to respond, or your request is a big or complex one, try setting milestones on the way to completing the project and then putting follow-up activities onto your calendar for each milestone. As one very senior executive told me, “When I ask, they usually say they’re 80% complete. My experience is that it’s usually the reverse – they’re 20% complete and still have 80% of the work to do.” Building in milestones and follow-ups keeps you in the loop as to your team members’ actual progress, and can enable you, when necessary, to share your observation that progress seems slow relative to a looming due date. You can then ask what else the team member needs to do the work, and address the issue of priorities that may need to be adjusted for a favorable on-time delivery of the work.