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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #61: October, 2008

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC

The three-call-and-letter-rule.

One of the most frustrating problems for consultants is determining when efficient follow-up becomes "hounding." The cause of the problem, however, is usually not the consultant, but an unprofessional or procrastinating buyer. (If you're not dealing with a buyer, all bets are off. Lower level people, particularly HR people, are notorious for not returning phone and email messages, as if to compensate for their own unimportance.)

So, here is my three-call-and-a-letter rule:

  1. Ideally, you should have established a time for a follow-up discussion. That's the best preventive action. Then you are "calling as promised." However if you haven't, leave a phone message that you are following up on the prior excellent conversation.


  2. If that message is not returned within two days, leave a second, saying, "You may not have received this, so I thought I'd try again…."


  3. If the second message isn't returned in two days, leave a third and final one, stating, "I'm sorry we haven't been able to touch base, but perhaps you're out of town or otherwise indisposed…."


  4. If THAT message isn't returned in two days (now 8-9 days have elapsed) write a hard copy or email letter, to this effect: "I don't want to hound you and I've tried to conscientiously follow up. I'm here if you need me…."

Don't burn any bridges, but don't be sycophantic ("I know how busy you must be in that new job…."). Simply move on. Ten percent of the time, the person really couldn't get back to you and still might. The other 90 percent of the time the other person is acting rudely and you probably don't want a rude prospect as a rude client in any case.

The key: Don't let it cost you still more time and energy. Put it behind you with this methodical approach.

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