Whether you are a job-seeker, a salesperson, or an entrepreneur, it can be a challenge to be persistent without being seen as annoying. While each situation needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis, here are 6 ways to follow-up without being a pain in the neck:
1. Schedule your follow-up and have a reason for doing so. Never leave your follow-up up in the air. Always agree on the next time to chat, or get permission to reach out again within a certain timeframe. If you were given advice, you should re-connect to give an update on what you did. This also gives you an “excuse” to ask for suggestions on next steps. Remove this phrase from your vocabulary: “I’m just calling to follow-up.” Do not bother reaching out to someone unless you have a good reason for doing so.
2. Add value. You become annoying when you repeatedly ask for help without ever adding value to a relationship or at least asking how you can help the other person. Add value by sharing an idea, article, or referral that will be interesting and/or beneficial to the other person.
3. Show appreciation. Send a thank you note every time someone helps you (handwritten notes are better than emails), ask thoughtful questions and keep conversations concise when you are asing for help/advice. People are much less likely to find you annoying when you appreciate them and value their time.
4. Use humor appropriately. Most people are way too serious when trying to break the ice or build a relationship. A good sense of humor (especially some self-deprecating humor) puts everyone at ease. For example, I recently tried to get in touch with a faculty person at a college. He did not respond to my first few attempts, so I emailed him and said that I hoped he was not holding it against me that I had attended a rival college. I also included a smiley face in my email so he would know I was kidding. He responded in a matter of hours.
5. Play it cool. I remember one of my first leads when I worked in sales with the NBA’s Washington Wizards. I left the guy a voicemail 4 days in a row and could not figure out why he never called back. Lesson learned. Desperation is annoying. Give people a chance to respond, and give yourself lots of options so that no one person is essential to your career success.
6. Be direct. If someone has not responded to you after multiple efforts, you can actually say or write, “While I don’t want to be a pain, ____________.” Then, fill in the blank with a reason why you want to connect with the other person, while including a strong reason why he/she should want to talk to you. This has worked for me on many occasions and often gets the other person to apologize for being so inaccessible! It’s hard for someone to think you are annoying when you actually state that you are trying not to be. (Note: You can only use this tactic once, usually as a last-ditch effort. After that, it looks insincere.)
Pete Leibman is Founder and Keynote Speaker for Dream Job Academy, and his career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS and CNN. Check out his new book, “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You,” to learn lessons and secrets from young professionals who recently landed their dream job in a variety of fields.