Many clients over the years, both in groups and one-on-one coaching with me, have shared the frustration of trying to keep up with follow-up of some kind — either with hot prospects, referral partners, customers or suppliers. It came up again this morning with Henry, who works in the financial services sector.
He said: 'A lot of our business comes from referral partners. It's important to keep in regular contact with them. However, it's too easy for the good intentions to slip through the net. I get busy and suddenly several weeks (or months) have skidded by without any communication. And then — the spring dries up. I know relationships have to be nurtured, but fitting it in is a challenge.'
One answer is to block in time each week to make this kind of contact: and on one level most people know that. However, it doesn't happen for too many because the task is too big. We need to break down every action to its smallest action unit.
In Simon's case, 'Call x number of referrers' is too big a chunk. He would sit at the desk, look at the diary item, and then think to himself: 'Haven't time. I'll do it tomorrow. '
My very first coaching client, 24 years ago, shared a simple technique that solved this problem. He was the Marketing Manager for a large car franchise. His primary customers were car dealers and he found that his communication with them was too random.
So he created a template in table form to chart his monthly communication. At the top was the month and year. On the left-hand-side he listed all his car dealerships in order of volume of sales of his company's product. They fell naturally into A, B and C categories. On the right of the page he inserted five columns — one for each week and allowing an extra column for the months with five weeks.
Even though he was a very computer-literate man he printed the sheet off each month and kept it near or on his desk, making it more visible. Every time he had a touch-point with a dealer, whether he initiated it or they did, he would register it on his sheet. It might be a phone call — either incoming or outgoing, a visit, a newsletter he'd sent, or any other form of contact.
The goal was to talk weekly to the A dealers, twice a month to the Bs and once a month to the Cs. With a swift glance down the page towards the end of each week he could see at a glance what he needed to do to meet his targets.
The sales lifted significantly. We all like to feel valued and appreciated.
Simon was delighted with the idea and I'll hear next week how he's tracking. He's also enthusiastically working his way through our new online course on Planning and Prioritising — I'm really excited that we've just launched it. It includes videos, a workbook, exercises and quizzes and takes the students through the strategies needed to make sure everything happens in its right place and time.