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How to Follow Up

With all the different communication methods out there, getting your message to its destination can be a challenge. Get-It-Done Guy has the trick to make sure that your message always comes across.

By
Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #216

These days we have more communication channels than ever before, and it's a problem. It's harder than ever to make sure your message gets through. My colleague Jim wrote to mas, asking for an introduction to a powerful person. I was happy to help! Only I didn't get his message until I reviewed my spam folder, several weeks after he needed the introduction. The powerful person and I went to lunch anyway, and had a fabulous shrimp cocktail and lobster bisque.

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Here are Quick and Dirty Tips to follow-up and connect to your network more efficiently:

Tip #1: Connect Via Multiple Inboxes

Communication technology has made us far less efficient. Yes, I'm deadly serious. Once upon a time, if you needed to contact someone, you dialed them on the phone. If they weren't there, you left a message with their mother, their secretary, or their colleague. When they got back from their 3-martini lunch, they would get the note and call you right back. If they were under the age of 10, the martinis would have knocked them out, so they would call back after nap time.

You need to check all inboxes regularly to stay on top of incoming messages.

Today we have too many inboxes. We don't know where to look for incoming message. Now that venture capitalists are all googly-eyed over social media, every website in existence happily provides a lame, poorly constructed email system that there's no way to disable. Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace are big offenders, but almost everyone does it. You also have six regular email accounts, plus voicemail, text messages, iMessage, Blackberry messenger, iChat, AIM, Microsoft Messenger … need I go on? And your well-meaning friends who love you to death, also love to show how tech-savvy they are by sending their emails on the latest and greatest platform. Thanks to their brilliant display of technological mastery, you need to check all the inboxes regularly if you want to stay on top of your incoming messages.

Thankfully, there a way to simplify your inboxes, as I discussed in my episode How to Simplify Your Inboxes. If the person you're trying to contact hasn't simplified their inboxes, however, you still need to get your message through. So if someone doesn't respond to your message, try a different inbox. Just note in the message "I'm sending this to both your work and home emails." so they know they can delete it if they've already seen it.

Tip #2: Remember Preferred Inboxes

Once you know which inbox a person prefers to use, only use that. Your address book application has a notes field. Use it to include a note to yourself about this person's most-often-checked inboxes. Do they prefer phone? Which of their seven numbers do they check most often? Do they prefer email? Which platform do they check most often? Instant message…? You get the idea.

From now on, only use their preferred inbox. Don't overload them with duplicate messages or they'll come to hate you, and secretly begin plotting your downfall. Most historians don't know this, but that's the real reason Brutus assassinated Caesar. Too many duplicate messages.

Tip #3: Make Yourself Easy to Spot You

Your overloaded colleagues have social-media-addicted friends who email with all kinds of important information: articles on mushrooms, funny jokes, political commentary, an absolutely critical overdue notice that needs a response to avoid getting their home repossessed, and cute bunny pictures.

See what I did, there? With all this convenient messaging, the important stuff gets lots. It happens to everyone.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to your message, write clear email subject lines that your colleague can instantly spot just by scanning their inbox. "Monday's meeting postponed until 2 p.m." They'll know instantly whether they need to read more. Do not leave the subject line blank, or your message could get lost.

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.