I do a lot of networking and I meet a lot of new people all the time. As part of my networking activities, I like to find ways to help others. I love connecting them to other people, providing valuable information, or suggesting sales leads. I’m always on the lookout for ways to build and then strengthen the connections that I make.
Being helpful to others is something that I enjoy. It feeds my soul to do something for someone that provides value to their business or to them personally. It’s the cornerstone for building mutually beneficial relationships.
Now I’m going to get on a soap box for a brief moment.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people will not respond to a follow up communication. I’m not talking about including someone in a mass communication to your distribution list. I’m talking about a personal communication about something that came up in discussion when you met. For example, someone you meet at a networking event mentions getting together for coffee to further a discussion. You reach out in follow up to schedule a time and they never respond back to you. Or, they asked for more information on a connection that you maintain, you make an introduction, but the new person never follows up. Or, you just send a nice note to them never to know if they received it.
It doesn’t matter the scenario. I find it rude and unprofessional to neglect to respond to personal communication. I thought it was just happening to me and assumed it was an issue that I was somehow responsible for causing. But I’m hearing this same story more and more often from my colleagues and my clients. Which is why this topic has found its way into this week’s blog post.
I know that we are all busy people. Yet, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. If someone has taken time out of their day to reach out to you, you need to take time out of your day to respond. I have a couple of theories about why this happens.
- They believe their time is more valuable than anyone else’s.
If you find that you fall into this category, then I’m not sure how to be helpful. Not responding, just because you don’t feel like it, is rude, unprofessional, and short sighted. A couple of years ago, I attempted to contact a professional because I had a few potential clients for her. I didn’t know her personally but had seen her name mentioned in an article. So I reached out to see if she may be willing to give me more information about her business and her ideal client. I did not receive a response back. I followed up on my initial contact a few weeks later and still no response from her. There is no way I’m going to refer business to a person who cannot respond to an inquiry. What if she treats her clients that way as well? So, I ended up connecting with someone else in her field of expertise, built a relationship, and now send referrals to them instead. Her lack of response cost her money in her pocket. What can your lack of response cost you?
- They get busy and forget.
We are all busy professionals. It seems we get bombarded by email every day. Most of us tend to respond to those that are most urgent, most important, or from people in our inner circle first. Communications that come from new acquaintances or names that we don’t recognize tend to get pushed to the bottom of the list. Then we get busy. Then we forget.
An easy way to keep these emails from slipping through the cracks is to schedule small blocks of time every day to address them. Answer your urgent and important email and then flag those that are lower in priority. Any time you have a spare moment, answer a couple of your flagged emails. This will keep the number from becoming overwhelming. It will also help strengthen the young and old relationships in your network.
- They don’t know how to respond.
If everyone was honest, I think this may be the biggest reason why people end up not responding. They just don’t know how to respond. So they end up ignoring, hoping that the person will forget that they sent the note. Here’s a note: They don’t forget. They don’t forget that they sent the note and they don’t forget that you didn’t respond. Here are three common scenarios and professional ways to respond.
- You don’t have time:
“Hey Stacy! It was great to see you last week. I was thinking that you would be a great person for the committee we are putting together. I want to know if you will volunteer to participate.”
“Thank you so much for thinking of me. I loved hearing about the work of the committee and know you are doing great things. I am extended beyond capacity now. I’m honored that you considered me for this role but have to decline the invitation.”
- You aren’t interested:
“Hey Stacy! It was great to see you last week. I know I mentioned the services that my company provides. I wanted to see if we could get together to discuss how I could specifically help your company with X/Y/Z.”
“Thank you so much for reaching out. It was great to see you as well and I enjoyed learning a bit about what you do. While my company is not in need of your company’s services I understand the value that your company provides. On occasion I have people contact me for recommendations on these types of things. Would you mind if I keep your contact information on hand so that I can share it with others who may be a good fit for your services?”
- You don’t have the money:
“Hey Stacy! Thanks for requesting pricing information on our services. We charge $1 kazillion to shred documents on a monthly basis. When can we schedule a time to get together so that we can finalize the details?”
“Thank you so much for your quick response. I think what you do is so important for businesses such as mine. As much as I would love to engage you right away, I don’t have that kind of budget available to me now. I’m going to put your services on my wish list and hope we will grow to the size that I can add this as a line item.”
These may seem like easy examples when you look at them this way, but that’s the point. Even if you aren’t exactly sure how to respond to someone’s communication, just respond honestly. And any response (for the most part) is better than no response at all. I would much rather get a response that I don’t like or wasn’t expecting than be completely ignored. And so would everyone else in your network.
Our business reputations are so important. Good ones are more valuable than gold and bad ones can be more damaging that you can ever imagine. People desire to be treated with respect. And, when they aren’t they don’t hesitate to share that information with others. Don’t risk damaging your reputation because you don’t reply to people. And don’t burn bridges with your connections because you don’t reply. They will tire of trying to help you if the only time you respond is when you need a favor.
So, do yourself a favor. Take five minutes and please, just respond.