Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Always Follow Up”
Success comes from taking the initiative and following up. —Anthony Robbins, author, professional speaker
A few months ago I had lunch with a good friend and mentor who is a member of one of the largest and most successful angel investor organizations in the United States. We meet from time to time to share stories, ideas, and opportunities.
Our lunch took place shortly after one of his organization’s meetings, in which two entrepreneurs gave a brief presentation about their business and asked for investment capital. Members of the angel organization then discussed whether to advance the companies to the due-diligence phase required before committing any money. One company, a green company, had a compelling value proposition that I thought was worth funding.
I have been to several of these meetings, and no matter how many I attend, the experience never grows old or loses excitement. This is the big leagues, where big companies are made. Entrepreneurs who have reached this point have worked hard and fought for the opportunity to present before the angels. Despite receiving
The Entrepreneur Mind thousands of applications, the angels accept only a few companies to present before the body. For this reason, I was shocked to hear what my friend shared with me about one. particular company that totally blew the opportunity.
A company that impressed the angels with a top-notch presentation and innovative product basically disappeared during the due-diligence process. The head of the committee assigned to carry out the due diligence never heard back from the company’s CEO during the final stages of the process. The angels felt jaded. Their chairman even made several personal calls to the CEO, but he was nowhere to be found. Ironically, there were no hiccups during the due-diligence process. The company’s request for funds was pretty much guaranteed. After several attempts to find the missing CEO, the angels gave up. At this point, they weren’t so sure about investing in a person who doesn’t have the decency to follow up anyway.
Apparently, the foibles that 1 thought were limited to novice business owners or CEOs of young start-ups were also common among more established companies. I couldn’t believe it. In the back of my mind, 1 was thinking, Give me a million dollars for my company, and I will pick up the phone so fast you will wonder if the phone even rang! I don’t know why the CEO disappeared, but there is no reason to leave such influential people—or anybody for that matter—hanging that way. Regardless of the circumstances, he should have let the angel group know. At the very least, it’s common courtesy.
This classic case of art entrepreneur failing to follow up is a simple mistake that can have devastating consequences. It’s a simple fact: Those who master the art of following up are more successful than those who do not, yet so many entrepreneurs ‘overlook and underestimate this simple rule. Why?
- Fear of rejection causes many entrepreneurs to fail to follow up. Learning’ how to deal with rejection years ago was especially difficult for me, as a young and somewhat antisocial computer programmer. Having to sell my ideas to others was frightening and quite frankly it still is sometimes. The only rejection I knew when I started my. company was a compiler telling me that my program wouldn’t run. (Don’t Worry if you didn’t understand the last sentence. It’s just computer talk.) No one likes being rejected, but you must get over this fear. I often interpret a no as meaning “not right now.” I have learned more about my products and services from people telling me no than from people telling me yes. When you follow up with people, especially during a sales call or a negotiation, do it with complete confidence. If you receive a no, ask open-ended questions to learn why the situation didn’t turn out the way you wanted. For example, if someone doesn’t want to buy your product, ask, “What was the determining factor in your decision?” Turn a negative into a positive.
- Entrepreneurs lack the dedication and energy to follow up. Following up takes concerted effort and planning. I never thought something could be so exhaustive. Sometimes several calls to an individual are needed to get a desired result. However, it’s worth it. An. automotive company took about fifty inquiries over the course of a year before I finally made it a client, and now it’s one of my biggest. Committed to a successful outcome, I put on my calendar to follow up with my contact every week or when I found information or news that could relate to her position at the company. A customer relationship management tool to assist you in following up regularly with people who can help you simplifies the task.
- A misunderstanding of business etiquette prevents many entrepreneurs from following up. The entrepreneur who commits this error is self-absorbed, following up but doing a lousy job-at it. An entrepreneur might assume that the contact should always take the next step. Meanwhile, budget planning periods pass, investment priorities change, contacts leave the company, and so on. On the contrary, the entrepreneur who calls back several times, ignoring the “volley protocol,” more often gets the prize. Sometimes people simply forget or want you to do all the work, but that’s sometimes a small price to pay for a big payoff
In brief, don’t let these three common reasons for failing to follow up cripple you. Entrepreneurs don’t miss opportunities; they seize them. The surest way to do this is to follow up with every-body, especially people who can help your business excel. As for the elusive entrepreneur who sought funding from angel investors, his company has not made much progress. No surprise there.