We’ve all been there: You walk out of the office after a killer investment pitch or interview and the last thing the company says is, “We’ll reach out to you soon.” Which is nice and professional, but what if they don’t reach out to you as soon as they promised?
Following up in Silicon Valley is like walking on a tightrope—you’ll fall if you act too early or too late. Here are some tips on how to keep your balance and follow up like a pro.
Focus On The Why
Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this follow-up?” There’s not much use in reiterating your desire to work with someone—they know you’re interested. Instead, approach your follow-up email with a results-oriented mindset.
You can take the opportunity to bring up an aspect of your company or a skill set that you weren’t able to communicate in person. Or, if the meeting wasn’t ideal, you can make sure things end on a good note via email, especially if you want to reach out down the line.
You may also find that you are overqualified or, conversely, underqualified for the kind of collaboration this company is offering. While it seems like a letdown, it can be an opportunity to highlight your networking skills.
If a former colleague, partner, or company you have worked with that’s more suitable comes to mind, make an introduction between the two parties. This tact and commitment to furthering business, even if you’re not directly involved, is a great way to get noticed.
Perhaps your objective is simply to make a great impression in order to boost your signal and build brand awareness. Building your brand, whether of your company, your product, or even your name, is integral to the hunt.
Right Place, Right Time
You can always write to a contact with a quick reminder to get in their inbox. Just seeing your name can jog someone’s memory and get things rolling. That being said, try and emulate the style of outreach you’re receiving.
Take note of how your contact writes their emails, the rhythm with which they’re sent, and anything else that can inform you of how and when to respond. If you’re getting short, frequent bursts of email, shoot off a follow-up response the day of the meeting. If everyone at the company writes in a more formal, drawn-out style, craft a carefully thought-out email over a few days.
However, if they don’t respond to a check-in, then asking where they are in the process or why they haven’t written back won’t help much either. And if a flurry of emails hasn’t netted the response you were looking for, maybe you’re not going down the right path.
Are you trying to get ahold of the extremely busy CEO or the more approachable director of operations? Moving a few rungs down may prove more effective in eliciting a response.
Keep in mind that networking is a two-way street. Is there something specific that you can offer this firm or company? A contact, referral, maybe an idea you were kicking around mid-meeting?
When you reach out, be sure to appeal to what it is they’re looking for; appeasing your potential partners first and foremost will get you some serious traction. Tapping into this soft skill accentuates the rest of your acumen, and sometimes even the smallest gestures can make lasting impressions.
Thank you again for taking the time to meet. I wanted to explain to you further how an investment in our company can positively impact your brand and push you into the Y market as a household name. Please review the attached media deck, as it perfectly demonstrates this promotion, and we’ll be in touch.
There is so much performance in business that it’s often refreshing to see someone who is truly authentic.
“I like when people are genuine. You want to present yourself well in an interview, but don’t be so buttoned up that I can’t get a feel for your personality,” says Tess Menzies, a recruiter for Turo.
“[The] most creative [followups are] from the people who add a personal touch or remember something about the conversation we had. For example, if I said I was going on a trip this weekend, ending the email with, ‘Hope you have a good time in LA!’ . . . It’s friendly and adds a personal touch.”
Great meeting last night. It was nice to tour the campus and meet the team.
I think our objectives are very similar, and I’m sure that a joint venture would see those goals brought to light. Also, have a wonderful time in Paris. Hopefully the flight’s not too long, but just in case, I’ve attached a brief summary of possible next steps and some documentation highlighting the kinds of work we could be doing together. Bon voyage!
Reaching out with a personal touch shows that you address your contacts as people as well as business partners, and that you are in tune with how you present yourself. This places your brand in a positive, approachable light, and is reflective of how your two parties would interact if you moved forward together.
“Build your brand . . . it’s about selling the vision while building your brand—the brand is very important. Money is important too; funding is important, but working on cool stuff is equally important,” says Marvin Liao, a partner at 500 Startups.
Remember, you are a brand as well. If a company remembers you as unique and innovative, they’ll be much more likely to act in your favor.
Don’t shy away from picking up the phone. While calling can be forward, it has its benefits, especially if your contact is outgoing.
“The best employees are entrepreneurial and active. Nobody’s trying to find someone who’s not active. Be aggressive to a fault—show passion, show that you want the thing, but show that you’re thoughtful too,” says Liao.
Keep your prospects in the loop, but give them a sense that they’re not the only prospects. Make your follow-up process a representation of your values and commitment to your self-brand.
Also, don’t worry if things don’t work out. What doesn’t fit right now may be ideal in a few weeks, months, or even years. Be honest, and don’t be afraid to walk away if things don’t line up. Always end on a good note to avoid burning bridges, as the next time you cross paths, a perfect situation might present itself.
Most important: start putting yourself out there. Finish your product, get your company together, and start interviewing. Until you begin your outreach, everything is just theoretical.
“Whether you’re VC-funded or bootstrapped, your idea doesn’t matter . . . your product does,” says Liao.
“Build your app and launch it as soon as possible. Don’t be secretive! Launch it as soon as you can; the market is the ultimate test.”
Keep in mind that there’s no catch-all way to follow up, especially in Silicon Valley. Everyone has different approaches to how they conduct business, and if you are able to adapt, the right people will notice.