After the rainmaking teleseminar I did with Kristina Haynes we received the following question from Jennifer Bell of Placet Dispute Resolution. Jennifer agreed to let us answer it here (and Kristina will probably post additional advice on her blog.)
What is the best way to follow up on a referral? I am a mediator. I will get calls for service and be asked for my CV. I will then be told by the lawyer that he/she will contact the other side and get back to me. I assume that there are other mediator under consideration. I am not shy to follow up once but am uncomfortable making more than one call on a particular matter. What is the best way to follow-up more than once without seeming pushy?
That’s a good question. There are two issues here: 1) there is the practical issue of getting through to the referrer, and 2) there is the feeling you have that calling more than once is being pushy.
Let’s deal with the second one first. I don’t believe you will be or be seen as pushy if you leave a day between your first call and second calls. Rather, I think the lawyer may feel that you aren’t that interested if you don’t call again. I am assuming that you have no further information that your call is somehow unwanted than the man hasn’t returned your calls. In that case what is going on in his head is unknown and therefore irrelevant to perceived pushiness.
What is going on in yours is highly relevant. You are acting as if you can read this lawyer’s mind. Hearing him say “Oh, it’s that pushy Jennifer again!” stops you in your tracks. But, of course, he didn’t say that, at least not to our knowledge. It must be coming from within you. Of all the thousands of possible thoughts he could have when he hears your voice why do you pick out “Pushy?” I will stop there, or risk getting arrested for practicing psychiatry without a license. I will add that I am a real pro at mind reading, myself. If you have any doubts about that see my post entitled Dealing with Unreturned Phone Calls.
It may sound as if I had you in mind when I wrote it, but it’s been up there since April. I also recommend a book, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.
Now, let’s go back to Issue One: How do you get through to this lawyer? Here are some things you can do alone of in combination with each other.
a) Call again . . . and again. A second call 24 or more hours after the first, is perfectly reasonable. One more a week out is fine. I would do more, but won’t push you that fast yet.
b) Leave a message explaining why you need an update quickly: “It’s Jennifer. I was calling to see if you had any word on the mediation. I’m juggling a few things and was wondering if that opportunity is still open. I would very much like to work on it and a little information might help ensure that that remains possible.”
c) Try a different medium. Some people respond better to emails.
d) Ask his assistant for advice, stressing the fact that he said he would bet back to you. She may be able to put you through to him, retrieve an answer, or provide an explanation. (This can help validate or not your mind reading. I was sure one guy hated me when he didn’t return my calls for two weeks. When I asked his secretary for advice, she told me he was in the hospital dying of cancer. Poor man, in his final pain he taught me an important message of how, rightly, inconsequential I am in most people’s lives. It helped me get over any musings I had about being important enough that my calls are seen as pushy.)