Follow Up & Follow Through

If “80% of success in life is showing up,” as Woody Allen said, then the next move seals the deal.

Clients pose the question “what now?” after meeting someone at a networking event or having a meeting with a prospect. At this point during the coaching process, clients talk about what they learned from the people they met by using their EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and CIQ (Conversational Intelligence).

The illuminating pieces of information clients noticed during networking or a business meeting impresses me. “I could tell he was focused on relationships, because we talked about our families before talking about business,” one MBT client told me. Another said, “She was all business and told me to cut to the chase and tell her what results she could expect and in what timeframe.”

These bits of information guide clients toward making good decisions regarding how to follow up and follow through. Big kudos to these clients for understanding the individual so they can craft the next step and conversation. However, when I ask how much time has passed since the client spoke with their contact, the answer often is, “That conversation was great, but it was six weeks ago.”

A key differentiator for successful people is their commitment to following up. Business people are quite literally leaving relationships on the table by not following up in a timely way. What is timely? Within 24 to 48 hours. If more than five business days has passed, there needs to be a new look at how to reengage the contact. Follow up is a differentiator because most business people are not disciplined about doing it.

Here are some tips:

  • Before you attend a networking event or schedule a meeting with a business contact, determine your goal for meeting with them. What do you want to achieve? If you do not have a goal, don’t attend that networking event or schedule that meeting. Schedule something that moves you forward toward your goals.
  • If the meeting is one-on-one or with a few people, start an e-mail to them before you go to the meeting. Subject line could be: Thank you for your time today. When you get back to the computer, finish it with specific information to move the conversation and relationship forward.
  • If you are attending a networking event, create an e-mail that you can personalize later. “It was great to meet you at fill-in-the-blank event today. I wanted to follow up on our conversation about fill-in-the-blank.”
  • If you received a task that will take more than 24-48 hours, send the follow up acknowledging that. “I am putting together the information you requested and will have it by fill-in-the-date.”
  • Before you send any e-mails, or text messages, or LinkedIn messages, think about what you learned using your EQ and CIQ. What is the best way to communicate with this person? Craft the message using that information.

Most importantly, follow up and follow through!

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Bringing Home the Business: Formulas for Success

During a training session focused on developing business, a participant asked me to give them the specific steps that would lead from meeting a prospect to closing the sale. “We should not even have this training,” they said. “Just write us a list of what we are supposed to do, when to do it, and what questions to ask to land the work.”

Have you ever talked to a salesperson on the phone or in a meeting who was clearly reading from their reliable script of how to get you to buy? What was your reaction? If you are like most, you lose interest because it is all about them and what they are selling when the focus should be on you.

After coaching many clients regarding building business relationships, I have proof that there were many formulas for success. Individuals who succeed tend to focus on their strengths when pursuing business. Their strengths are different from the strengths of others, so their formula for success may seem different on the surface. The most successful ones also know that each potential client, individual contact, and organization has their own likes and dislikes. There are so many variables.

Here are examples of different formulas:

  • Learning what is important to the client and giving it to them.
  • Learning how the client likes to work with vendors and adapting your deliverables to their liking.
  • Learning what is hot in the client’s industry, and supplying information to them about the trends.
  • Asking the client questions about all of the above in order to be responsive to their needs.
  • Understanding the organizational structure and processes. The contact may want to buy the product or services, but; the timing is bad for the company, they are not the decision maker, there are complications they cannot discuss with you, etc.

I really described only one formula: A + L = D. Ask questions plus Listen and hear the answers equals Deliver the right environment to satisfy the clients needs, objectives, and trust level in order for them to buy from you.

People get caught up in the algorithms, because behavior should be predictable. Actually, the greatest highs and lowest lows happen with the unpredictable.

As one of my clients used to say, “It’s all fluid.”

Capacity: How much – work, marketing, studying, networking, fill-in-the-blank – is enough?

Clients express worry and doubt over a number of different obstacles that disrupt their action plans. When building relationships with business prospects, the fear is they will bring in more work than they can handle. They will tell management that they are worried about capacity. The response from their manager is often, “That is a good problem to have. Just keep doing what you are doing and it will all work out.”

That kind of response often increases the anxiety and stress of the individuals and teams. It is a de-motivator.

Taking a mindful approach to business means understanding your capacity, that of your team, and of your organization. It is a process to learn to be both aspirational and practical in order to adjust the scale of the work you are doing appropriately.  The capacity grows and changes along with you.

The meaning of the word “capacity” may bring different connotations to people. Take a moment to define “capacity” for yourself. When you say, “I do not have the capacity”, or, “my team does not have the capacity,” what do you mean? Here are some examples of different meanings I have heard:

  • “Capacity means the amount of activities I can handle over a specific period of time. The literal time it will take.”
  • “For me, capacity means the number of different kinds of activities I can handle. The ability to wear different hats.”
  • “The mastery of a skill or mindset is what I mean when I say I don’t have the capacity. I feel out of my comfort zone or overwhelmed.”

Once you have determined what the root of your worry around capacity is, the next step is determining whether the obstacle is real or stems from an assumption you are making. Why are you reacting the way you are? Clients often realize they create overlays of assumptions that they add to situations because of past experiences. It is important to sift through that with your coach and decide whether there really is an obstacle.

If it passes the reality test, the next step is to plan. Scale or adjust the tasks in front of you with your vision for success. Take a look at the plan you wrote in order to make that comparison.

Then, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do you need to overcome the obstacle?
  2. Are all of the activities and items that create the obstacle necessary for you to reach your goals?
  3. Which items can be removed?
  4. How robust is the team? Who can handle more to free up time for you and for others?
  5. Looking farther into the future, how can you plan to meet the obstacle? Do you need to hire? Do you need to train more people?
  6. If the obstacle is learning a skill, what plan can you make to tackle that one piece at a time?

Use a calendar to schedule smaller actions that move you closer to the goal. And remember to breathe.

Was it something you said? Learn the Language to Get and Keep the Business

After losing a pitch for business that seemed in the bag or winning one that seemed like a long shot, my clients often wonder what they did or said that made the difference. I encourage them to follow up and ask for feedback, and sometimes they get the answer. Why leave it to guesswork, though? Preparing for conversations – a business pitch should be a conversation – will help eliminate some of the guesswork and create a higher win rate.

“I wish you could be a fly on my shoulder during this pitch so you can tell me what to say and help me read the room,” MBT Client.

One of the ways I work with clients to prepare them for a business pitch or a meeting with a prospect is through role playing. No need to dress up in costume, but we do try out the voice of the prospect in order to best understand how they will respond. In order to be most productive, my client must spend some time getting to know the prospect and understanding what they need and how to deliver the service and the communication in the right way for the prospect.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I learned from my training as a Conversational Intelligence (CIQ) Coach that Words Create Worlds. Each individual you meet brings with them their personal experience, cultural experience, work experience, and internal conversation to the conversation they are having with you. A simple word like “success” means different things to different people and to different organizations.

A leader within my client’s top management once said to me, “Why do you have to spend time discussing success with the people you coach? Don’t all of them just want to make more money?” The answer was no. Each person I coached to increase their business had their own picture of success. Money was a factor, if it had not been, they would have looked for a different kind of coach. However, it was seldom the only factor.

Likewise, a prospect for your business may have multiple reasons for contacting you and a plethora of unknown criteria for choosing to work or not work with you. That is why it is so important to learn about your prospect, their business, and their picture of success. Learn their language. In order to do that, you have to ask questions and listen.

Here are some tips:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Instead of, “Does your business need my services?” Ask, “What experiences have you had with this area?”
  2. Listen. Are you listening to what someone said or thinking about what you will say next?
  3. Ask them what they mean by a word they use. Maybe it is as simple as, “I really need to achieve my goal.” Ask, “Tell me more about your goal.” Or “How are goals set in your organization?”
  4. Look for other signs of your prospect’s personality. Do they like to talk about their family? Are they always in a hurry? Do they need time to process information?
  5. Work with a coach to discuss your approach with the client before making a business pitch.
  6. Spend some time role playing the conversation.

Preparing for the conversation or meeting is more important than creating a powerpoint.

Contact Mary Balistreri at MBT to work on having better conversations by emailing

Eat the Frog, and Other Ways to Execute On Your Business Plan

A common obstacle many of the clients at MBT face is time or the perception of time. “There are not enough hours in my day to do business development!” Or, “How can I use my business development time most efficiently so I get the biggest ROI (Return on Investment)?” Clients share their thoughts about how time is an obstacle in many different ways.

But is time an obstacle? Or is it the perception of time and the perception of the value of an activity that creates the obstacle?

When I work with clients, we discover their strengths and what ways are best to capitalize on those strengths. Clients need to feel authentic while furthering business relationships and developing business contacts. They tell me that.

As we sort through the need for authenticity and the value of the bus dev activities, we realize that some activities may not be their favorites, and those actions are necessary to develop business. So, they must be accomplished.

Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” My clients decide which bus dev activity they dislike the most, and plan to “eat the frog” first thing in the morning. Then, they can relax into the rest of their day and know they made some progress.

There are as many likes and dislikes of bus dev activities as there are different types of people. Here are some examples of the “frog” according to my clients:

  • Asking a friend to talk about business.
  • Attending a networking event.
  • Talking to a client about a new service they may need.
  • Asking for feedback.
  • Writing an article or a presentation.
  • Connecting with a new contact via LinkedIn.
  • Giving a price quote.

In some instances, eating the frog may mean setting up a meeting rather than completing the full activity. For example, a feedback session can be requested and scheduled first thing in the morning, and occur at a later date. At least the asking was completed!

What about you? What is your “frog”? You can drill down to find out by following these steps.

  1. Make two lists.
  2. On the first list, write down the times you are the happiest when developing business relationships.
  3. On the second list, write down when you are most uncomfortable developing those relationships.
  4. Look at your goals (see The Beauty of the Blank Notebook post). Which activities are essential to achieving your goals?
  5. Plan to execute on your plan in a way that creates balance for you.
  6. Execute.

Every day, Eat the frog.  (For example: Ask for Feedback.) Then reward yourself. (For example: Have coffee with a contact you enjoy.)

Let’s Talk Business

from Client Wisdom Blog published by MBT More Business Today LLC

Let’s talk business next time we meet. What is your reaction to that statement? How do you feel when a contact says it to you, and how do you feel when you plan to say the same to one of your contacts?

Even when it is a question, “Can we talk business next time we meet?”, some of my clients hate asking that question. It is too “salesy” for them. Some clients are more comfortable forming relationships with contacts by getting to know them on a personal level. Others are more comfortable talking exclusively about business when meeting with potential and current clients. And, for some, their clients are their friends. They talk about everything.

All of these reactions are valid. Each client who engages me is an individual. Part of the coaching I do is to support clients in finding their authentic voice to use when developing business contacts and when developing their teams.

The key to having a business conversation and how to phrase the question is the personality of client or contact. Just as many of my clients have different reactions to “Let’s talk about business next time”, so do their potential clients.

As MBT clients plan for meetings with their contacts, we prepare by:

  1. Talking about the strength of the relationship. Is it solid or developing?
  2. Discussing what they learned about this person and their company? Are they open or conservative in divulging information.
  3. Most people love to talk about their jobs. Determining what approach is best when asking this person about their business.
  4. Then, we often role play the conversation. This gives the clients an opportunity to try out different questions to find the ones that are most comfortable and authentic to them.
  5. Finally, we develop a goal for the meeting. This is helpful in determining whether the meeting was a success. A goal could be as simple as learning more about the person’s business.

So the next time you want to talk about business with someone, think about:

  • How has someone asked you to talk about business? It could be an insurance person or your bank.
  • What did you like and dislike about those questions?
  • When are you most comfortable talking about business?
  • When does your contact seem to be most comfortable talking about business?
  • Then, decide how you will proceed.

Most importantly, do proceed! The only way to succeed is to take the risk and ask a question. If you do not ask, game over.

Overwhelmed By Advice

from Client Wisdom, a blog published by MBT More Business Today LLC

Once clients begin to explore the world of self-improvement, they often express feelings of anxiety and annoyance over the barrage of free advice offered on social media, and sometimes even in person from colleagues, friends, and family. Be mindful and meditate. Have empathy. Take this assessment or that one or the newest one. Which podcasts are the best? Or my favorite, just relax!

My clients bravely opened the door to learn more and improve themselves. Now that they are more open, they notice the plethora of new information and it sometimes makes them shut down. It can be a hindrance to their progress toward their goals.

What can they do to combat this onslaught? I suggest deciding two things:

  1. What offers the most value to move toward their goal in their current circumstances?
  2. Which improvements/ideas are most important and interesting to them?

That may sound obvious, but everyone needs a reminder now and then.

“Who am I and what am I  trying to do?”

MBT client

This is a good time to take out the goals, SMART goals, and action plans clients wrote out for themselves (see The Beauty of the Blank Notebook as a reminder). Or maybe they hung that plan right next to their computer so it is easy to find. 

If you are struggling with the avalanche of self-improvement ideas being shot at you daily, here are a few thoughts to ponder:

  1. Remember, you control your life.
  2. When determining where to concentrate your time, ask yourself:
    • How does this area of focus fit in with your goals?
    • What are the expectations at your job? Will the time spent here help with projects, relationships, and expectations at work? If everyone at work is reading a particular business book, you should read it, too. Likewise, what concepts are grabbing your clients interests? Do they coincide with your interests?
    • Will concentrating on the area you have selected also improve your life outside of work?
  3. How much of your time can you realistically spend keeping up with outside ideas while continuing to move yourself forward? If you are a person who is easily distracted, you may maintain your boundaries by scheduling time for outside reading and also for working on the area of self-improvement you have chosen. This practice will keep you on track.
  4. And, finally, give yourself a break! Work at your own speed and keep moving forward.

How Climbing the Ladder of Conclusions Undermines Growth

During my training as a Conversational Intelligence (CIQ) Coach, I learned about the Ladder of Conclusions. I was very fortunate to study under the creator of the CIQ concept and The CreatingWe® Institute, directly, Judith E. Glaser.

Some conclusions become almost automatic fallback thoughts that hinder our development. Here are a few I hear from clients:

“I can’t follow up with that contact, because I already have too much work to do. What if they want to give me more work?”

“I must have done something wrong. I have not heard from that contact since they said they wanted to engage us.”

“I can’t reach out to that person because they did not respond to my e-mail of a few months ago. They clearly don’t like me, don’t want to talk to me, (fill in the blank).”

“I know my meeting with my team will not go well.”

During coaching, I discuss climbing up the ladder of conclusions and how to prepare your mindset to optimize conversations and the impact you make. Being mindful of your thoughts, reactions, and beliefs is the key to taking control of your impact on other people and on yourself.

If you look at the illustration of the ladder, you will see how quickly you can climb it to make an assumption or come to a conclusion. The ascent starts with bio-reactions and feelings that you may not be aware of. If you find yourself at a conclusion such as, “I know this conversation will not go well,” stop and retrace your steps. How did you come to that conclusion?: Did it start with an upset stomach? Were you feeling uneasy or anxious? By practicing self-awareness, you can impact those reactions and come to a different conclusion. “This conversation with my team may be difficult, but if I am open to their input, we could make some progress.”

Practice your awareness as you climb the Ladder of Conclusions (©Benchmark Communications, Inc. and The CreatingWE® Institute)

  • Step One: Bio-Reactions happen automatically and can be present without your awareness.
  • Step Two: Feelings. Pause and take stock. Your teeth are clenched, why? What are you feeling?
  • Step Three: Thoughts. After you named the feeling, what thoughts were automatic? Delve a little deeper before you reach Step Four. Can you redirect your thoughts? Can you replace a negative thought with a more positive one or something more cautionary like, “wait and see”?
  • Step Four: Beliefs. Without pausing to be more aware, your belief can follow quickly up the ladder to a conclusion that holds you back from succeeding. Can you use your thoughts to change your belief?
  • Step Five: Conclusions. Think about which trail you followed. The initial trail set in motion by a negative bio-reaction? Or were you able to change course to a more positive, less anxiety-inducing conclusion?

Self-management and controlling a climb up the Ladder of Conclusions takes practice. Take a look at the tasks, meetings, or people in your day. How can you impact the assumptions you draw that keep success at bay?

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information.

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Silence, Listening, and Your Business

Listening is an important skill to use thoughtfully to develop business. One of my clients is well loved by his clients. They trust him and he gives them everything possible to supply great work and the best client service. He often calls me to discuss a conversation that is coming up and tells me everything he plans to say to the client.

During the coaching session, I will remind him to stop talking long enough for his client to respond to what he is saying. Each time, it is a revelation for him. He is so caught up in his need to convey information, he forgets that the other person is part of the conversation. And that person is the one who is buying his services.

My client is grateful for the reminder to make a statement, and then create space for silence, to give the other person a chance to think and respond. He confirms with me that he is much more effective when he remembers to listen. He also learned to be more comfortable with silence. During the silence, his client has the opportunity to think about what was said.

Some individuals who are process-oriented need time to think and digest information. Some people are impatient to get to the next idea and are quick to respond. It is vital to make room for silence so any person you speak with has a chance to engage and be heard.

The impact for another one of my clients was a big win of new work. While I helped her prepare for a meeting with a possible new client – the second phase of an RFP (Request for Proposal) process – I reminded her to pause and take a breath after conveying information. She is a fast talker. She is uncomfortable with silence, and like many people talks to avoid any dead spots in a conversation. By taking that pause, she noted the potential client asked questions of her and the meeting was much more of a conversation. The impact was the development of a relationship and the trust to win her the work.

Here are a few steps you can take to insert a pause in your conversations and become more comfortable with silence.

  1. Prepare for conversations before you have them.
  2. Write down the major points you want to make during the conversation.
  3. After each point, write the word BREATHE or PAUSE to help you remember to create space.
  4. During the conversation, check yourself to be sure you are listening rather than planning your next statement.
  5. After the conversation, critique yourself: What did you do well? What would you like to improve?

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Focus: How to discover what you want

aerial photo of empty meandering road in between forest
Photo by Kelly Lacy on

“Serendipity is not a strategy.”

MBT client

A client of mine views each session as a question mark. When asked about her goal for the session, she shrugs and says, “Let’s just talk and see where it goes.” Other clients shrug when discussing their overall or long-term goals. They see a daily or annual goal easily, but find it difficult to articulate an ultimate goal and how to own it. As one client used to say, “Serendipity is not a strategy.”

For example, a sales executive may adopt the company’s goal for them as their own. The company wants them to hit the goal of $X that quarter. They may embrace the goal because the success is directly tied to their bonus or compensation. That is their motivation, and that is ok. However when asked about their personal path, they may shrug. They are thinking about what is in front of them now rather than what is possible for them.

During coaching sessions, I may say, “Tell me about your best days at work. What does that look like?”. Clients often express their frustrations and what causes them anxiety. That seems to be easier than identifying what they really want or how things could be different.

Understanding individual wants and needs helps clients grab control of their career. I often hear from clients, “I stayed too long in that position, but I was not sure what should come next,” or “No one offered me a different path, so I just kept doing what I was doing.”

I suggest taking a look at your life annually. Confirm you are on the right path for you, or adjust the path if you are frustrated or unhappy. Here is how to get started.

Ask yourself:

  1. When are you the happiest at work and in your life?
  2. How do you get more of that in your day?
  3. Visualize what needs to be different in order to have more of that happiness in your life?
  4. Write down your ultimate goal. Articulate what is possible in your life.
  5. Celebrate. If you are on the right path, stop and congratulate yourself! If you have identified changes to make, think about your next steps.

Think about what is possible for you!

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information about coaching and professional development services.

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