How’s Your Follow-Through?

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These columns are usually the place where I reveal some obscure fact about myself in order to draw parallels between life and business. And this time will be no different, so here we go. When I was in junior high, I used to play basketball. And I was good. Ok, I was good compared to the other average players so that made me above average, I guess. That’s probably a stretch but you didn’t know me then so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Anyway, I remember practicing shooting over and over because making baskets is the whole point of the game. And the one thing I still recall is you have to follow through. If you shoot the ball and immediately drop your arms or walk away, you won’t score. You have to aim your arms at the basket and guide the ball in the direction you want it to go. (I hear the same rule applies with swinging a baseball bat but for the life of me, I can’t get into that sport.) If you need confirmation on this, you’re in luck. It’s March Madness so all you have to do is turn on the TV, and you’re likely to land on a game. Take note of how the players sink the baskets: that’s follow through.

And here’s where I tie it back to business… We just wrapped up another show season in New York. And in my estimation, it was a good one—at least in terms of the quality of products and the positive vibe. But shows are always exhausting. I end every day thinking about collapsing on the couch, feet on ottoman. And after the last day? Forget about it. I just want to stay in bed. You probably feel the same way, but not so fast. The show may be over, but your work is not.

I actually have to credit my intern for sparking the idea for this article. As we were wrapping up day 3 of our Playtime New York and Children’s Club extravaganza, she asked me if I’d be inundated with people contacting me after the show. It was a reasonable question. After all, she’d witnessed me talking to countless people, handing out my cards and mentioning my services and this newsletter. But the fact is, most people are really bad at follow-through. After spending thousands of dollars on the show and valuable hours meeting new contacts, many drop the ball. They make no attempts to turn those contacts into real connections or sales, when really, shouldn’t that be the objective?

And if you’re thinking, well they don’t follow up with you because they’re not interested in you. Well yeah, that could be part of it but even in my past roles as editor at various publications, you’d be surprised how little effort people make. And retailers have the same lament. People forget that just because the store didn’t order at the show, that doesn’t mean it’s a no forever. In fact, some buyers intentionally put the ball in the brand’s court to determine their level of commitment and yes, follow-through. They’ll tell the brand manager to call or email them post show to see if they’ll actually do it. They don’t want to work with people who halfway through the season may suddenly stop returning phone calls, for instance. So now ask yourself, how’s your follow-through—after shows and in general? —Caletha Crawford