top of page

The Stop Sign- Following Up Leads

How not to be a stalker

Dear StopSign,

How often can I follow-up with a lead without being a stalker?

What an interesting question! The topic is often neglected and needs more attention. And it leads to even more questions. For example, what type lead? Is this a networking lead or a job lead? Also, what’s the communication channel? What’s the history between the parties?

Consulting our library of vast resources (googling the internet) resulted in the usual mishmash of answers:

“Follow up between five and 10 business days.”

“Follow up after at least five to seven business days.”

“Next day.”

“Same day.”

Apparently, we should not follow up in two to four days.

StopSign doesn’t like absolutes. We say--- stop paying attention to dictates that specify a precise number. Everyone and every case is different.

Instead of using some number pulled out of a hat (or pulled down from the internet), we need guidelines, such as this one my parents taught us: Don’t bother anyone.

BTW, StopSign considers bothering to be the step just before stalking.

There are two common symptoms that you are bothering people:

1. They tell you.

2. They ignore you.

In both cases, the communication is mostly one-sided: from you to them.

In the first case, you communicate until they tell you, “Stop!”

In the latter, you just keep digging that hole, because you haven’t heard back.

If your outreach is welcomed, the other person will reply. If your follow-up is wanted, they usually reply within a few days.

StopSign tries not to tell people what to do, but in this case we will make an exception.

We suggest following the platinum rule: Treat people the way they want to be treated.

How do you find out how they want to be treated? First, ask them. When should I follow up? When should I expect to hear from you?

But what if it’s your first reach-out? It’s awkward to do a sort of cold-call and ask when they will get back to you.

In that case, state your intended follow-up method and timing. E.g. I will call you next [day of week].

There’s a decent chance the person will reply.

If they don’t reply, then it’s time to fall back on the golden rule: Treat people the way you would want to be treated. You don’t want to be bothered. You don’t want people sending you continual unwanted emails, messages, or texts. (That’s called junk mail.) So, don’t do that to other people.

Instead, follow up a couple of times at spaced intervals.

For example, as part of our outplacement work, we reach out to recently laid off workers to tell them how their recent company has arranged outplacement services for them.

If I get their voice mail, I leave a message introducing myself and stating I will call back in two business days. If I don’t reach them on the second phone attempt, I follow up with an email three business days later. I make the final attempt to reach them nine or ten business days later.

People have responded to the email. People have responded to the final reach-out.

Sometimes they missed the first reach-out attempt or were just too busy to respond.

The key is to establish a follow-up procedure that respects the other person’s time and does not seem impatient. For example, never send an email and follow up with a phone call later the same day.

A lot of “it” is feel. I recall how when my wife and I were looking for a house, we met a realtor who came on too strong for us. We didn’t like her communication style and we ignored her later reach-out attempts. One day, we stopped by an open house---weeks after we had stopped communication with her—only to encounter her again. She was very friendly, remembered our names, and didn’t bother us. My wife and I liked her style at the open house—the interaction felt good. Maybe, we were in a different place at that point. Maybe, she realized she had come on too strong. But, she treated us the way we wanted to be treated. We hired her and used her as our buyer broker. She found us our house.

To sum up:

1) Don’t bother people.

2) DO establish a routine that follows the platinum rule or the golden rule.


Have a career-related question for the Stop Sign?

Send your question to

Please include "Stop Sign" in the subject line.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page