Nothing indicates professionalism, separating the men from the boys and the women from the girls, as much your ability to follow up—to keep your word and do what you said you'd do. After all, who you are, what defines your reputation, is that people can count on you, consistently. Once, when a potential client asked a colleague of mine who I was, she replied, “When you want something from Chaz, you get it.” It was one of the finest compliments I've ever received. Isn't that how you'd like to be known—as someone who always delivers?
This kind of behavior is something you can build into your granular database. (You learned about granular databases in Chapter 7, “Networking.”) If you tell a colleague you will call him on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., you should enter that into your granular database—and CALL HIM ON TUESDAY AT 10:00 A.M.! You'd be surprised how this simple practice will separate you from the pack.
For some reason, many (most?) people are unreliable. You just can't count on them. I've heard a million of excuses from students about why they didn't turn in an assignment on time. “I forgot my flash drive.” “My car broke down.” “I brought the wrong backpack.” “My printer wasn't working this morning.” “My hard drive got corrupted.” And so on, and so forth. As a professor, I don't care. And if I were someone's supervisor at work, and that person came up with a lame excuse as to why he didn't deliver what he promised, I would care even less. Likewise, your clients and the people with whom you seek to work aren't interested in excuses when you don't do what you say you're going to do.
I recently set up an important meeting with a department chair for a student who needed some coaching. Incredibly, the student failed to show up for the meeting. I asked my staff about it, and they told me the student was “a bit of a flake.” The next time I saw the student, I confronted her, asking if she had put the meeting in the calendar in her phone. She said she had, but that she often forgets to check it. I said that was unacceptable. She needed to set up a system for herself so she would never forget to check her calendar again—whether it was an alert on her phone, a stickie on her mirror, or a daily call from a friend.
Because she was a student, I was somewhat forgiving. But if you do that sort of thing to a client (or potential client), be prepared for them to stop working with you. If you're notoriously sloppy about following up, create a system that forces you to remember to do what you said you'd do. Be like a friend of mine, who often had trouble getting up in the morning. When he landed a new job that really mattered to him, he bought four alarm clocks to wake him every morning. He was never late for work again.