What rock climbing teaches me about follow-up communication
I love rock climbing. I spend hours in the gym every week and in the warmer months I take my limited skills and enthusiasm to nearby walls and boulders. Luckily, I have all the rocks I could ever want to climb and more within just a couple hours of my house.
As much time as I spend climbing, I spend a similar amount of time thinking about climbing. Here’s what I’ve learned from climbing that also applies to follow-up communication.
Talk as often as you need to
The best climbing requires clear and consistent communication. Though I may be alone up on the wall, I can’t hesitate to call back down to my belayer. And they can’t hesitate to talk to me. The key in business follow-up, just like it is in climbing, is talking just as often as you need to. Not more and not less.
If a belayer talks too much, it can take the climber out of the zone. Or sometimes a climber simply wants to figure out the problem alone, without help from anyone else. But by not talking enough, the climber might miss a key move or an important warning. Similarly, a climber on a route with a lot of loose rock needs to yell “ROCK!” or the belayer and anyone else down below is in for a truly nasty surprise.
While having or not having a business conversation won’t lead to physical harm for anyone – at least it shouldn’t – you want to find that sweet spot of communication. Doing so allows you to make the most of your relationships with leads and customers. Finding the proper level of communication simply requires practice.
What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you
I have a negative ape index, which is basically the difference between arm span and height. My arm span minus my height is almost -2 inches. As you might imagine, a shorter arm span can be a real inconvenience in climbing. But really all it means is that I need to figure out a different way to climb than some of my friends.
Your follow-up is the same way. What works for someone else is only your starting point. Even what works for you at one point likely won’t work forever (more on that later).
When our consultants help Skipio clients plan their follow-up communication and campaigns, they generally know what works within a given industry. But each campaign is uniquely tailored to fit specific business needs. That’s also why we’ve always stressed that templates are just the start. They give you a framework to build on and personalize. And all your follow-up needs to be personalized.
Try new things
Many climbers have “specialties.” Whether that’s a type of rock they feel at home on or a type of hold that really suits their climbing style, climbers with a specialty simply excel when they climb in that way.
For me it’s crimps. They’re exactly what they sound like: holds that make you scrunch up your fingers real tight. But as much as I love crimps, if I only climb routes of that style, A) my fingers will get real tired, real fast and B) I won’t be a well-rounded climber. Nor will I ever find out if I enjoy or am good at another style of climbing!
The same is true for your follow-up communication and business. If you interact with every person in the same way forever, your lead nurturing and customer engagement grows tired fast. When certain messages or timing results in quality engagement, definitely keep doing those things! But when you insist on only doing those things, you won’t innovate or iterate.
Growth stops when you do the same things over and over, so embrace trial and error.
Have a plan, but know that it will change
A big part of executing a successful climb is sequencing, which is essentially planning how to do the route. Novice climbers in the gym learn how to do this and legends like Tommy Caldwell rely on sequencing to send the big walls in Yosemite.
Climbers sequence to work out exactly how to position their bodies, where to step, and how to put their hands for each section (known as pitches) of the climb. Climbers work routes for minutes, hours, days – or in Tommy’s case years — to figure out the perfect sequencing.
This happens because your initial sequencing only gets you so far. When you get on a route for the very first time, a hold that looked amazing from the ground (or even from a few feet below on the wall) suddenly becomes the worst thing you’ve ever seen. In that moment you figure out how to use the bad hold or you find a new way up the wall.
And sometimes when you get on the rock you discover holds you didn’t even know existed. Suddenly a part that seemed impossible is suddenly opened to you. Being that close to the rock reveals things you would never have learned otherwise.
That’s how your follow-up should be. Make a plan. Try something out. But always be ready to jump in and change things. If your call to action sucks, rewrite it. If automated messages aren’t working, change the timing. Discover hidden connections along the way that help you continue the lead nurturing process.
For those afraid of heights or falling, fear not. You obviously don’t have to take up rock climbing to learn about follow-up communication. Think about your favorite hobbies or activities. How has pursuing those things helped you improve your communication?