Thank you notes have power! I’ll discuss the importance of thank you notes in business in today’s podcast episode.
I am often fascinated how the habits we form when we are young impact our lives and success as professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, department or unit managers, or senior level executives.
I am thinking of a habit that I was forced to adopt when I was a kid and how it has come to serve me in my professional life. My mom was one of those people who was a stickler for making sure that when a gift was given – a thank you note followed. My sister and I had a love hate relationship with holidays and birthdays because on one hand we got gifts, but we also knew that within a day or two post celebration, mom would be handing us a stack of thank you notes for us to handwrite expressions of gratitude to those who were so kind and generous to us. We dreaded writing those notes. We were kids with better things to do, at least in our minds, than to write Aunt Myrtle a thank you note for the socks she knitted us for Christmas. Funny thing is, as an adult who now knits, I realize what an incredibly cool gift that was.
As I think back over that time in my life, my mom may have been doing my sister and me a huge favor in paving the way for the success we would both have in our lives. I credit the success we enjoy to our ability to follow up. Quite frankly, that’s what a thank you note is. It’s a follow up to express gratitude.
But how is this used in a business setting and what subliminal messages is it sending to those who might receive a note from us?
The best way I can answer this is to share a story with you that involves a friend of mine. A few years ago this friend and her husband found out that they were expecting and it was really great news because they had a hard time conceiving. As the time approached for their baby girl to be born, they started searching for child care centers because my friend decided early on that she was going back to work– and they looked at everything from the day care facilities in the basement of churches to the aggressive marketers in the industry. They narrowed it down to three facilities and chose a center that no one in our circle of friends was familiar with. When I asked what the deciding factor was – my friend told me that it was the center that sent her a thank you note that got their business. When I asked her why this was important, she said that in her mind, if the center was paying this much attention to detail so early on in the process- she felt confident that they would be paying just as much attention to the care and education of her daughter. She also liked the fact that courtesy appeared to be a part of the culture of this organization.
So as a result of their attention to detail, this child care center sold another enrollment that month to my friend and her husband. Not too shabby for a few minutes work and the price of a stamp.
People I coach will often ask if an email will suffice or if a handwritten note is required. My suggestion is to always think of who is receiving the message. If it is a person from the Baby Boomer generation or older, then a handwritten card is probably more appropriate. If you are communicating with Generation X or someone from the Millennial Generation, then an email will probably suffice. I like the idea of the message being a part of a communication trail so I am not a fan of texting your gratitude. The message is too easily erased or lost.
So in business, what subliminal messages can a thank you note say about you?
For starters, it shows you pay attention to detail. This may mean the difference between you getting the job, winning the contract, gaining the promotion, or solidifying that important business relationship.
Thank you notes also give the writer a sense of closure to the meeting or business transaction that just transpired. It gives us a chance to reinforce what we bring to the table in terms of what our customers, potential employers or other business partners need from us.
Finally, when used as a follow-up strategy, thank you notes show that you have a sincere interest in getting the business or the job. If you are in the process of interviewing for that dream job, for example, it may be the one thing that differentiates you from the other candidates who interviewed for that position – landing you the job! If you are in sales, it may signal that you are the right vendor for the job because you took the time to show sincere interest in obtaining the work. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. When my market research firm is awarded a contract, I always ask what it was that landed us the work and on several occasions, I’ve been told that it’s the follow up I do post sales meeting and my thank you notes that make the lasting impression.
So who should you be thanking this week? It might be time to dig out that stack of note cards and get busy writing if more sales, that promotion, or getting that dream job is what you’re after!