Here comes that sinking feeling again. The prospect you have been meeting with didn’t return your phone call yesterday. In fact, you have not heard from them all week. You call again and still nothing. The silence baffles you. You worked hard to land this customer. You thought the sale was nearly closed. This one was a sure thing.
Why don’t people return your phone calls?
We are not talking about the cold calls we make. In that case, a returned call is a bonus. We are discussing returned calls from people you have actually talked to many times before. Calls to people you have met with, had lunch with or maybe even done business with.
This pattern of unanswered calls can still amaze many of us. We need to realize that a few weeks of unreturned phone calls means that the answer is “no” to whatever it is you want to talk about or the person no longer values your relationship. In fact, I yearn for them to leave a voice mail in the middle of the night when my cell phone is off and yell: “Barry, you screwed it up. Don’t ever call me again.” That message I understand and respect.
Why don’t people just call or e-mail and be blunt? With all the electronic and increasingly impersonal ways to communicate with each other, why has this task not become easier for people?
The three reasons are:
1. People are just too busy and overbooked. Their rush to multi-task unfortunately even overruns some basic human courtesies.
2. Technology has created too many contact points. While our expectations are high with all the possible instant communication methods, it has become increasingly difficult to simultaneously handle all of them. The average business person needs to check messages from multiple phones, e-mail and social media accounts.
3. People are cowards. It takes courage to face a “confrontation” and say, "no." Most busy people don’t want to take the time to deal with it. They find it easier to ignore it.
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Here is how to get your phone call returned and what to do if it does not get returned using a “Rapid Release” strategy:
1. Make the initial call. Leave specific instructions on the desired action you need with a time frame in which you would like to be called back.
2. If no answer, call back in a week.
3. If no answer, call back in two weeks.
4. In no answer, send a note or leave a voice mail with the following message:
I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to reach you and provide the information you requested. This typically means:
1. You’ve been busy, but are still very interested talking with me about how I can help.
2. You are no longer interested.
Being a business person, I know you can appreciate my position. I want to provide you with excellent customer service and all of the information you require to make an educated decision that will benefit your business. What I don’t want to do is bother you with something if you are no longer interested.
Could you please help us by letting me know which of the two situations we are in? This will allow me to better allocate my time while still providing you with the amount of attention you desire.”
If there is still no answer, forget them as a current prospect no matter how much work it took to get to this point. Put them back into the marketing funnel and dial another prospect.
A “no” answer, even though not optimal is as important as a “yes” because it allows you to move on and close the door. With limited time, a “no” lets you focus on the prospects that still can say “yes."
Why should you return every phone call or e-mail from people with whom you have a relationship?
It’s just good business. Our careers rise and fall with unpredictable economic times. We meet the same people on the way up as we meet on the way down. In other words, today you need something from me and tomorrow I need something from you. If I never returned your phone call when you needed me, what is the likely outcome when the roles are reversed? Communicating in a respectful way will build the critical relationship capital with other people that you need for your business success.
Have you returned all your calls today?