For several year now, I have started my year off by calling past and prospective clients. Last month, I made more than 300 calls. To be clear, I wasn’t calling people on a list that I had purchased, they were all people that either had already hired me before or who worked for organizations that hire paid professional speakers.

As you might guess, very few people answer their phones these days, so for most of those 300 calls I left a voicemail. Less than 10% of people returned my call. If I happened to reach someone on a follow up call, I heard a lot responses   “I am so sorry I haven’t called you back, but I have been crazy busy.

In an effort to help both the person calling and the person receiving messages, below are some suggestions for both parties.

If you make a lot of outbound calls, you might consider the following:

–       Only call people who need your services and don’t hound people!

–       Have an advocate or referral to open the door before you call.

–       Be very clear in your voicemail message why you are calling.

–       Give the person you are calling an out. I often say, “If for any reason you prefer not hearing back from me, kindly let me know by voicemail or email and I will respect your wishes.

–       Make detailed notes when you do talk to someone about their communication preferences. If they prefer email, email only.

–       Give the person you are calling three ways to reach you: phone, email, or text. Sometimes, I’ll tell them they can send me a message by smoke signal or via mental telepathy (though I am not very good at receiving those messages!).

–       If you don’t hear back after your first attempt, try reaching them another way. Sometimes people who don’t respond to voicemails will respond to an email or a LinkedIn message.

If you receive a lot of inbound phone calls:

–       Be professional. Return all calls. If you are efficient, it doesn’t take long and it makes you stand out…really stand out.

–       Don’t string them along – be honest with the person calling you about whether you can use their product or services. It will ultimately mean you will receive fewer calls or eliminate further communication from the person calling you.

–       Train the person who answers incoming calls in your office to be honest as well. It’s easy to ascertain when a receptionist isn’t being truthful about someone’s availability.

–       Make sure your outbound message is up to date. I recently called a prospect and their out of office message was, “I’ll be out of the office until the second week of August and won’t be checking voice mail while I’m gone.”. Wow. That’s a LONG time!

–       Communicate in your outbound message when you might be delayed or working on a special project that would prevent you from returning calls timely.

–       For the next week, return all calls in one or two time periods. Grouping them all together can help make returning calls more efficient.

–       If you are just communicating information and don’t want to talk to the person who called you, call at times they are less likely to answer. Then leave a voice mail message.

Everything we do communicates our own personal brand as well as the brand of our organization. One easy way to stand out in a positive way is to return all phone calls.

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