They Won’t Return Your Calls

“I can’t get him to return my calls.” 

Sales managers hear this all too frequently from their salespeople.  The “hiding” game is played on a daily basis in selling.  Prospects seldom seem to live up to their commitments to return calls, regularly placing salespeople in voice mail purgatory.

Salespeople, frustrated by their inability to get their prospects to return calls, employ the only tactic they can think of which is to be persistent, leaving messages of ever-increasing desperation to “call me back.”  Eventually, the prospect perceives the salesperson as a pest (which he undoubtedly has become) and the entire relationship becomes more and more strained.  This is one of the most frustrating scenarios for salespeople.

The Rescue Call is an appropriate tactic when you are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with a prospect and have left two or three messages over a period of 10-14 days with the reasonable expectation of having the calls returned.  Left as a voice mail with the appropriate tonality, it goes something like this:

“Bob, it’s Bill Smith with ABC again.  I must admit I’m a little confused.  Several weeks ago we agreed that our next step was to (specify what you agreed to do) and now I can’t get you to return my calls.  I’ve left several messages and I’m starting to feel like I’m becoming a pest.  Maybe I’ve done something to upset you, but I’m not sure what that might be.  Perhaps you’ve just been really busy, but then again maybe you’ve decided to go in another direction and just weren’t comfortable telling me.  In any event, I’m not sure what to do at this point.  Our last conversation was positive and I’m interested in pursuing a business relationship with you, but maybe that’s not a mutual feeling.  Anyway, I’d sure appreciate an update on things, so I can close the file if that’s the appropriate thing to do.  Thanks.”

Yes, it’s a long message, but very effective.  Here’s why:  you’ve taken a very “not okay” position and put a bit of a “guilt trip” on the prospect.  He feels like he’s the cause of your frustration (and he is) and it makes him feel good to straighten the matter out and “put you back together psychologically.”

Skeptical?  You’ll get your calls returned quickly 75% of the time.  (The other 25% probably deserved to have the files closed anyway.)

Self-Study Assignment:  Identify several prospects that are avoiding you to try this tactic.  Write out what you will say and practice it using the appropriate tonality before you make the call.  Also, be prepared for the possibility that you will actually reach the person and will have to deliver the message to him or her personally.