By Tom Searcy

Chasing sucks. Prospects, clients, people who owe you information, drawings, money. I hate having to chase. Most of us have to do it–A LOT. Most of the time we go into the bottomless pit of voice mail hell to be tortured by the digital demons therein. Here is how to get your phone call returned more often. There are no perfect strategies that guarantee 100% response; even the IRS auditors don’t get 100% return calls. But you can do much better if you follow this approach.

Quick note: This skill focuses on getting a returned call from someone you have already met. Prospecting is a different skill.

Step 1: Tell the person what you want.
Calls that say “Call me when you get a chance” are relegated to someone’s “B” or “C” priority list. (When was the last time you were working your “B” priority list?). If your voice mail says “Give me a call back, I have a couple of things I want to review with you,” then you are never going on that person’s radar of must-do priorities.

Tell the person you are calling what you want right at the beginning of the call. Make certain your voice mail is not longer than 40 seconds- they won’t listen to it. What do you tell them you want? A document, a phone call, an email, a piece of information- whatever it is that you want, ask for it and ask for it fast. I’ll give examples below.

Step 2: Speak in terms of time.
Tell them:
* How long the returned call will take. (3 minutes, 11 minutes, “less than a cup of coffee” are all good increments)
* Must-talk-by date and time. Your message needs to say, “This call has to happen by….” And then give the date and time. End of day tomorrow, Friday by noon, this afternoon before 3:45pm. Success goes up if the window is later than 4 hours from now and no later than 24 hours from the point of your voice mail message you are leaving. If, by some miracle, you are actually talking to an administrative support person, the time issue is the same, just ask to book the appointment.

Step 3: Declare consequences.
To create urgency you need to declare consequences. Notice I used the word “consequences” not “threats.” Consequences are the natural and understandable outcomes of an action or inaction. You are telling the person you are reaching out too that if he does not call back to you this will happen. Factual and without emotion. Here are some approaches:

* Negative Option – If you do not hear back, you will assume the answer is “no” and you will act accordingly.
* Time expiration – If you do not hear back, time will expire on the offer and what has been offered will be rescinded.
* Delay of Progress – If you do not hear back, then the proposed date for start or end will not be attainable and will be delayed.
* Positive Option – If you do not hear back you will take that as tacit approval and will move forward with the previously agreed upon actions.

* “Bill, this is Tom from XYZ. I need the final drawings we discussed by noon tomorrow in my email or I will not be able to honor the delivery date of next Friday. Please give me a 30 second call when you have sent them to confirm. Thanks.”

* “Sue, this is Joe from PDQ. I need confirmation of the wire transfer by end of business today or we will not ship. Please give me a call back by 4:00pm to ensure shipment. Thanks.”

* “John, this is Deirdre from Pinnacle. I only need 3 minutes to get the details from you I need to give you the proposal you requested. If we connect by noon today, you’ll have my proposal before you pack up to go home. Thanks.

* “Frank, this is Alex from Acme. A call no longer than a cup of coffee will sort out the issues you raised about the proposal. We have been out of touch for over a week- that usually means bad things. If I don’t hear back from you by end of day tomorrow, I’ll take that as a definite “no” and assume you are not interested in the proposal. Thanks.”

What you should notice is that
1) This approach takes a forceful and direct tone, rather than a subservient and weak tone.

2) The messages are short. People rarely listen to long, detailed voice mails. They scan, much like we scan our emails. They store the things they intend to listen to later and delete everything else. They rarely get to what they say and eventually it solves itself or they delete it.

3) Action requests, time frames and consequences are clear.

Tom Searcy is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and the foremost expert in large account sales. Tom is the author of RFPs Suck! How to Master the RFP System Once and for All to Win Big Business and the co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company.

Leap of the Week:

In order to make this exercise easier,write a mini script for your phone messages. Leave dates, times and specific requests blank so that it can be re-used. Have it in front of you when you are making your call so that you don’t stumble and veer off on a tangent and end up on the “B” priority list. Be prepared and get better results!