This is about communication: it only works if all parties participate. Just as you can’t have an argument alone ( although I might dispute that), if you don’t bother to return the call or the email, it simply won’t work. Yes, we are all way too busy, deluged by both important and ridiculous emails and calls. Some are flat out scams, some are flat out violations of the DO NOT CALL registry and some are even legitimate.
Sure, there are plenty of calls we don’t return and it’s kind of ok; if it is cold call sales call or or the ‘press 1 to schedule your appointment for carpet cleaning’, or a pitch for a new campaign that has nothing to do with you. But in business, it is simply irresponsible to not acknowledge a call or an email. There are many options now that we didn’t have in the past- email, text, messaging, snapchat, phone calls; not being ready with the answer your caller is seeking is not a legitimate reason for ignoring a contact.
The Firehose Is Full Blast
Opening up my email inbox every morning resembles a treasure hunt: digging through the dirt to find friends that I want to hear from, replies for emails I sent last week or yesterday, notices about things or issues I may be tracking. I let certain email newsletters through, even if I don’t have time to read them.
The sheer volume of incoming information is daunting, keeping track can be tough. You need to find a way to prioritize your communications:
- which is urgent,
- which is important,
- which you need to address sooner or later and,
- those that can be discarded.
The ability to triage your contacts and figure out what has to be handled, what needs more research, which may be social or political and require a response no matter what, and what you can delay, but not ignore, is crucial to managing the incoming flood.
No Is An OK Answer
- Many times people tell me they didn’t get back to me because they didn’t have the answer to my question.
- Many times they weren’t sure what was the right thing or best thing to say.
- Many times the answer would be no, and they didn’t want to be the bearer of bad tidings.
- Many times the person simply hasn’t had a chance to address my request yet.
As a fundraiser and development person, no is a word I hear frequently, so often in fact, I expect to hear it, and that in and of itself is ok. We all have to, or get to, say no many times in life. And while most of us don’t want to disappoint someone who has asked something of us, simply ignoring the uncomfortable effort of an official rejection is worse.
Just Tell Me
I don’t like turning someone down either, but waiting, waiting, waiting for a call that never comes is terrible. Be an adult, show respect for the other person’s time and willingness to ask for something, and respond. If you don’t want to talk to them directly, there are other ways to convey the message. Call late when you know they won’t pick up. Send an email that fully explains the situation. Send a text noting you saw the email or got the call and you will get back as soon as possible. The void of no reply at all is unacceptable.
Bad news needs to be delivered promptly and directly; don’t sugar coat it and don’t avoid it. Of course the first few days you don’t make that call can feel a bit uncomfortable, but after that you kind of forget, or deliberately put it out of your mind. But I guarantee the person waiting for your answer will not forget that they never got any response from you.
Just Do It: A Few Suggestions
- Hi, got your inquiry, don’t have an answer for you just yet, but will be in touch as soon as I do.
- I am so sorry, we are not going to be able to help you out this season, thank you for asking us.
- Hey, know I am way late with the info I promised, I will get it to you as soon as I can.
- Wow, am way behind and haven’t had a chance to read and edit the article, will do and send over my notes by Friday.
- The project never really got off the ground, but do circle back in a week and we will have the new schedule organized.
- Totally swamped, haven’t forgotten you, simply buried in it. Promise not to let you slide off the desk and connect as soon as I can.
Did you forget?
There are times I am sure I have called someone back, only to realize that I forgot. My intentions were good, but I simply didn’t do it. As soon as I realize this, I send an email. Calling to say you forgot and still don’t have what they were seeking wastes time for you both, but a sincere apology will be welcome.
We are all way too busy with too much to try to fit into the business day. The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, works well here. Take the time to jot on your calendar when, day or time or both, you promised to return the call or answer the email
Show enough respect to provide an acknowledgement, even if you can’t offer an answer.
Don’t let prospects and contacts twist in the wind, waiting for a yes, no or later answer for an inquiry.
It’s not hard, please return the call; it will be worth it.
If you need some assistance triaging your incoming deluge, we’d love to help make it easier. Call, and we promise to call you right back! 310 828 6979
image credit: http://www.shatterbox.biz/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Return-call.jpg