Long-time readers may remember me griping occasionally about the failure of so many business contacts to return phone calls or e-mail.
I think it’s because most people are so busy that they have no time to deal with complex messages. If they can’t respond immediately with a snappy answer like “Yes,” “No,” or “Thursday at 2,” they have trouble processing the message in real time. So they put it off, recording the message on a scrap of paper or saving it in voice mail. Or they leave the unanswered e-mail in their Outlook “In” box – where it quickly (and conveniently) slips off the screen, never to annoy them again.
Either way, few people are organized – or professional – enough to either finish processing messages immediately, or maintain follow-up systems. (I’m working on both of those myself.)
To get my calls returned, lately I have had some success with calling or e-mailing people back (after waiting a week or so), acknowledging how busy they are, and simply asking them to confirm their receipt of my original message. That’s usually enough to get them to process the message and move it forward, since it gives people a non-committal, non-judgmental opportunity to pick up the ball.
The other thing I am working on is making it easier for people to respond immediately by reducing what I want to its simplest form. Example: asking for a short meeting if what I want is a million-dollar contract. The old KISS rule (Keep it Simple, Stupid) still rules!
I know the seasoned pros out there learned all this long ago, but for the rest of us, success in an era of shrinking attention spans is a ongoing journey of discovery.
If you have a system that works for you, please let us know in a comment. (Or if it's really powerful, send me an e-mail so only you and I know it.)