EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

The truth is that even friends sometimes don’t get back to you when you call. Ever wonder why?

So, if friends have trouble returning calls, is it possible that strangers might be even more reluctant to return phone calls?

I guess the real question is not why folks don’t return phone calls, but what steps can we take as master networkers to improve our results? What factors do you suspect are at work?

Let’s be generous and accept the fact that the world of work is a busy place and the individuals we are trying to reach are those folks who control what I like to call work opportunities. Let us also accept the fact that speech is the slowest form of communication. (Smoke signals may in fact be slower, but most of us don’t use them.)

Anyway, if you are sitting on the other side of the desk faced with a pile of phone messages, which ones are you going to make a priority and which ones are you going to decide to let wait? (Some, I suppose, will wait forever.)

My general rule is that I return ALL my phone calls. Still, some days I have to pick and choose. If I am left a clear message as to the nature of the call and the result that is expected, I can make a pretty good estimate of the time it will take to respond. So many seconds are allocated to pleasantries such as the weather, more seconds for perhaps some aspect of our personal relationship, if any, and finally more seconds to the meat of the conversation and the reason that you have called. On average a phone call is 15 minutes. (Give or take 3 nanoseconds.)

When the phone call is from a “job seeker” or “work opportunity seeker” and you are the one holding the cards, you know it is going to be a long and perhaps unpleasant conversation. You may love the person on the other end of the phone, but you may not have anything to offer up.

So, again, if you have to choose, many of those calls don’t get returned.

But, let’s get back to the question at hand. How can you improve your batting average for returned calls? Step one is not to make totally cold calls. By dropping in a little artillery, I am suggesting you write a “letter of introduction” that explains why you will be calling and what you hope to discuss.

If we are talking about networking contacts you don’t know and who don’t know of you, dropping in an email with details of how you connected with them and how they might be able to help you, as well as sending them a copy of your resume, can save an absolute ton of talk time when you dial their number and actually connect. Even if they have printed off your resume and cover note and lost it on their desk, they can search their electronic mailbox and find it while you are on the phone. (Are computers great or what?) A little hint is to have the email address from which you sent it ready to give them. (This is what I do. My desk can be a little bit of a mess.)

If it is friends we are talking about, giving them a brief on your search, and letting them know why you are calling will either get them to call you or at least prepare them for your call. They will have a better sense of how you are feeling from the tone of your note (be sure to keep it upbeat), and know whether this is going to be a hand holding session requiring a pep talk, or a real work session because you now know a way they can help.

Dropping in a little artillery softens up the beaches of their minds and allows your troops to hit the beach with less opposition. Let those you are trying to reach know what you want and how they can help. Who knows, when you reach them they may even be prepared. (Yes, I know it is a wish and a hope, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?)

Regards, Matt

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