At most meetings of The FENG here in Westport I take a few minutes during my introduction to explain the best approach to contacting other members of our now vast organization.
The best approach to contacting just about anyone, including other members, is to first send a letter of introduction with a copy of your resume. I know this flies in the face of things you may have learned, but in a few quick paragraphs, let me see if I can explain.
The first of Matt’s laws of which you should be aware is that speech is the slowest form of communication. To call someone and walk them through your background is a difficult proposition at best. The same information can be communicated by reading your resume in about 1/10 the elapsed time. (I haven’t actually done any time studies on this point, but you can probably take my word for it. As has often been said, it can take some folks ten minutes just to clear their throat.)
Next, let me introduce you to “The Man from Mars” syndrome. Very briefly, if you call me without writing first, keep in mind that I don’t know who you are or what you want, and I sure don’t know how to help you. If you write first, all this is solved. Now I know why you are calling and I can tell my secretary not to put you through. (Just kidding. Once any member is aware that it is another member from our circle of friends, I know they will hang up on their boss or their spouse to talk to you.)
Now that you have made it possible for me to “read more about you” AND I know why you are calling, there may actually be time during my day to CALL YOU. It would be nice if your email to me had an outgoing signature with a phone number at which you can be reached, and that you signed your full name and nick name. I can’t begin to tell you how many emails I still get without a signature and without a phone number too. (Fortunately, I have what I call Matt’s secret decoder ring, and I can usually figure out who you are, unless you write from an email address I don’t have, which does happen at least once a week.)
If your children are grown and out of the house, try asking one of your neighbors kids to come over and show you how to set up your outgoing signature. Any small child over the age of 8 can probably help. (It really is that easy. You won’t even have to call tech support. I promise!) Absent available children, type “signature” into the help box.
The final step is to make sure that I can leave a message. Please, no messages with small children or dogs barking in the background. I would also appreciate it if you would mention your name. I usually know the number I dialed, but what if I made a mistake in writing it down from your message. (How do I know I am leaving a message with the right person?) I want you to know I tried to call you back. I would hate for you to think I was being rude or didn’t care enough to return your call. So, help me out and make sure you have voice mail that is properly set up and that sounds professional.
To quote Peter Drucker, management guru: “People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”