It was all going so well. In fact, as it turned out too well… All I needed to do was agree dates with the client for a series of workshops worth nearly £10k to us.

That should be the easy part? Right? Wrong! I delegated the job of agreeing dates to my chief organiser, Lisa. Lisa diligently chased her opposite number at the potential client’s organization, but e-mails, messages and phone calls were just not returned. So, I took the task back and went straight to my contact. I got the silent treatment as well…

It’s at this point that you tend to think that the worst has happened. i.e. the client has decided to not proceed – even though they were so keen just a few weeks ago. However, most of the time it’s not that the worst has happened.

In this blog post, I explore the 7 reasons why your contact is not returning your call and what you can do about it.

1) The work is now no longer an organisational priority

This is normally the reason why your call is not being returned. People are busy and time poor. Unfortunately, this lack of time can often result in good manners going out the window. I.e. informing you that the work discussed is no longer a priority for them.

In this situation the best you can do is phone/email and leave 3 messages with when you are available to talk. On the 3rd message you state that they you realise they are busy and you are assuming that the work discussed is no longer a priority. Then stay in touch with them every month or so by sending them something useful related to the outcomes that you had been discussing with them.

2) Your contact is either on holiday, signed off sick or left the organisation

This happens more times than you may realise. If you are lucky their emails will indicate that they are absent. However, that isn’t always the case. If you know someone else that they work with, this is the time to check in with them to see if they can shed some light onto why your contact isn’t returning your calls.

Do have a check of social media to see if your contact is communicating via other channels. You may be able to find out what is going on via an informal private message on social media.

3) Your potential client has a temporary or permanent cash flow problem

Budgets get reforested, projects get re-prioritised. It happens. This is often one of the reasons why a hot-to-trot prospect goes very quiet on you. It can also be a phenomena called ‘buyer’s remorse’ where the buyer gets cold feet about the purchase and never quite manages to commit.

Your aim here is to get some dialogue with your contact to find out what the problem may be. Sometimes a ‘direct’ question is what is needed here.

In this situation the best you can do is phone/email and leave 3 messages with when you are available to talk. On the 3rd message you state that they you realise they are busy and you are assuming that the work discussed is no longer a priority. Then stay in touch with them every month or so by sending them something useful related to the outcomes that you had been discussing with them.

4) You’ve mucked up and annoyed the potential client

This doesn’t happen as much as we may fear. However, it is a very real possibility. Do think back over your last few communications with the client. Did you see any body language clues or hear any awkward pauses when you last spoke?

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In this situation you may find that an apology via email or voicemail may open up communications.

5) Your contact is overwhelmed with work and/or meetings

People are busy and time poor, and can get into a pattern of being overwhelmed with work. Anything which is not absolutely essential or time critical gets left.

In this situation the best you can do is phone/email and leave 3 messages with when you are available to talk. On the 3rd message you state that they you realise they are busy and you are assuming that the work discussed is no longer a priority. Then stay in touch with them every month or so by sending them something useful related to the outcomes that you had been discussing with them.

6) Your contact is an e-mail person rather than a phone call person (or vice versa)

Everyone has their own preferences for how they like to be communicated with. When you are talking with them do ask how they prefer to be communicated with.

7) Your diaries are not matching

The best you can do here is be as flexible as possible to take a call or meet them in person. When you leave messages do tell them when you are available for a call. Calling them between 8 and 9 in the morning may be the best time to get hold of them. I.e. before they get called into meetings.

As you can see, there are many reasons why your potential client is not returning your call. Your priority is not to lose heart but to remain visible, and find out the reason for the phone calls not being returned. In my case, the client did finally get in touch and it was as I had thought – their budget had been cut and they wanted to postpone the work until later in the year.

What do you do when your potential client’s are not returning your call?

Click here to download our free ebook "The reluctant business developer's guide to winning clients". (email required)

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