When People Don’t Call Back

Weiss Advice Issue: 137, January, 2015

In those cases where you expect—and, perhaps, were even promised a return call—and none is forthcoming, there are only a few reasons to examine for cause. Before we do that, let’s establish that a single incident is an accident, two is a coincidence, and three is a pattern. So, if this is happening on a regular basis, it’s your fault.

However, here are the likely causes in no special order:

  1. The buyer is legitimately distracted by severe business or personal issues which require total attention. In this case, a brief passage of time would remedy things, but even better is a call to an assistant to find out what’s going on.
  2. The buyer has simply wanted to end the conversation with you and has therefore asked for a proposal or agreed to a follow-up action  to get you out of the office, instead of saying, “I’m just not interested,” to spare the awkwardness. You have responded and left, Pavlovian-like, instead of really probing true interest.
  3. You are of interest but not of priority. Time is not a resource, but a priority, and the buyer has decided to “spend” it elsewhere. You failed to establish the lost opportunity time.
  4. You failed to set a future time, date, and action, and therefore are not on the buyer’s calendar. Instead, you’ve settled for “Let’s talk again soon,” or “Give me a call in a couple of weeks.”
  5. You were stonewalled by intermediaries. Instead of saying, “I’m calling as promised,” or “It’s confidential,” you’ve tried to talk your way past people who are paid not to allow anyone to talk their way past them.

It’s rude and unprofessional not to return calls, even if just to say, “I’ve changed my mind, we won’t be going forward.” However, it’s just as unprofessional for you to leave you fate in the hands of vague agreements and tentative commitments.

While you’re with the buyer, build trust and provide value. If you do that, it’s hard not to be willing to talk to you again on time and on schedule.