People who don't return messages is a hot button for me. My Dad taught me to treat people with respect, which includes returning your calls and messages. It's just the right thing to do. I personally return every call and email (several hundred a day), even if my answer is a simple, "No thank you."
So why don't people call you back? In my business, Executive Recruiting, timely responses are critical to hiring top executives. If the hiring company is slow or unresponsive, a strong candidate will three other job offers and be long gone. Here are a few possible reasons why your call was not returned.
No Value Proposition - This is by far the most common reason: your subject is not important to them. It you have a great value proposition like free tickets to Bruce Springsteen or a job with a 25% pay increase, you will always get called back. Unfortunately, most people only call to ask for something. A job, investments, introductions. That is not a strong value proposition. Actually, that is you calling in favors, not offering value. Here is a great story that illustrates the point. I'm hosting a mixer at the Foundation Room and talking with the CIO of a Fortune 500 company. A sales guy from Cisco walks over and says to the CIO, "Hey, I left you a bunch of messages and you did not get back to me." The CIO did not miss a beat and responded, "Do you know why? I'm the CIO of a $10B company, and I have a fleet of people that deal with buying routers. It's not on my radar; buying hardware is not a priority for me." The higher your value proposition, the more quickly your calls will be returned.
Your Topic is Not a Priority - Most people are running on the treadmill of life these days. One long, continuous air raid siren. Too much to do and not enough time. The second big reason people don't return your call because they have other priorities. Your topic is undoubtedly a priority for you, however it may not make their radar screen. No one is going to drop everything they are doing for a topic that is not a priority for them. They are not trying to be rude, just preoccupied with something more important.
CEOs are Busy, Busy, Busy - Business Owners and CEOs are REALLY busy. Be patient. Getting your calls returned takes time. That is no disrespect to you, more a function of the CEOs schedule. My model is to email the person, then wait a week. If there is no response, I'll follow up with a second email. Still nothing? Then I pick up the phone and call them directly. And for any situation that is HIGH PRIORITY, I skip the emails and pick up the phone. Understand that senior executives have their hands full, so give them a few days to respond.
Health Issues - When you are down with the flu and a fever, the last thing you care about is checking your email. Or maybe they have a sick Mother or child. Family health issues trump pretty much everything, including your email or phone call.
Travel - When I travel, I only respond to high priority client messages. Too much work to write extensive emails on an iPad. Again, if it's important, I can call them on the phone. And how about people that send an email, then call you ten minutes later to ask, "Did you get my email?" Well yeah, probably, but I don't stare at my computer screen all day waiting for you to send me something. Personally, I check messages twice a day. Available by phone from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM, then the phone gets turned off. Nothing is so important that it won't wait until the morning. Keep in mind that when executives are on the road, it may take a few days for your call to be returned.
You are no Longer "The Man" - You find out who your friends are when you are unemployed. All the people that used to call asking for favors no longer return your calls. Why? Because they know you are looking for a job, and they either can't help or don't want to. Don't feel bad, they were never your friends, just acquaintances. Your career situation is an emergency for you, not them.