I used to think the problem with getting emails and voicemails returned is that they either didn’t get through (which happens) or the person deleted them (which also happens).
But I have found that the tools for managing emails and voicemails create an even more dangerous demon for getting action: the ease of delay. Because if the recipient of your call or email doesn't take immediate action, the likelihood of any action shrinks.
How many emails do you scan and say to yourself, “I’ll get to that later”? What about your smartphone or office voicemail box–is it empty, or full of messages you plan on listening to later?
To increase the likelihood of getting a response to your message, you have to change your communication expectation. Your messages shouldn't be used for making a point, or conveying a complete idea or explanation. They are about getting action–a meeting or phone call, a request for information, a decision, an appointment or something else.
Here are some tips to getting action from your messages:
1. Create interest fast. You have seven words in the subject line of your email to get it opened, one sentence to get it scanned and two sentences to get it read. You have to jump into the middle of the issue from the start. A way to think about this technique is like a TV or film editor: Let's say you can start the scene with the character getting out of the car, or on the sidewalk, or at the front door ... or with the moment the front door opens. Most modern shows start the scene at the door opening–because that is when the action starts. Leave out the preamble in an email or voicemail and go straight to the issue so that the person doesn’t “save you for later.”
2. Create urgency for response. A number of things can create a reason for speed: the author, an expiration moment on a decision, or even a “negative option” that lets the recipient know that if you do not receive a response by a certain time you will be moving forward with a course of action. Too often people send out communication without a sense of timeliness of when a response is needed. The receiver puts the communication into “things to do later” and later never comes.
3. Make bite-size decision or action requests. Voicemail and email are good for an action request, but not for laying out detailed plans. When you reach a digital demon, don’t tell a story; make a clear ask for a clear reason in a specific time frame. This has a much greater chance of being understood and acted upon than a string of requests and actions left in a message.
4. Leave context for later. In the same vein, do not leave long stories to provide context for your request. We have all received the three-minute story voicemail explaining all of the issues around the point being made. It is better to state what you need and offer to explain the particulars and details when you connect.
Taking this approach gives you one added benefit: a reputation among your contacts for fast, action-0riented messages. This increases the likelihood that your message gets first attention.
On February 24, I'll be hosting a webinar with more tips and strategy on getting past the voicemail, email and other guardians of the gate. Click on the link to register for it.