Everyone has experienced it.  Someone calls you prospecting for business.  You get a message on your voicemail, you get a card or letter in the mail, and sometimes it is something you are interested in getting more information about.  So you return the card, send an e-mail, or pick up the phone.  Then you wait.  And wait and wait.

Recently several business associations have been sending letters, e-mails, and making phone calls to get me to join.  Several of these groups are ones from which I requested information or where I attended an event held for prospective members.   I received their information packet and/or a phone call.  I read the materials and want to talk to them.  I called.  I called.  I left messages.  I e-mailed.  I waited… I have now moved on to something else.  (This example but applies equally to for-profits and not-for-profits.)

Business associations are just like regular for-profit businesses.  They need “customers”.  They may call us members, but make no mistake – we are customers.  As business professionals, business owners, and business leaders, we don’t have time to deal with organizations that are lackadaisical.  These organizations may be not-for-profit, but they aren’t non-profit. What’s the difference?  Well, to my mind non-profit means that there is little intent to “run the business”, to apply the basic tenets of business to an organization created for a purpose other than making money for shareholders.  Not-for-profits run the business and pay attention to the details.

Not-for-profits realize that building the membership base requires follow-up on calls, messages, and e-mails.  It means that if you are fortunate enough to get a prospective member (customer) to contact you, then you don’t want to do anything to lose the prospect BEFORE you talk to them.

It’s not just the business associations.  Businesses experience “No One Answers (NOA)”almost daily.

NOA means time and money lost for your business.  You have potentially lost a customer and a sale if your organization regularly delivers NOA.  If your vendors are NOA, then it is costing you time, resources, and possibly business if their NOA ripples through your organization’s operations.

A client recently told me that the biggest NOA offenders are his CPA and his attorney.  They seem to be competing to see who can go the longest without returning phone calls or responding to his e-mails.

What does NOA signal to your clients, customers, colleagues, and strategic partners?  Here are some possibilities:

*   Your business isn’t that important to me.
*    I have other priorities and can’t be bothered.
*    I have other clients who are a higher priority.
*    I’m disorganized.
*    My business can’t deliver, because I can’t even get information and call you back.
*    Just keep trying; you might get lucky…after all someone eventually wins every lottery.

Certainly you get the point. When no one answers, opportunities are missed.  It doesn’t mean you have to sit by the phone, invest in administrative support, or be at the beck and call (no pun intended) of your phone and your clients and prospects.  It does mean that you need to be organized and conscientious in getting messages, returning calls, and responding to e-mails.  It may mean setting aside an hour every morning and/or evening to make sure you return calls and answer e-mail.  It may mean you look into temporary or virtual administrative support.  What it has to mean is making operational changes to make sure you aren’t wasting your marketing efforts and losing business due to disorganization or inattention.  If you are investing in getting customers to call (and who isn’t), then making sure you answer is a simple step to take.

Copyright © 2004 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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