Why your Clients Are Not Returning Your Calls

  By Frank Risalvato  |    Wednesday March 7, 2013

Category: Columns, Expert Advice


I just had a friendly email exchange with a former insurance company executive who was Senior Vice President of operations of a publicly traded company based on the Northeast.

For years I’d call him and leave messages. And for years, he’d completely ignore me.

Now all of a sudden, having changed his career mid-life, he has become my bosom buddy wanting me to coach and train him since --- you’ll never believe this --- he bought himself a recruiting firm.

Funny how life sometimes cycles back full circle. Fortunately for me – we were never antagonistic or mean with each other and chalked up our former life experience to nothing other than “it was just business”.

For years I’d call, perhaps once or twice each and heard nothing but crickets in return. In my mind I deserved special treatment since we both lived in the same country club housing development. In his mind, he couldn’t care less. I was one of 100s of annoying sales people calling him every few months due to his high visibility in all the usual databases.

I was therefore quite surprised when another high-ranking Regional V.P., from my buddy’s former employer, emailed me with her resume. She too thought she was going to receive immediate and special attention since she came referred by our mutual friend.

She was surprised when I told her we barely said hello to each other for the 9 years we lived practically as neighbors. I never even knew person “A” had a personality. The most reaction I ever got from “person ‘A’” was the echo everyone hears when the Tin-man on the Wizard of Oz pounded his hollow chest.  That was about all the reaction, feedback and responsiveness I could expect.

We had a few laughs and I continued my usual routine of prescreening and setting up a file for possible future use. Apparently (and I knew this would happen) my Tin-man hollow echo comment made its way back to former neighbor/SR VP/who-is-now-a-search-firm-owner and he felt he owed me an explanation.

The Million Dollar Voice Message

He left me a fantastic, detailed, voice mail that sums up what life in the shoes of a publicly traded corporate Sr. Vice President is like. And why he had no choice but to pick and choose which calls to not return.

In fact, his voice message was so enlightening, educational, sincere, and informative, that I feel it is itself an invaluable training tool for every recruiter in the country.

I uploaded the bulk of the voice mail message in its entirety for you to hear for yourself. Here it is for you:


Click here to hear the voice mail message yourself 


Now that you heard what he had to say you should know what he later revealed about what successful sales people did differently that got them through.

Did you hear what he said? Did you pay attention to why he can’t return almost almost all of his calls back?

I hope you appreciate the time I took out of my day to prepare and share that with you (it does take some techie stuff to get it from voice mail to MP3 format). 

But there’s more. In subsequent discussions by phone and email he got into more detail. Here’s what his follow up message disclosed about what the successful sales people did. These are the ones he did return calls to.

The successful sales people did one of the following:

  1. They were relentless. They would call on a regular schedule, either weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-monthly.
  2. They would follow up on their own initial calls, building up momentum each time and would do so for months. That in of itself proved they had a good calendar and planning set up.
  3. They were amusing. The successful ones would make a wise-crack or joke about the problems that the executive would soon experience, if he didn’t return the call.
  4. Their humor hit a chord and was often dead on.

Who never received a call back:

  1. Anyone that sounded like they were reading from a script
  2. If the sales pitch was verbatim and unnatural ---
  3. If they were boring or had no personality

Admittedly I was probably boring as quite truthfully I did not have anything to sell, never had a valuable candidate to discuss, and my calls were all centered upon the concept of “lets just chit-chat” or “BS”.

Those messages were the first that got tossed as he had no time to BS or chit-chat about anything non-specific, not even with someone he’d have to say hello to coming in and out of the same neighborhood. It didn’t matter.

I also found out, post-mortum, that he had been using the same retained (not contingency as they are seen as cheap and cutting corners at his level) search recruiter for 12 years.

I found out the recruiter that got all the business was the one willing, able, and patient enough to deal with Human Resource’s antics and antagonism.

Once he found one that knew how to diplomatically dance around H.R. he was not about to risk introducing another - - especially considering it HR’s quirks (unless of course – you have a million dollar candidate – that changes everything always).

Getting Your Calls Returned

Listen to the message yourself. This is your chance to hear a real, live Senior Vice President (he was at that level for 2 companies) tell it like it is. I was given full permission to post the audio file and share this with the nation’s recruiters.

Now make sure you do the opposite of all the reasons he listed in his voice mail (and follow up tips) for not returning calls.

There’s your key to success. There’s your key to getting calls returned.

Always be amicable and never hold grudges. Ironically, I’m now in a training contract because this SR. VP, who listened in on some of our audio/video training samples, (while preparing this article for you since I wanted to get his okay) now wants me … to train him … how to recruit for his clients.

He knows how many hours I work each week (not many) and how much I earn monthly (about as much as he did in a whole year). So the tables are now full circle and the guy that never could get a call back (me) is being hired to train the former SR.V.P./Currently Search-firm-owner to boost his revenue. 

Within two years after bidding farewell to the corporate world in 1987, Frank Risalvato founded www.iresinc.com the search firm he continues to operate today which has undergone various transformations during the years.  His “Maximizing Search Firm Success” recruiting training book is the first ever published for the purpose of educating clients on the proper business practices and etiquette (which we all know clients desperately need a course in!) He’s happy to help answer your questions and is probably sitting at his desk in shorts when you call him at 704 243-2110 and fris@iresinc.com

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