If one of your clients is too busy to meet with you, it could be a sign of the times, or it could be a sign that the account is on its way out.

When your client is particularly difficult to get a hold of, says Rosemary Smyth, business coach and owner of Rosemary Smyth and Associates in Victoria, you may have to ask yourself: what is going on with this client relationship?

Before making any drastic decisions, you will need to find out whether your client is genuinely pressed for time or avoiding you. Smyth offers these five tips to help you get in touch with your most elusive clients:

1. Make it the client’s call
Ask your clients for the best way to contact them to prevent missed calls and ignored emails.

“Put it in their court,” Smyth says, “about when really is the best way, the best time and best place to reach them.”

For example, should you email the client or call him or her at work?

2. Ask permission
Make the information you send, and when you send it, the client’s decision.

You will get a better response rate from your clients, Smyth says, if you ask their permission to send information. For example, tell clients you have a newsletter and that you’d like to add them to the distribution list. Ask your clients which email or location you should to send it to.

3. Be brief and to the point
Leave succinct phone messages with a clear purpose to get clients to call back.

If your message meanders and starts with “I’m just calling to touch base,” Smyth says, your client is less likely to get back to you. Instead, leave a short message with a clear reason for the call.

4. Grab their attention
Create a sense of urgency, Smyth says. Emphasize why it’s important that your client speak with you.

For example, you might need to discuss a policy that’s about to come due or make a decision regarding a particularly investment.

5. Plan ahead
Set meetings months in advance so there’s no excuse for a client to reschedule.

Talk to the client about his or her schedule for the year, Smyth says. If the client mentions that the summer months are particularly busy for him or her, schedule an appointment in September.

As well, if your client mentions that he or she will be away for an extended period — if the client is a snowbird, for example — make a note of it, she says, so as to avoid calling the client repeatedly when he or she is unavailable.