If you were being introduced at a party or a trade show to someone you realized might put serious money in your pocket through that relationship, would you:
A. Excuse yourself during the introduction to talk to someone else
B. Act disinterested and distracted
C. Be texting or looking up items on your cell phone
D. Appear disturbed that you had been interrupted from another activity
E. Rush through the conversation so you could get back to another task
F. Hang on their every word, graciously ask about them and their life, give the meeting all the time required, and make certain to get their card or other information for a future meeting.
If you feel like the answer to that question is way, way too obvious, then why do you treat incoming phone calls more along the lines of A-E? Not every incoming phone call is from a huge potential client, but some of them are. Some incoming calls are from existing good clients. Some are from someone who only need to spend a dollar now, but knows someone who needs $10,000 worth of work.
It has always been a mystery to me why small business owners take their phone courtesy and methods so casually. You paid money to get folks to call you. Every phone call is an opportunity to:
✓ Start a new relationship with a client
✓ Find a new supplier who might improve your business
✓ Gather information about how people are finding you
✓ Add someone to your email list
✓ Learn information about things you aren't offering that many are asking for
Personally I have always answered my own phone, even when I was president of a 100 employee manufacturing business. And the primary incoming phone lines were answered by highly trained clerical people. As an independent marketing consultant, I answer every call. Occasionally a call will go into voice mail and it is returned as soon as humanly possible. I can't afford to miss opportunities that I have paid dearly to generate.
I also tend to give every salesperson who calls me the time of day. As long as their offering has some relationship to what I do, and that they are not merely reading a script, I will be courteous. The minute or two that I offer them to get to the point is like an inexpensive roll of the dice. Every once in a while, it pays off, big time.
One more quick idea to emphasize this point. I know companies that are spending hours trying to develop relationships on Twitter or Facebook on the hope of finding that one elusive client. If the same person called on the phone, they might get a bored or disinterested clerk who wants to get back to finding customers on Facebook
Action steps for Day 20:
- Review your phone etiquette from A - Z
- Emphasize to every employee that each caller is a diamond in the rough
- Return calls promptly
- Check your automated system frequently to make sure the music is not fuzzy
- Don't complicate the process for callers to get to you, the owner