Sales people know how important first impressions are. Good sales people know the importance of a firm handshake and how to dress for success. Great sales people can befriend anyone they speak with, whether it is on the phone or in person. However, in today’s business climate there is a whole host of things that can affect the outcome of a sale, that may have nothing to do with how good your sales team is.
I not talking about the latest boycott of big business that shows up on YouTube or Facebook. I am talking about the little things that can affect whether a potential customer chooses your company over another one. These are simple to manage things that affect just about every small service business out there. All of these start with a phone call.
Everyday millions of small business inquires go to voicemail, are not answered, hear a busy signal, or are placed on hold indefinitely after the call is answered. Your customers will judge your business before you answer the phone or before you even utter your answer phase. Once you answer the call they then judge how that greeting sounds and whether or not they have your full attention. As the call progresses, the caller is making decisions about you and your company by how much you listen and how you sound.
When it comes to small service oriented businesses today, most of the business starts with a phone call. Even with the Internet, most people want to speak with a person on the phone before they make a buying decision. Think about the last time you hired a plumber through a website or selected an attorney because they had big billboard on the freeway. You may have made decided to call them because of the form of advertising they chose, but you hired them because of the trust you built with them on the phone first. In many cases it only starts there, your business may need to schedule the person for a consultation just to find out you are the right fit for them.
Customers will go to the next business on the list if you don’t answer. Maybe they leave a voicemail but by the time you get around to calling them back they have chosen another company and you didn’t have a chance to tell them how great you are. That’s why most businesses hire a receptionist so they can answer the phone calls. Sometimes things happen though and employees need time off, need a sick day, or they are just late for work.
Every business wants an edge over the competition so here is a experiment all small business owners should try. Call your competitors when they are closed. Most will find that when the business is closed a human does not answer the phone. Then consider the number of customers in their market that call just after the business closes or just before they open everyday. How many missed opportunities is that a year? Sure, you may get some of the business, but the company that can answer calls after hours will get more. Today many entrepreneurs have a mobile phone and it is not uncommon for people to take inquires after hours on their cell phone. Unless you do not have a life out side of business it will be hard to manage that for very long.
Most customers are reasonable as long as a representative of the company answers the phone in a professional manner and handles the request. The customer will pleased that someone helped them. Consider this the next time you return a voicemail or a caller hangup up before you answer the phone. In a January 2010 survey by Consumer Reports Magazine, “Not talking to a human of the phone” is one the most annoying things consumers deal with. Even more annoying that tailgating drivers and bad airline service.