Answer the Phone!

Caller ID is both a blessing and a curse. Not in the way you’d think, though. You might think that Caller ID is a curse for the caller (especially if the caller is you, and you happen to be a sales person) and that it’s a blessing for the prospect because they can choose whether they want to be interrupted by an “Unknown Caller.” OK, maybe you’re right.

But I’d like you to consider how Caller ID may curse your sales even if you are on the receiving end of a phone call. Ever since the advent of Caller ID, when your phone rings, you don’t answer it. At least not without first looking at your Caller ID to determine who it is. And, if you’re like most people, here’s what you think to yourself:

“Oh, it’s just that annoying customer. I’ll call them back when I’m done with lunch.”

“It’s an unknown caller (or a private caller). I’m not answering this one.”

“I don’t recognize this number. I’ll let it go to voicemail.”

“What an interruption! I really don’t want to talk to this prospect right now. They are driving me up the wall!”

“That’s a work call. I don’t take work calls after hours.”

“Ah, shoot. I forgot to get back to this guy. I’ll just send him an email later so I can pretend I was tied up in meetings all day.”

That’s crazy talk! What are you doing? You’re a sales person…and your success is directly tied to the number of people you meet and talk to. Customers and prospects are impressed with your availability and your responsiveness. If they can’t reach you, they can’t buy from you. Or they won’t want to buy from you, because they’ll be worried about how hard it will be to reach you when they need support.

And, there’s a great deal of stress that goes along with you having to remember to call someone back. Not only is there the stress of having to remember, there’s also the stress from the anticipation of what that conversation is going to go like. You’re pretty much always starting out in a deficit position when you say “Hi, Bob? It’s me, Noah. Yeah, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. I’ve been tied up in meetings and then I had this family thing, and then I was out of the office. Anyway, how can I help you?”

It’s always easier to get it over with now. In fact, the longer you wait to call someone, the harder it becomes. Every minute that passes just adds to your anticipatory anxiety and to the eventual pain of having to eat crow when you apologize for taking so long to get back to them. Unless you wait long enough to the point when you don’t have to call them back because they are already buying from your competitor. Then you can just call your boss and tell him that you lost a customer because your price was too high.

The reality is that more customers and prospects are lost because of something that you failed to do than because of price. And most often that something is your failure to communicate quickly.

You may think it’s an interruption, an inconvenience, or an inefficient use of your time. In reality, it’s your job! It’s your singular purpose – to talk to as many people who can buy from you as possible.

Here are 6 great reasons to answer the phone when it rings:

  1. Every time a prospect calls you, they’re qualifying you. How easy are you to reach? How responsive are you? How helpful are you? They don’t know what it’s like to do business with your company yet, so how available you are is about the only thing they can judge you on.
  2. If you never answer your phone and if you’re slow to call back, that tells the prospect that you are not that interested in their business. You might think you’re “playing hard to get,” but that’s a strategy for dating, not for selling.
  3. When you’re easy to reach, that gives your prospect confidence. Confidence is the number one factor in determining who to buy from. If I need a new roof, and there are only two roofers in my city, I’m buying from the one that gives me confidence in their ability to perform, commitment to deliver on time, and availability after the sale. If the other roofer is 25% cheaper but I have a hard time getting a hold of them, and they take a day or two to call me back, I start wondering if I’m buying junk product and junk work.
  4. Fast answers result in fast sales. A lead is never hotter than the moment it appears.  When’s the best time to make a sale? When the other guy wants to buy!
  5. Customers call you because they need help. They have a question about how something works, or where their shipment is, or why they’re experiencing a problem. When you don’t answer their frustration rises. And, if you don’t call them back quickly, they are more likely to decide they don’t want to buy from you next time.
  6. From a productivity standpoint, it’s better to answer the phone when it’s ringing. It takes far less time than listening to a message, returning the call, and then having to leave a message if you can’t get through. Phone tag is about the worst use of your time ever. Well, that and watching television. If you’re really on a roll on a project that you just have to finish, answer the phone and explain that. Set a specific time later in the day when you’ll call back with answers. Most customers will be OK with that – and they’ll be able to relax knowing the ball is in your court for a few hours.

So if you’re reading this and your phone is ringing, stop reading! Start answering your phone, and start selling your heart out!

photo credit: visage

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