You’ve spread your phone number all over town through local directory ads, on websites and in other advertising media. Smart move. Your next step: Answering the phone and turning those callers into customers. It may sound easy, but many small businesses lose sales by fumbling the phone call – or never even answering the phone.
A call-tracking study of local directory advertisers by market research firm CRM Associates found that the typical business missed about 1 in 12 calls. Many businesses, such as painting contractors and caterers, missed 1 in 5. And when they did answer the phone, a survey by RHL & Associates found that only 33% of businesses asked what the caller was looking for and 89% never attempted to schedule an appointment. Overall, just 24% were rated as giving excellent phone service.
Don’t be one of those statistics on lost opportunities. When the phone rings, be prepared to win the sale with these simple steps:
Answer the phone!
Nobody wants to talk to your machine. Many potential customers will simply move on to the next company when they hear your message start. Train your crew to scramble when the phone rings. If you’re in a big warehouse or out of the office, use call forwarding to mobile phones so a real human is always available. If you’re already with a customer and the call must go to message, make sure you call back as quickly as possible.
Anyone tasked with phone customer service should be ready to:
- Take an order
- Answer questions about products or services
- Schedule a service call or delivery
- Know the policies on returns or complaints
- Handle price adjustments or replacements
- Respond to questions about your latest ads and competitors’ ads
Practice good phone manners
Answer in a businesslike way with the company name, your name and a friendly greeting. Be enthusiastic, respectful and patient with callers; try smiling when you talk, it actually helps set your mood. Speak clearly and pace your speech patterns to the caller’s, not too fast or too slow.
Be a good listener
Let the caller explain what he or she wants. Don’t be quick to interrupt or give an answer. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered by a yes or no. Sum up your understanding: “So what you’re saying is….” Keep the conversation going and the customer engaged.
Move the caller to a sale
Remember: Anyone calling you is actively looking to buy; your job is to make them feel good about a decision. Based on what you’re hearing about the client’s needs, suggest upsells. Already have a game plan on how to overcome the common objections to your product. Most important, ask for the order or the appointment. But don’t sound too pushy. Try “We have openings tomorrow afternoon. Can I put you down?” or “I can ship it today. Do you have your credit card handy?”
Whether you made the sale or not, look on every call as part of an ongoing business relationship and end on a positive and gracious note.