In the last post I approached the topic of lost opportunities coming from mishandling inbound leads. In essence, it makes sense, before you invest time, money and effort in building an online marketing strategy that you ensure you’re in a position to take advantage of every opportunity.
For many SMB’s, the primary point of contact is often the phone call, so here are 5 top tips for making the most of every phone call.
1. Responsiveness. Now this one may seem obvious but it’s critical that calls are answered promptly. For years many businesses aim to pick up within 3 rings but that’s really missing the point. Firstly, who is going to be answering the call?, are they best person to be handling the call? Many businesses have a receptionist or other admin person answering who’s simply there to screen the call and then pass it onto the appropriate person. If this is the case, ask yourself Why? Is it an ego-thing? Do you want to be seen as the powerful expert that sits in a special room and only takes sales calls once they’ve been screened? Think about the customer, they’ve responded to an ad of some sort and they want to speak to someone who can help with their enquiry, how annoying is it when you tell the person answering the call all about your needs only to be put onto someone else and have to tell the whole story again? If you have someone who can get to the call within 3 rings but the ‘expert’ will answer in 5 rings, then let it ring 5 times so it’s answered by the right person. The other thing to consider is mindset and attitude. We all get busy and distracted with the day-to-day issues that arise in our businesses but unfortunately your new inbound caller doesn’t know that, nor is that their concern so when that phone rings, stop what you’re doing, take a breath and answer the call with a tone that says ‘I appreciate your call, how can I help’.
2. Engagement. The last point segues into the concept of engagement. The goal being, to make a real connection with the customer. If you’re in a competitive industry, and most of us are, it’s tempting to go through the same old sales routine of asking the customers name, details if required and arrange a quote. If the customer is price-shopping and you simply facilitate that process then guess what, you will be price-shopped! Take their mind away from price and really surprise and delight your customer by taking a real and genuine interest in their situation. If it’s a deck that they’re adding to their home, ask about the deck itself, how will they be accessing the deck, are they aware of the differences between hardwood and pine?. Will the deck be overlooking the garden? Which direction will it face? By taking a genuine interest in their project and lifestyle it becomes less about price and you become more of a trusted provider. Practice empathy, put yourself in your customers shoes because picking up the phone to a complete stranger with whom you have no rapport is not easy. Ask them about their experience so far, how have they found the level of experience and professionalism so far from other tradesman? By uncovering any issues early, it allows you plenty of time to address their concerns and gain some trust.
3. Technology. We live in an amazing era, where photos and videos can be exchanged in the blink of an eye. Online mapping services and 3D drawing programs are accessible to everyone and apps like Skype and Facetime make live visual communication quick & easy. Have a good think about how you can use these technologies with your customers whilst you’re on the phone. Let’s consider our deck builder example again, scenario: someone calls in and he asks what street they live in, whilst the customer is offering the address, the builder can pull up Google Maps to check the aspect of the house and the area, the approx size of the deck area in question, he could also see the type of roof and any other considerations that may impact the way in which you approach the job. Ask the customer if they have a smart phone and if convenient, invite them to skype video or facetime so they can walk you through the job and show you the house, roofline, ground and positioning of stairs etc. This has a couple of major benefits: Firstly, it allows you to see the customer and the customer to see you which helps build rapport. you can provide real-time advice that the customer never obtained from anyone else. It also cuts down on travel time, fuel and other costs which could allow you to be more price competitive. Perhaps you could offer a 10% discount for customers willing to take you on a video tour of the job in question, now that’s a USP! If video is too invasive for your customer, what about a photo? They could send you a photo and using a 3d modelling program, you could superimpose a drawing of the deck on the photo to create a very engaging proposal that invites feedback from the customer and gets them involved in the process, ka-ching, you have buy-in!
4. Keep Your Promises. It happens all too often, you speak to a tradesperson or supplier who says they’ll get back to you with a quote. Meanwhile, cobwebs have covered your laptop and phone while you wait. If you say you’ll have a quote to someone by tomorrow, do it, if you can’t , don’t promise it. If you plan to but become delayed by aliens abducting your favourite garden gnomes, ring or email the prospect and let them know when you will be able to get it to me. It all adds up to professional courtesy, integrity and credibility. If takes you 2 weeks to supply a quote, how long will take you to do the job and how many excuses will you give when it can’t be done on time?
5. Follow up. This is easily the biggest gap in the process for many small businesses. You send a quote and you sit back scratching your head wondering why you didn’t get the job! Well don’t waste time wondering, contact the customer and ask for feedback, but there’s an art to it. You don’t want to sound pushy or desperate so avoid vague follow-up statements like ‘how are you going with the quote?’. You’ll be able to uncover a lot more useful information and feedback if you ask specific questions like ‘Where does my quote sit against the other quoted you’ve received?’ or ‘Are the materials I listed in the quote still the ones you’re looking for?’. Even better, offer helpful advice straight up like “I was thinking further about those handrails, the stainless-steel balustrading will be less maintenance and really open up the view of the yard”, you’d be surprised how this approach can open up the conversation.
I’d love to hear about some other tips that have helped you convert more business from phone calls, so leave me a comment!
In the next post, I’ll address the growing trend of call outsourcing and Virtual Assistant services.