Did you know that the first 7 seconds of your phone calls with clients is a fleeting instant where you can either win them over or lose them forever? We all know that first impressions count and now, there’s the research to back it up. For example, the New York University discovered that 11 major decisions are made about you in that brief moment.
Every call starts off with the greeting. That simple, innocuous ‘hello’ can mean the difference between success and failure. Imagine the difference in income between a company that’s getting this right and one that’s getting it wrong.
Because answering the telephone seems like a simple and innocent task, it’s often overlooked as an area that requires significant strategic planning and execution. Here’s how to do it in a way that wins you new clients and makes you money.
1. Adjust Your Attitude before You Answer
We all have stressful times or even days but have you ever considered the subconscious suggestions of what unhappy-sounding staff may imply to someone calling your company?
People want to work with successful businesses to give them the confidence they’re spending their money wisely. If your staff sound unmotivated or like they’re working in an office void of buzz, it could make your company look bad.
Key takeaway: Pause for a moment before picking up the phone. Smiling in real life will project that smile into the call and may even help to lift your own mood. When picking up the phone, an insincere smile is better than a sincere frown. Take a moment before answering and get your attitude adjusted on bad days.
2. Construct and Standardize Your Greeting
Someone met with a standardized telephone greeting will think you sound consistent and professional. Never overlook the power of consistency when it comes to your sales conversions.
Elements of a standard opening may include:
- ‘Good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’, ‘thank you for calling [yourcompanyname]’, just a simple ‘hello’ or a combination of the above
- Consider whether you want your staff introduced in person using their name
- Consider whether you like follow-up questions such as “how can I help you today”
As an example greeting, you could opt for:
“Good morning, yourcompanynamehere. You’re speaking with youremployeenamehere, how may I assist you?”
Different companies require more or less formal greetings, so pick one that’s right for your business.
Key takeaway: Consider what your company represents, who your clients are, choose a standard opening that connects these two points together and make sure all your staff use it with ruthless consistency.
3. Never Multitask While Answering the Phone
There’s nothing more disappointing than having someone pick up the phone only realize they’re typing away, reading an e-mail or even eating. We all know when we’re being listened to and there’s no place in multitasking and phone answering in a reputable business.
Not only will you damage your credibility and professionalism, you also damage the rapport with your client whose intelligence you just insulted.
Key takeaway: Make sure your team know to stop what they’re doing before answering the phone. Pushing the chair away from the desk and turning away from the computer screen is a great way to avoid becoming distracted by instant messages or e-mail notifications.
4. Use Mirroring to Develop Rapport
It’s often overlooked that the technique of mirroring (whereby a client’s demeanor, gestures and tone are all emulated) also works by telephone. While body language and gesticulation isn’t available, talking speed, voice volume, tone and personality can all be mirrored to great effect.
We all want to speak with people who are on the same wavelength as us and mirroring is the way to do it.
Key takeaway: If a quiet, introvert personality type calls, speak to them on their own terms. Lower your time voice, put your extrovert to one side. The same is true of any other personality type, raising if necessary. Be genuine and be yourself, but also seek to match your client.
5. Consider Ways to Convey Professionalism
Have you ever considered if you come across as professional? It’s easy to become complacent and develop bad habits, so always consider some of the following:
- Be wary of using causal language inappropriately
- Never snigger, laugh or raise your voice out of place, being sure to maintain a professional demeanor
- Don’t discuss parties or other extracurricular activities that might be inappropriate outside of work, even if you’re familiar with the client
- If anecdotal stories do appear in phone calls naturally, move swiftly on once you’ve paid them due attention
Key takeaway: It seems like common sense, but it’s easy to forget. Remember that business is business, people have targets to hit and are usually against the clock.is
6. Secretary Specific Strategies
Another thing that’s easy to forget is that a secretary is not a salesperson. They don’t have commission targets or targets for signing on new accounts. This can be a particular problem with telephone enquiries regarding price or often service availability.
- Consider providing your secretary with some kind of basic sales training
- Make it company policy for secretaries never to discuss price on the phone but instead pass them through to a trained salesperson
- Develop the secretary’s skill at booking face-to-face appointments
Key takeaway: There are two approaches to this. Either train your secretary with some basic sales skills, or train them to always pass any enquiries through to sales people.
7. Call Recording, Tracking and Monitoring
It’s difficult to overstate the power of listening back to recorded calls. This is especially true for salespeople. In the heat of the moment, considering the best way to speak with a prospect in a way that will close a sale, you simply cannot look at things the same way. Hindsight is the best remedy.
Also, it’s far too easy to slip into old or bad habits on the phone, so recording or monitoring calls becomes even more important.
Key takeaway: Consider investing in a call recording system or software. At the very least, set aside time each week or month to check up on and monitor people’s calls to make sure strategies is being carried out.
Practicing in Developing Phone Answering Strategies
This final point is all about practice. Half the battle is developing and implementing a strong phone answering strategy that streamlines leads into your business. The second half of the plan is to develop, tweak and practice.
The skill of “being fantastic on the phone” is one that can literally make or break entire careers or even companies and the ethos of constant development in this area should be instilled into your staff. Make sure your business is always moving forward, growing and impressing people in those first 7 seconds.
Jacob Puhl is Cofounder of Firegang Digital Marketing, a local SEO, web design and digital marketing agency for small businesses. To contact Jacob, email jacobpuhl at firegang.com or follow him on twitter (@jacobpuhl) or Google+