The fastest lesson I learned back in my days of selling advertising was to always pick up the phone. Why? Well, a few weeks into the job, I picked up the phone from an unknown number and within 15 minutes had closed a $30,000 order. Turned out that my brand new client, Julia, had just been tasked with placing a last minute ad buy. She didn’t have the time to wait for a response from an inquiry form; she didn’t have time to wait for a return call. She had $30k, a task at hand and needed to get it done.
The joke of it all was that our receptionist had forwarded her to other (more senior) members on the sales team. All four of them let it go to VM and each time this new client of mine patched back to the front desk and asked for a live person. I just so happened to be the one eager (or naive?!) enough to pick up the damn phone!
We’re learning a lot of interesting things while on this Qtly Tour of ours…the recaps from each city can be found here if you’re interested. Maybe I’m a bit overly sensitive on this topic, especially because of the story I just shared, but that said, there’s one MAJOR take away that I’ve been simmering on for a while, and well, I just can’t hold it back anymore:
PICK. UP. THE. DAMN. PHONE.
Seriously. Pick it up. Well, actually, let’s back up.
First and foremost – make sure you have a functioning phone (yes, there are spaces out there without them or that don’t publish their number or even have disconnected numbers).
Next, if you’ve got a functioning phone, you’re going to want to make sure that the call is answered. Every. Time. What’s that you say? You’ve got a Google Voice system set up? You’ve got a fancy VoIP system with an auto menu? Well, I’m here to tell you that while these technologies are great, if you aren’t using them properly, they’re actually doing more harm than good.
Don’t get me wrong – technology is awesome: Google Voice, Facebook, Twitter, customer service bots (you know those little boxes that pop up and ask if they can help you) the list could go on and on. New services and platforms are popping up all the time to help you connect with potential customers and serve your existing members. Unfortunately that’s not enough.
More likely than not, when someone is making a call, chances are they’re looking for something then and there. They’re calling because they need OR want to buy something, book something or get information from a human being. If they had the time to email or tweet or type to a bot, they would be. Even with all the different technologies we have, the phone call is still the most efficient form of communication.
Last but not least, think about the demographic of your member. Entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners use the phone way more than your typical 9-5 corporate worker. They’re also busy people on the go, managing a growing business. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be looking for space. Not to mention, if your age range is 25-55, than the average age of your prospect is 40 years old. Most 40 year olds you know – are they more likely to make a call or talk to a Facebook Messenger bot?
The Coworkaholic and Communitas teams make it a point to call EVERY single space we can find when getting ready to launch a Qtly event in a new town. It’s this exercise that quickly brought to light that this (not so) little industry of ours has a major disconnect when it comes to how it manages incoming phone calls. You might not think that having a SOPs for picking up the phone let alone maybe even having a phone is worth it. Well think again:
Through the last 90 days or so, we’ve discovered:
Roughly 1 out of 10 spaces that we attempt to call have a disconnected line or the phone number is published incorrectly.
Roughly 2 out of 5 spaces don’t publish a phone number anywhere on their site, Facebook profile or on Google Maps.
Only 3 out of 10 spaces actually answer the phone (and most of those who do are more traditional business centers/legacy virtual office operators).
1 in 3 spaces have a system that sends you to either a menu dead end or a full VoiceMail box.
1 in 4 spaces actually return a voicemail within 36 hours.
(And, don’t get me started about the experiences we’ve had sending emails to a generic “Contact@xyz.com” or the dreaded “Submit Your Info Here” contact form.)
Now, mind you, we’re doing general outreach: not trying to sell a single thing. In fact most of our calls involve giving spaces a free ticket to an event or asking to schedule an interview and/or Facebook Live tours. These are all things that folks want. And, when we actually do hear back, it’s often too late and they are “so bummed” they missed the chance.
So, I guess that begs to ask the question – if someone’s not picking up your phone, what are you missing?