Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Key to More Sales - DON'T Answer Your Phone!

Have you ever been caught off guard when answering your phone?

Even with Caller ID, I’ve immediately answered calls I should have let go to voice mail.
And, seriously, these were not calls from creditors or irate customers.

They were usually calls from prospects, clients, friends and family that caught me unprepared, without notes and calendar at hand.  More likely than not, my concentration was on something completely unrelated to what was on the caller’s mind.

Even though prospects and clients were often trying to contact me for my benefit; more business, a referral, new client, etc.  I felt like I was not in complete control of the situation.  I often didn’t have needed information at hand.  More than once, I know I sounded like an idiot. Make that a complete idiot.

The answer, as pointed out by Bob Marx in my sales class, is to let every call, unless family or someone I’ve asked to call me, go to voicemail.  That doesn’t mean I won’t listen to the message right away and get back sooner, if necessary, rather than later.  It does mean that I will be thoroughly prepared and focused when I call them.

The difference can be huge! I initiate the return call, and am prepared with all available information at hand, and completely focused on the prospect, client, etc.  I’ve made time to collect my thoughts for the upcoming call.  This gives me the best opportunity to communicate with them and give the facts, answers, or advice they were seeking.

When I contact them, (assuming they haven’t read this article!), the first thing I say is, “Sorry I missed your call. I got your message.  Is this a good time to talk, or should we schedule this call for a future time and date?”  This verbiage shows respect, and leaves the decision whether to talk now, or book it for later, up to the person who originally called. I don’t like being unprepared, and don’t want to catch them off guard either.  This is why I put the ‘schedule for later’ option on the table. If we’re both prepared, mentally and with facts at hand, the call will produce results.  That’s each party’s goal - correct?

I sometimes return calls before they expect me to, and this can have value.  For instance, if the message is, “Please call before the close of business today,” and I call in two hours, I am showing (1) I listened to their request (2) I thought it important enough not to wait till the end of the day.  Returning calls shows respect.  Not returning calls, in my opinion, shows indifference and disrespect.

One side benefit not answering calls is the perception - I’m a busy person!  Alway taking a call or returning them immediately gives the impression I’m sitting at my desk, or in my car, waiting for the next ringtone to occur.  People like to deal with successful people and successful people are not usually available on a moment’s notice.

There’s another important reason not to answer all calls as soon as they come in. They interrupt, and distract from the work at hand.  We can only focus on one task at a time.  The ability to multi-task is a delusion.  When trying to do more than one thing at a time, we actually do poorer on all tasks.  Stopping to take a phone call takes a person off task. When the phone call is completed, there’s time lost on the original mission because of time spent on the call.  We also don’t immediately switch gears and return to the first thing we were doing before the phone call interrupted us.  We need to regroup and refocus our thoughts.  This isn’t done immediately.  Our concentration has been interrupted, and time is lost refocusing.  Sometimes, this can be crucial.  If that phone call is answered in the middle of a high concentration task, the negative impact is multiplied.  It might be best to put a phone on ‘silent mode’ during these period.  This will negate the temptation to look at the Caller ID every time a call comes in. (Accident statistics for driving and talking on a cell phone reinforce this fact.  Please don’t drive and use your mobile.)

The bottom line is this: Return all phone calls.  Return the calls that have possible high value, and those that probably don’t.  Triage them by value when deciding who to call first.  The ones you know are low value will probably keep calling, so they should be dispensed of properly - by returning the call.

One more suggestion before I end this commentary: Apply the same rules of not answering your phone to responding to emails and text messages.  The same benefits of this work recommendation apply.

If you want to discuss this concept, give me a call. But, don’t expect me to answer!

I can be reached at: 314-517-8772 or