Your phone and the Pavlovian Response

These days phones are almost everywhere. You probably have one in your pocket or handbag, one on your desk at work, and you no doubt have a landline at home too (though these days, it’s often hard to see why). You might even make the distinction between a personal and work mobile, to add more crazy in to the mix.

Phones are there to make communication easier; however, they make getting things done so much harder.

It rings, you answer it; it’s a Pavlovian response and a habit the vast majority of us can’t resist.

However, if you want to get more done it is essential you remember your phone, whatever guise it comes under, is meant to be a tool to help you, not constantly interrupt your day.

Here are my top tips for putting your phone in its place and ensuring you remember who owns who in this relationship!

#1 – Busy? Don’t answer it

You have a phone so you can be reached, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be available constantly. I have a client who will answer her phone no matter where she is – even when in the bathroom!

If you’re busy, you’re busy. Let it go to voicemail, trust me, if it’s important they will leave a message or call back!

#2 – Turn it off

Did you know you can actually turn your phone off? I know, it seems to be news to a lot of other people too. When you really need some quiet, uninterrupted time I strongly suggest turning your phone off. It doesn’t have to be all day, maybe just an hour, but knowing you can’t have any rings, bings or notifications for a whole glorious 60 minutes is an amazing feeling.

Personally I just put my phone on flight mode, but it’s amazing how productive I can be during that short space of time. If nothing else, it stops you being tempted to keep checking if you have missed something. It’s off, just leave it be for a while!

#3 – Respond with a text

If I have my phone on, but I’m not in a position where I can, or want to answer it I tend to cancel the call and immediately reply with a pre-set message such as “Sorry, currently in a meeting, will call you back shortly” or something to that effect.

It can be a great way of acknowledging the call (which is the main reason most people want to answer it in the first place) without being bogged down in having to deal with it there and then. It also buys you some time so the individual won’t phone you back in five minutes simply thinking there was a problem with the connection.

Of course, while everyone can no doubt accept the benefit of having periods of peace and quiet, there is always The Fear. The Fear that the call you miss is going to be the next big lead, client or job. What if they don’t leave a message, and you can’t call them back?

If you suffer from The Fear, then consider getting someone in to handle your calls for you.  Using our call handling service might give you the perfect solution – available for an ongoing basis, or just temporarily to give you the peace and quiet you need to get on with the vital things.

Christmas 2017 Opening Hours

Here at Time Saving Heroes we value your customers as much as you do.  However, we also value our staff, which is why we are also going to be taking a break over the Christmas period.

 

We’d like all our clients to note that our admin section will be closing at 5pm on Friday, 22nd December 2017.  We will then be running a reduced service from 10am on Wednesday, 27th December 2017 until 10am on Wednesday, January 3rd 2018.

 

Our customer service and call handling team will be going on leave from 7pm on Saturday, 23rd December until 10am on Wednesday, 27th December 2017.  They will then go on leave again at 5pm on Sunday, 31st December 2017 and will return at 8am on Wednesday, 3rd January 2018.

 

We would all like to take the time to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and all the best for the new year.  Thank you for your support throughout 2017 – and we look forward to working with you again in 2018.

 

Cold Calls: Proper Preparation Prevents You Know What

I recently wrote about how to best handle making outbound calls, today I thought I’d look at the importance of having good content when it comes to making those calls.

I’m not a huge fan of scripts, certainly not when it comes to trying to build rapport with someone in the hopes of making a sale. However, there is a strong argument that suggests a script of some degree is useful when it comes to making calls.

The reality is proper preparation prevents poor performance and creating some form of script, or guideline when it comes to making calls is a great way to get you focussed, and stay on track during the call.

Here are our top tips for things you ought to consider when you start creating your call outline

# 1 – Don’t ask how they’re doing

So many of us ask “how are you?” when on a call, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.  That’s all well and good when it’s a friend, colleague or someone you at least have some vague connection with, but it’s not really appropriate when you’re calling someone you don’t know.

The reality is people are often a little guarded when they answer the phone because they don’t know what’s coming.  If you, as a stranger, start asking them how they are, you automatically sound like a sales person.

Yes, you might well be, but you don’t want to get their backs up straight away.

Equally, them feeling obliged to answer the question and then ask you the same wastes their time right from the start.

# 2 – Check they’re not too busy

Whoever you’re calling is going to be busy.  They chances of them sitting there simply twiddling their thumbs waiting for the phone to ring is quite slim.  Therefore asking them if you’ve caught them in the middle of anything, or if it’s convenient for them to talk, is a good way to start.

It shows you’re respectful of their time, and that you care about having a proper conversation.  It’s a great way of making them feel less guarded.  Of course, it can backfire, they might well say that now is not convenient; however, this is just an opportunity to ascertain a more convenient time to call back and have their undivided attention.

# 3 – Get them talking

No matter how proficient you are at making cold calls you’re always going to sound like a sales person, which never comes across well.  One of the best ways to handle this is to get your prospect talking about themselves.

When you’re talking make sure everything points towards them, rather than what you’re selling.  Hopefully you’ve done some research about them, their company or their products and you can relate this to what it is you sell, without actually mentioning it.

By including pre thought out questions you can further encourage the prospect to talk about themselves.  This makes them engaged in what you’re saying and will hopefully keep them on the call for longer.  Not only that but the information they provide is likely to be valuable (as long as you’re actually listening to them).

# 4 – Pre-qualify

Good questions at this stage in the call will ensure that you’re talking to the right person, and they might well be interested in the products or services you have to offer.

Make sure you have worked in questions or have listened out for tell-tale signs that you are indeed talking to the right person before wasting too much time talking to the wrong one.

# 5 – Focus on the pain

This sounds so extremely scary, but the reality is your products should be there to remove pain from your prospect’s life.  By talking to them and asking them questions you should be able to figure out what their biggest issues are in the area you’re focussing on.

However, the reality is when you put a complete stranger on the spot, having interrupted their current activity, they might not necessarily be able to give you the answers you want.  This means you have to be prepared to answer it for them.  Have a few common sticking points ready to provide as examples, and ask if these are things that are an issue for them.

# 6 – Head towards the goal

Each cold call must have a goal.  Ultimately you must want to achieve something at the end of it.  Yes, it would be great if you could make a sale, but the odds are that’s not going to happen.

In most cases you’ll need to send some information, or follow up with a more in-depth conversation, perhaps even a face to face meeting.  Whatever your next step is, aim for that rather than closing a sale.  Putting someone on the spot to make a decision there and then on limited information is not going to end well for you.

# 7 – Build interest

In order to get your prospect to agree to a meeting or follow-up you’re going to need to build in enough interest for them to want to carry on the conversation. The important thing is to remember you’re not going to do that by outlining the benefits or specifics of your product. Someone who isn’t necessarily thinking about what you’re selling isn’t going to care what it does, or how competitively it’s priced.

However, they are going to be keen to know what value it’s going to add to them or their business.  Focus on the pleasure it can bring or the pain it can solve and you’ll be better placed to continue the conversation with them and then hopefully close the deal.

 

How to handle outbound calls

It was only a few months ago I mentioned one of my least favourite tasks was outbound sales/cold calling.  In typical fashion, over the last few weeks I’ve been asked to do some outbound sales calls for a few new clients.

Never one to turn someone away, I decided to take on the work, and as always, throw myself in to it.

I moaned a bit under my breath, but no one else had to hear that.  Well, apart from Lu, but she’s used to my little rants by now.

Generally speaking if I do anything like this I like to be completely prepared.  In an ideal world there would be time to develop a bit of a script, maybe do some tests of it, tweak it and make sure it’s as good as it can be.

However, with these recent jobs, they’ve all had a certain amount of urgency to them.  So my back’s been a bit against the wall.  No time to really prep, just jump straight in.

Which always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

But that’s life.

With that in mind I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve picked up over the last couple of weeks in the hopes that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you might feel a little more able to pick up that phone and make a start.

# 1 – Be professional, and happy

I’ve received many a cold call myself, and I’m always struck by how miserable everyone sounds when you answer the phone to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I entirely get it.  I might be the 50th person they’ve called that morning, and everyone else has told them to bog off, they’re despondent, miserable and wondering where they went wrong in life.

But that’s not my fault.

Which is why it is essential that you put a smile on as soon as you pick up that phone and act like every call is the first one you’ve made all day.  Be professional at all times, and where possible use the person who’s answering the call’s name.

# 2 – Introduce yourself

Take the time to introduce yourself and your company. True, they might not take it in there and then, and will probably ask you to repeat it, but it’s a good habit to get in to.  Equally, it’s a nice way for you to ground yourself in to the conversation.

“Hi, I’m Stef and I’m calling from Time Saving Heroes. We’re a local company who specialises in helping microbusinesses increase their productivity and income.”

I’ve found that this approach works better than clearly identifying what you do, provide or sell.  This arouses a bit more interest than simply saying “I’m a Virtual Assistant and I wanted to discuss how I could help you.”

# 3 – State your purpose

In an ideal world you’ll have a specific reason for wanting to call these businesses, so explain it. Having read a few blogs about this sort of thing it’s clear that framing this purpose in the form of a question is likely to illicit better results.

“If I can show you how to get more done, without employing staff or significantly increasing your outgoings, would you be interested in hearing more?”

# 4 – Schedule a meeting

If they’re interested in finding out more then set up a meeting, if it’s appropriate to do so.  If they’re out of the area, then a conference call might be the better way to approach this.

Offer two times to give a choice, and do not put the ball back in their court by saying “when shall we meet?”.

# 5 – Follow up

Make sure you get all the necessary contact information from your prospect. Ask if they have an email address (so you can send a meeting invite/confirmation), and then send the information as promised.

 

No matter what the outcome of the call, make sure you remain bright, breezy and professional and you thank them for their time and help.

Your call is important to us – or is it?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a large company or call centre, you are likely to have been exposed to the joys of the automated system.  The pre-recorded voice asking you to select the correct option (many of which never really make sense) and assuring you, every 30 seconds, that your call is important to them.

 

In an ideal world you might hope that your call would be answered immediately, by a cheerful and helpful real live human being. However, with a large organisation experiencing a high volume of calls, that’s not realistic and most of us accept that.

 

Which is why the small business has an advantage.  Your phones aren’t going to be ringing off the hook, you’re not going to have an automated system, or a queue of frustrated people waiting to speak to you.  You should be able to deliver immediate customer service, answers and resolutions the second your customer needs it.

 

Yet, so many small businesses fail to do that, because they don’t have an effective call answering system.

 

Yes, it should be simple; you have a phone, doesn’t matter if it’s landline or mobile, someone calls, you answer.  Job done.

 

Why then, when we phone sole traders and SMEs do so many calls go unanswered?  You ring, no one’s there. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a voicemail facility – but do you leave a message?  The reality is few people do.  When they do, statistics (and our own personal experiences) show that very few of these are ever returned.

 

The problem is that if you’re a sole trader, you’re having to wear many hats.  You’ve got to answer the calls, do the customer service, chase down leads, do the marketing, balance the books, keep an eye on stock levels, and do the actual work your customers need.

 

Sometimes you’re so busy you don’t have time to make phone calls – even though doing so will help ensure the next lot of revenue for your business.  Really, when you think about it, it’s daft; however, it happens, and it’s perfectly understandable.

 

It even makes sense.

 

What doesn’t make sense though is recognising it’s an issue, and then doing nothing about it.  Why would you continue to miss calls, and risk missing out on customers and income, when all you have to do is get in touch with us?

 

A quick call to Time Saving Heroes and we can have your calls diverted to one of our receptionists, who will answer them as though they work in your business.  Never miss another call again, provide your customers with a fantastic experience, and increase satisfaction and profits.

 

Call us today on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk for more information.

How much is a call handling service worth?

Last month we answered the question how much should a call handling service cost?  We know that, as business owners, your primary concern is going to be your bottom line. When you decide whether to go ahead with a service or product, you need to know how much it’s going to cost you, your business and what impact that’s going to have on profits.

However, when you simply focus on how much something is going to cost you, you’re not paying attention to the bigger picture.  The reality is, asking how much it is, is ultimately the wrong question.

Instead, you should be asking, how much is it worth?

 

The price of missed calls

Without a professional call handling option (whether that’s inhouse or outsourced) there’s a high chance you’re going to miss calls.  Those calls could be from suppliers, providing you with an update, or they could be from customers.  They could also be from potential customers, or people who are hoping to make a referral to you.

Unfortunately, here at Time Saving Heroes we don’t have a crystal ball.  So, we’re not going to pretend to know for one second how many calls you might miss each day, each week or each month.  Equally, we don’t know how much those calls might be worth to you and your business.

However, we can take an educated guess.

Let’s suppose you miss just one call a week using your current system.

Equally, let’s suppose that call would have been worth £10 per month, for the next 12 months.  That’s £120 lost to your business, from just one call.

Times that by 52, for each week of the year, and you’ve suddenly cost your business a potential £6,240.

Not only have you lost that money, but you’ve also missed out on 52 new customers.  That’s 52 people you can’t upsell to, and that’s 52 people who will no longer be able to recommend you to other people.  Even worse, that’s 52 people who have gone elsewhere, are spending their money with your competitors, and are no doubt recommending your customers over you.

Really, how much is that worth?

Saving you time and money

Here at Time Saving Heroes our standard call answering package is £50 per month.  That ensures your calls are answered, messages are taken, appointments are booked and queries are handled professionally.

That’s £600 per year.

A good call answering service with the right team will pay for itself, rather than cost you anything.  A really good one will even increase your revenue.

 

If you want to find out more about getting us on your side, give us a call on 0161 883 2024.

Why you shouldn’t just have your mobile number on your business cards

Just this morning I was talking to one of our new start-up clients about her business cards, and she was querying whether to put her mobile number on them or not.  She’s a one-woman band, working from home and therefore only has a mobile number.

Equally, because she’s in that starting zone the phone hasn’t started ringing yet.  At this precise moment she thinks the best thing she can offer her potential clients is constant access – she never wants to miss a call, because she never wants to miss business.

All of which makes perfect sense.

However, she hadn’t really thought about what happens when it does start ringing.  The problem with a phone is it’s quite difficult to ignore, especially if you think there’s a sale at the other end.  With most people not wanting to leave voicemails, we have a Pavlovian response to pick up.  Even if we’re at the hairdressers, the supermarket or in the middle of cooking dinner.

That’s all personal choice, but if a new client or a lead calls whilst you’re in an unsuitable location, and they can hear kids screaming in the background, or someone asking if you want fries with that, it’s not going to give the most professional of first impressions.

And they might not call back.

We had a good old chat about it, and she said the problem was she didn’t want to be tied to her house, and she didn’t want to get an office set up just so she could have a landline.  Which is when I asked if she’d ever thought about a Virtual Receptionist.

The benefit of using our call handling service is you have immediate access to a landline number, which will always be answered professionally, to give the right impression of your business.  Our service also means you can have a dedicated voicemail for out of hours, or you can have calls diverted back to you to deal with if you prefer.

We have clients who give out their landline number on their business card and for sales, but once a customer has been confirmed, they move them to their mobiles.  It’s one option, and one that works very well for many.

Another bonus of having a landline number is that it makes you look bigger than you actually are.  We all know we say size doesn’t matter, but let’s not be shy, sometimes it does.  If you only have a mobile number on your business cards it says very clearly that you’re the only person to speak to.  There is no one else.

If you have a landline answered by a professional team, you automatically create a hierarchy.  Now, we’re not saying you’re going to get lots of complaints, but on the odd occasion when someone does want to complain, this hierarchy can work to your advantage.  Either the caller can be placated by an experienced customer service team, or they will feel their complaint has been escalated if they are eventually put through to you.

If they have access to you straight away, there’s nowhere for them to go after that if they remain disappointed.  Other than potentially social media. And nobody wants that.

 

If you want some advice about what to put on your business cards, are just starting out and want to find out about our packages, or just fancy a chat (we love a good chat), give us a call on 0161 883 2024.