Does the way you answer your phone build or break your business?
As a service professional, I sometimes find it funny (or actually scary) when people drop all professionalism the moment they start working from home – especially when it comes to the way they answer the phone.
So in the post below I’ll give you a couple of telephone etiquette tips to ensure your phone conversations build your business and don’t break it down.
But first, let me tell you about an interesting telephone experience I had recently…
I’ve been struggling with some technical integrations on my website and decided to get some help with it. So, I phoned someone, who came highly recommended and was ready for the (in my mind) professional / technical discussion to see if this person will be able to help me.
But my excitement and expectation soon turned into irritation, then frustration and then a clear “No, Thank You!” – all within one telephone call.
The phone started ringing …. one, two, three,… eight …
I was about to hang up when I heard: “Jellooo!!”
Just “Jelloooo!” – with the last syllable a long singing sound. No name to introduce her. No business name. Nothing.
I smiled, kept my cool and after establishing it is indeed the person I was looking for, I started to introduce myself and began to state the reason for my call.
Huge was my surprise when she interrupted me to ask if I could phone her back in ½ an hour since her neighbor is at the door!
Well, perhaps she didn’t need new business or it was a “life-or-death” situation with the neighbor. I’ll never know. It goes without saying that I didn’t phone back and found someone else to help me.
As a service provider myself, I believe first impressions count – even over the phone. And to ask a potential client to call back… well, it didn’t “gel” with me. I was speechless about that one.
The thing is, your telephone is not just a communication tool. It is often the first opportunity you have to showcase your professionalism, and I see it as the image projector of how you conduct business overall.
As coaches, consultants and virtual assistants, we rely on a telephone for business. So, we can never really let our guard down since we don’t know if the next caller is a potential client.
Here are 10 easy telephone etiquette tips to ensure a positive client experience, every time…
Answer with a smile
Although this is an age-old tip, it really works. Make sure you speak clearly and are smiling when you answer the phone. This not only puts you in the right mindset to assist the person on the other side, but also lets the caller feel good about phoning.
Always identify yourself at the beginning of all calls.
When in your office, answer the telephone by stating your business name, then your own name, e.g.“Be Virtual Assistant Wise good morning, this is Francis speaking”.
You may even add “…how may I assist you?”. If you allow family members to answer the phone on your behalf during office hours, inform them of the way you want it done.
From a cell phone, simply say, Hallo, and state your name: “Hallo, Francis van Wyk here”. Do not answer using words such as “yeah” or “yes.”
As a general rule of thumb, a business telephone should be answered by the fourth ring, preferably sooner. If the telephone rings so long that the caller wonders whether you are there or not, you are not practicing telephone etiquette.
Be prompt in answering the phone, be warm and enthusiastic and treat each call as if it is the most important call of the day.
Don’t interrupt when the caller is speaking
Never interrupt a person when he/she is talking to you and never give the impression that you are rushed. Listen closely in order to understand their needs and requests. Give the person time to explain his or her situation. Remember, listening makes the clients feel that their needs are important. Don’t sound bored or indifferent. Put energy into your voice, even if you are not having the best of days.
And don’t become distracted by e-mail popping up on your computer screen or other household activities … pay full attention to the caller.
Ask permission to put a caller on hold
If you have to put a person on hold (for what-ever reason), first ask their permission and get back to them as soon as possible. Say something like: “May I put your call on hold for a moment while I pull the information for you?”
Then, to gain the clients attention when you return to the line, call them by name and wait for the response, e.g. “Mr. Smith? (Pause for him to respond)…Thank you for waiting, I do have the information for you.”
Don’t use speaker phone
Don’t put the caller on speaker phone. Although a speaker phone might be very convenient, your client may not think so as speakerphones tend to pick up every background noise. This may give your client the impression that you are not focusing on what they say.
Speakerphones sometime also have an acoustic background effect where the caller hears a repeat of his discussion (much the same as with some long distance/international calls) that can be very distracting.
No eating, drinking or chewing
Don’t eat, drink or chew gum when talking on the phone. Aside from being very rude, these sounds become magnified over the phone. It can also make your words difficult for callers to understand.
Try also not to cough, sneeze or clear your throat into the phone. If it so happens that you must sneeze or cough, move the mouthpiece away and cover it with your hand.
Be sensitive to the tone of your voice
Clients are unable to see your face when they call, so the way your voice projects will either win them over, or chase them away. An angry or overly anxious tone might scare potential clients away.
Use a professional voice message
If you make use of an answering machine or answering service ensure that you have a professional recorded message that will give the caller the assurance you’ll get back to them. It can be something like: “Hallo, thanks for calling. This is Francis. I’m not available right now, but please leave your name and number and when I return your call, I’ll be glad to answer your questions. I’ll be in touch soon.”
Return calls promptly
If possible return calls the same day they are received. If you’re “out of office” for an extended period of time, update your recording and tell clients by when you’ll be able to return their calls.
Apart from these, what other telephone etiquette tips do you have? Please share it with us in the comment box below.
Building a business online is exciting!
After all, who wouldn’t want to get clients from all over the world and have sales come in while you are sleeping?
But, even though online marketing absolutely works, your best clients might be those directly under your nose.
There are still many people who don’t use the Internet to its full capacity and can only be reached offline. Thus there is a potentially large “offline” audience you can tap into. People that may never know about your presence online.
And by combining on-line strategies with creative off-line marketing strategies, you will build your business so much faster.
Here are 5 creative & cost-effective offline marketing strategies to complement your online efforts
1. Use The Media.
Believe it or not, your local media is probably just waiting for you to call them with a great story idea! And no, this is not about placing an ad in the local newspapers. This is about having a full-scale article about you and your business in the media. Newspapers, radio stations and magazines are always looking for stories to fill up their pages or broadcasting time.
Take advantage of it – it’s free!
Contact typical publications that your target market reads. Provide them with a newsworthy story or ask them to write a profile on your business. Talk about your services and especially what gaps you fill with regards to what your target market needs. Make it interesting and full of benefits to the readers to give them reasons to visit your website, or to contact you.
2. Network, network, network
Join networking organizations for small businesses. Attend events and meetings near you where you can find your target audience. Attend conventions, shows or exhibitions, or even just an organised social event.
By networking and joining groups, you get to know more people, have the ability to share ideas and knowledge, raise the visibility of your expertise and business, and create opportunities for getting new clients. Remember, networking is not only about getting clients. It is also about building a network of people that might refer you to others.
Thus, as you build your network of friends and acquaintances, always think about what YOU can contribute and how you can make the life better for others. In successful networking first be a giver, then you’ll become a receiver of good fortune coming your way.
3. Use “Snail-mail”
Traditional mail could be considered a little old fashioned these days, simply because sending an email is so easy, cost effective and measurable. The old way of doing it – writing a letter by hand, stuffing it in an envelope, buying a stamp and posting the letter at the post-office – seems distinctly primitive.
But the beauty is: it catches the eye and can talk to those who didn’t even know they were looking for your business!
Use traditional mail to send prospects an introduction letter about your business, an interesting newsletter, a thank-you note or a birthday card. The key is to start getting creative and to use snail-mail to rise above the clutter.
4. Put your web address everywhere
Got a car? Stick your website address on the back. Print it on the t-shirt you wear to the gym or the one you use for your morning jog. Print it on some promotional items link pens, notepads, keyrings, beer mats – anything you can think off.
The internet has greatly removed the need for you to print fancy advertisements or logos. Now all you need is to help people remember what to type into Google.
5. Speak to people
Many years back, face-to-face marketing was THE trend for promoting business. If you wanted to be successful, you had to go out and meet people to introduce your business.
With the onset of the internet it rapidly changed and business owners began to rely on email, telemarketing, and internet promotions to attract new clients. No more going out, meeting people and speaking to them face-to-face.
But, when you just start out, face-to-face marketing is STILL the most efficient way of getting clients fast. And speaking to larger audiences – even better.
Imagine how impressive you’ll appear if you actually visit your prospects and take the time to talk to them and discuss their needs. You will definitely stand out. A little effort and time on your part can make a difference and send a strong message that you care enough to meet and talk with your clients and prospects.
When planning your marketing activities, the ultimate goal is to have all your marketing efforts supporting each other.
What I want you to take away from this article is to take some time out of your schedule, assess your current situation, take stock of your marketing resources and consider some ways where offline marketing can help your online efforts to take your business forward.
Then share with us below the offline marketing techniques you already apply or what you intent to implement / try out in future.
To your Success
When it comes to making the leap from employment to entrepreneurship, do you follow your heart, your gut or the money?
For many, the safest option is to follow all three and to start a new business part-time so that they can start working on their dream, while having the safety of a monthly paycheck.
There is nothing wrong with the approach of starting your own business part-time. In-fact I often recommend it because you first need to live and pay the bills. You cannot just jump ship if there is no certain way to support yourself financially.
There are however some underlying pitfalls to be aware off when you’re doing it part-time.
Pitfall #1: Keeping your job as a “backup plan”
Having a back-up plan is good, but it often originates from thinking of “how not to lose” should things go wrong and don’t work out with your new business.
The problem with keeping your job as a “backup plan”, is that it will dilute your focus. It will subconsciously prevent you from giving your new business your all….because there is a fall-back option. For example, if something goes wrong with your new business, you’ll feel you can always fall back on you current career. So you didn’t lose anything.
Don’t keep your job as a back-up plan, but keep it as financial support while you’re getting your new business up and running.
Pitfall #2: Finding time and energy to work on your new business..
Building your part-time business to a level where you can leave your day job can take longer than you initially expected. The reason for this is that most of your productive hours are spent at work (in your job). Thus, you can only really work on your own business after hours.
For example, if you wake up at 6am, get to work by 8am, spend eight hours at work, another one or so commuting and another hour or three tending to family matters in the evenings, you might be exhausted by the time you are ready to work on your own business.
Therefor, it sometimes takes will-power, persistence and an extraordinary effort to get anything worthwhile accomplished during those scraps of available time.
Find ways to keep your energy levels up during the day, so that you still have enough energy and motivation left when it is time to work on your business.
Pitfall #3: Transitioning without a plan…
Part-time entrepreneurs often struggle because they do not have a plan on how to transition from their job into a self-owned business career. Many simply hope things will work out for their new business.
And when things don’t work out as expected, they are disappointed and often times blame themselves for not being good enough or knowledgeable enough to make their dreams a reality. A bad place to be in…
So , What is the solution?
The solution to working part-time on your new business and slowly transition from your job into a full-time business, is to develop a plan that is built around your new business goals.
Focus on what you want and not what you will leave behind.
This changes your mind-set from “how not to lose” into a mind-set of “how to win”…where you win the business and lifestyle you want by reaching your business goals – even if it requires hard work, courage and persistence.
Here’s how you do it.
1. Develop an Action Plan
Understand the reasons WHY you want to have your own business. Those reasons will more often than not carry you through the difficult times.
Then create a plan where your new business is your primary goal and clarify what you will and won’t do to make it a reality.
Create time in your daily schedule to work on your new business (e.g. before work, during lunch, after hours) and set a due date when you want to make the final transition.
Be persistent and work on your plan daily.
Don’t make it a plan about: here is what I must do in order NOT TO LOSE, but rather focus on here is what I must do in order TO WIN! This approach will make it more likely to accomplish your business plans.
2. Take Care of the Financials
Money, or the lack there-off, is often a make-or-break factor when starting your own business. Within your action plan think about ways to:
- Reduce your current monthly expenses,
- Save bigger chunks of your monthly pay check, and
- Start using only the income from your new business to pay for living costs.
This approach will help minimise the impact of cutting your income when you eventually decide to go full-time into your new business. On the up-side you will also have a nice savings account that can form a buffer for the first couple of months after the full transition.
3. Think Long-term
When you are in a job, you can see an immediate result on your efforts in the form of a monthly paycheck.
However, in your own business the results of your efforts may not show up immediately. Getting a new business stable often requires slow and steady work. The approach of thinking long-term will help you keep your eye on your business goals so that you don’t loose faith in the early months where you are still growing and figuring things out.
NOTHING IN LIFE IS IMPOSSIBLE.
If having your own business or working from home is your dream, you will find a way to make it a reality.
To Your Success
As service professionals and solo-preneurs, it is easy to get lost within all the different tasks we need to take care off. Tasks like client appointments, delivering a good service, taking care of admin, marketing, financial and strategic planning… and on top of that managing kids and family.
With so much going on, we often have very little time left to focus on all the important aspects of growing our business.
That’s why we pro-actively need to make time available.
The easiest way to create that important ‘focus time’ is to MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF…
Making appointments is part of everyday life.
If something is important, we normally schedule some time in our daily calendar to fit it in. These appointments can be anything from a business meeting with an important client; coffee time with a friend or that dreaded appointment at the dentist.
Making an appointment therefor has the following basic benefits.
- It makes the event important in your mind.
- You know that you have committed the time, and you cannot accommodate any other appointments or meetings in that same time slot without disrupting your original appointment.
- It helps you plan your day and activities around that appointment.
So, making an appointment with yourself will have the same outcome, right? It will create space where you can allow yourself to focus on important things that need attention in order to grow you business.
During those ‘appointment’ times ensure all interruptions are turned off. Think about it. Would you enjoy it if a client answers a phone call or read an email during a meeting with you? Probably not. So, why would you take similar actions during a meeting with yourself? You are not less important than your clients, and acting to interruptions just diminishes the value you put on your own time. So, turn off those distractions 😉
Use those appointments with yourself to:
- review your goals and to take action on your plans;
- create a new product;
- call previous clients to reconnect;
- contact new clients and invite them to work with you;
- create a new marketing campaign;
- write a blog post;
- write a newsletter to connect with your list.
Once making these appointments becomes a habit you’ll begin to see that huge To-Do list shrink away and your days will become much more productive.
So, here’s what I hope you take from this article…
If something is important to the growth of your business and it needs your attention, make an appointment with yourself. Focus and get it done!
To Your Success
Earl Nightingale said:
“ We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”
Do you believe that?
So, my question today is: “What is the ultimate goal you’ve established for yourself. What is it you want to achieve in life? In business?”
You can do it, you know.
The simple truth is: When you set the intention (the goal) both your conscious and subconscious mind start to work on action plans to achieve that goal.They start scanning your immediate environment for ideas, opportunities and tools to help you reach it and they continue with the process until you abandon that goal.
Your responsibility in this whole process is to believe in your goals, believe in yourself, recognize the opportunities that are put in front of you and take the necessary action to make your goal a reality.
I believe setting smart goals for your business is the vehicle to significantly enhance your business results in the next year!! It is how you get everything you want faster than you ever thought possible!
Goals can be used to:
- Increase something – your income, nr of clients, customer satisfaction, effectiveness
- Reduce something – risks, expenses, turnaround times, competition
- Improve something – website, marketing campaigns, business processes, your life
- Save something – time, money, space, energy
There are really many ways on how to set goals, but I personally prefer to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. They are…
- Specific (it is exactly what I want, written in precise detail)
- Measurable (I am able to tell when I reached my goal and how successful I was)
- Achievable (I know I will be able to reach it – even if it has a bit of a stretch)
- Realistic (It is something that can be done – if any other person has done it before, I can do it too)
- Timely (It has a timeline to keep me accountable towards my goals)
So, here’s my quick 6-step process of setting and achieving goals:
STEP 1: Decide exactly what you want
E.g. I wantto increase my income to take my family on a vacation at the end of the year.
STEP 2: Write it down as if it is already a reality. Be specific and give the goal a deadline
E.g. I earn $xx and is taking my family to Disney Land on 30th November 20xx
Now that’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
It’s specific (earn $xx). It also includes the motivator why I want to earn this amount (take my family to Disney Land). It’s measurable (I can measure if I actually reached that amount, earned more or less). It’s achievable (when I put my plans in place, I CAN achieve that). It’s realistic (others have achieved that in the past – I can too) and it’s timely (due date 30 November).
STEP 3: Break this goal down in smaller action steps and decide what you need to do / learn / acquire in order to achieve this goal
E.g. To earn $xx by 30th November 20xx, I need to
i. Get a coach to show me the way
ii. Get minimum 5 new clients
iii. Raise my rates to $xx
iv. Learn how to use Facebook Ads to send people to website
Each of these is a sub goal or smaller goal that will help me reach the overall goal of earning enough money to take the family to Disney land. These sub goals can also be broken down into further doable action steps that will make it practically possible to achieve.
STEP 4: Break each sub goal down into doable action steps. Create a plan.
E.g. The sub goal: “Get 5 new clients” in the above example can be broken down into:
a) Create a process for setting up personal discussions with prospects
b) Compile a database or name list of 100 possible people to contact
c) Personally reach out to minimum 10 people on this list each week
d) Convert at least 1 person a week into a new client at new rates
To put these steps into action, simply plan and schedule time in your calendar to do it.
STEP 5: Identify the people whose help and cooperation you’ll require to achieve your goal.
E.g. in our above example: Who already has a list of people you can partner with? Who is the coach that can help show you the way? Do you already know someone or do you need to do some research. Who can help you with making the decision?
To achieve big goals you will have to have the help and support of lots of people. One key person at a certain time and place in your life will make all the difference. So think about who are those key people that can help you and who you can help in return.
STEP 6: Share your goals.
One of the most effective ways to achieve a goal is to share it. When you tell others about the goal, it subconsciously motivates you to take the necessary action to achieve it. Plus, you’ll have a group of people who can help you stay accountable to do the things you want to do. It really works!
To Your Success
“Where to find clients” is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from my subscribers and rightly so. Because knowing where you can find your clients will make marketing and getting paying clients much easier.
So here are 4 practical things you can do to find more clients.
1. Get really clear on WHO you want to find.
The first and most important thing to do, is to get really clear on your target audience. Who are those people you want to attract to your business and what are the common characteristics they have.
Get a clear picture of them in your mind and think about things like:
- Their geographical location, profession, gender, age, income levels
- Their hobbies. What do they like to do?
- What magazines or blogs do they read?
- What events do they attend?
- What problems do they struggle with?
When you are really clear who this ideal client is, everything else will stem from that, because this knowledge already gives you a pretty good idea where to go look for those clients.
2. Be present in places your clients spend their time
The 2nd or next thing to do is to think about where do these people spend their time. Where do your ideal clients hang out? Can you find them at specific networking events or even special live events like tradeshows or conferences? Can you find them online?
You want to look at places where you will be able to find them in larger numbers, because when you find your ideal clients in larger numbers, it makes marketing easier and more cost effective.
A great place to start is for example social media. With the number of people who spend time on social media, you will most probably be able to find your audience there as well. But you don’t just want to fire away and get involved in all social media platforms. Rather think about where those clients you want to find, will most LIKELY spend their time. Will your audience spend time on Facebook or will you rather find them on LinkedIn, Twitter or perhaps Pinterest – e.g. moms working from home, might be more inclined to spend time on Facebook; people with professional careers, might be more inclined to spend time on LinkedIn.
Again, clarity about your target audience will give the answers on where they will most likely spend time so you can be present there as well and have a higher probability of getting your business in front of them.
3. Find others who are already talking to your ideal clients
Start looking for people who are already talking to your ideal clients (online or offline) or someone who already have a list of these people. Think about organizations your ideal clients belong to. Think about possible collaboration partners who are already sending information or even a newsletter to your ideal audience on a regular basis.
When you’ve identified these possible partners, reach out and connect with them. Offer to provide some value to their audience so you can invite them into your business.
4. Talk to current clients and people in your immediate environment.
One of the easiest ways to find new clients is to ask current clients and people in your immediate environment if they know about someone who fits your ideal client profile and who might benefit from what you offer. This way, you can get a number of referrals to personally follow up with.
So, those are some great ways to find new clients. All that is left now, is to put it into action and go get your clients.
I’d love to hear your comments, so please leave a comment below and tell us which one you’ll take action on first.
To your Success