We all make mistakes when first starting out. But let’s avoid the most common ones.
Mistake #1: You wait too long
If someone leaves you a message, you should return his or her call within 24 hours. I’ve had numerous opportunities go by the wayside because I left it too late. The reasons for my tardiness ranged from being on appointments all day to just downright laziness.
The longer you are in this business the more important you realise this is. Call 2 days later and they say “Its OK thanks. We’ve found someone who does XYZ now.” You’ve lost a potential client and remember what the lifetime value of a client can be worth. Or you’ve made a bad impression on an existing client. It costs a lot of money to acquire a client and even more for a good client. Don’t lose them by being slow calling back.
If you are in appointments all day, check your phone messages by remote control or have someone pick them up for you. Better still, have your calls redirected to your mobile phone. Then return their calls in your lunch break.
Mistake #2: You don’t introduce yourself professionally
If calling an existing client, don’t necessarily expect them to remember your name. Business clients deal with a lot of people and I’m sorry to say but your name may not be high on their list of things to remember.
Say, “This is John Smith from XYZ Company. You called me earlier today about some computer training you were looking for.”
You’ve given your name, company and jogged their memory on what they were phoning about.
They’ll say, “Oh yes, thanks for calling back…”
Some clients will remember your name but won’t have a clue as to the name of your company. Other times, a client knows your company by not your name. Sometimes they don’t remember either unless they refer to their diary, hence the need to jog their memory on what they called you for.
Often you will be returning the call to someone high up in a business. Their staff have been trained to screen out as many calls as possibly, especially if they suspect you are a salesperson.
In my early days of running my computer consultancy, I often faced problems contacting someone who made an enquiry earlier on in the day. The conversation went something like this:
YOU: “Hello, can I speak to David Jones please?”
SECRETARY: “May I ask who’s calling?”
YOU: “John Smith.”
SECRETARY: “And what is the nature of your call?”
YOU: “Its about computer training.”
SECRETARY: “I’m afraid he’s in a meeting at the moment. Can I take a message and get him to call you back?”
This is normally the brush-off. They think you are a salesperson trying to get through to David Jones to make a pitch.
This is the professional way to return a call:
YOU: “Hello, can I speak to David Jones please? He made an enquiry concerning computer training today and I’m returning his call. My name is John Smith from XYZ Company.”
SECRETARY: “One moment please. I’ll see if he’s free… Putting you through now.”
By stating all the information up front the secretary knows you are not a salesperson and will then put you through.
Mistake #3: You call at the worst times of day
I recommend against calling before 9:15 or after 5pm if you can help it. More often than not the person has either left work, hasn’t yet arrived at work or is involved in end of day and beginning of day routines. Also, avoid lunchtimes.
There are two problems when calling at these awkward times:
- The client won’t give you sufficient time to sell your wares. They are in a hurry so you can’t get them emotionally involved in their computer requirements.
- You end up being put on hold for ages while someone tries to track down the person you want. At lunchtimes they are often away from their desks and at the end of day people often seem to go walkabouts. You waste your time, which you should now highly value. Use it wisely.
There are exceptions to these general rules. Often you will find senior management can be contacted easier if you call before 9am or after 5pm. They frequently arrive earlier and leave later. Also, they may have more time during these “off” periods, as they will normally be free of meetings and staff demands.