Answer your Phone

And the importance of hyper-availability

Differentiating yourself in a commoditized world:

In sales training workshops, there is a time when we share what is working in our selling process.  In one recent workshop, one of the higher performers in the group shared his secret, “I answer my phone”.  At first, the group laughed as it seemed he was being a bit sarcastic.  Realizing he was serious, the group calmed down and I had him explain.  His answer is today’s message – Communicate quickly.  The quickest way is to answer your phone when it rings.

We’ve all screened phone calls.  We’ve all been super busy in our work or personal life and didn’t want to take a call.  We all understand that we need work-life balance.  I also understand that we don’t want to be rude and take a call when in front of another customer.  But I also know that simply answering your phone is a powerful communication technique.  One that can increase your sales.

Think about your own communication with vendors or people you buy from in your personal life.  How frustrating is it to deal with an automated phone system that takes forever and always sends you to the wrong department?  Now, imagine if instead, they had a person who answers their phone. 

Our customers are no different.  They are busy and don’t have time to sit on hold or hit multiple options because “our options have changed”.  They just want a person they can call and get in touch with.  On a side note, “your options haven’t changed and nobody remembers them anyway.  So, save me the 5 seconds it takes to say that and just tell me the options”!

The amazing thing is that in a world addicted to our phones, we have such poor response times.  All of us check it dozens or maybe hundreds of times daily.  We look for those little red numbers that tell us someone sent us a message.  So, there’s no excuse for not getting the message. 

The message it sends

By answering your phone or by having an extremely fast reply time, you are sending several messages to your customers.

  • Your customer feels important.  This is the most important message that answering your phone sends to a customer.  They feel important enough that you will take their call when they call.
  • You really were unavailable when they called.  When you are known for an extremely fast reply to a missed call, your customer believes that you honestly were not available.  If you don’t reply for a couple of days, your customer knows that you couldn’t have been busy for that long of a time.
  • You can be relied on in difficult situations.  This is a very important component of being available.  In normal situations, customers have time to play phone tag.  However, when there is an emergency situation, they don’t have time for it.  They focus their communication on those people they know will be available and can help.  In a relationship business like ours, this is a very big relationship builder for you.  When times get tough, your customer calls you for help, to problem solve, or just for support.  What a great way to move from salesperson to trusted advisor.

Other phone skills

  • If you can’t take a call and it’s not rude for you to look at your phone, hit that little text response that says, “Can I call you back?”.  This tells the caller that they got through and you will call them back.  And of course, the most important part of sending that text response is to actually call them right back when you get out of your current situation. 
  • Put your phone calls into your calendar as meeting invites.  If the person is not in your contacts, then put their phone number into the location on the meeting.  This is a great way to remind yourself to make the return call.  The reminder will pop up on your phone or computer.  You won’t need to fumble around looking for the number.  It will be right there in your meeting reminder, which you can tap on to make the call.  If your state and company allow hands-free while driving, this makes it much easier to call. 
  • Customize your phone message.  Full disclosure, this is one I am very poor at.  I might even still have the message from 1995 when I got my first car phone.  Not really, but close.  A timely custom message can be a great way to feel comfortable not answering your phone when on personal time like a vacation.  Unless it’s the end of the world, most customers will not expect you to call back when you are on vacation.  Giving them another name and phone number is a helpful way to end the “out of office” message. 

One last rant on phone messages.  Please get rid of that message that says, “I will call you back at my earliest convenience”.  Maybe it’s just me, but that really sounds arrogant to a customer.  When I hear that message, I imagine this person waiting until they are sitting in their recliner before they call me back.  If I’m your customer, I don’t want you to wait until it’s convenient.  I want you to call me back as soon as you can. 

Best of luck as you slog your way through the dog days of summer.  It’s a time when many people take family vacations, farmers are at a peak production point in their operation and communication needs are high.  As a salesperson, I see this as an opportunity to step up my availability and differentiate myself. 

Make a sale by simply answering the phone! 

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