Sep, 2017

Not Answering Your Phone Is Costing You Sales

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I was working with a technology start-up company by helping them set up their new sales team with everything they needed to get started. One of the objectives on my list was to source a company to help get a trade-show booth designed and ordered. We knew that the client would be using it a lot in the next three years, so the client was willing to invest in quality.

I called a company I had used previously, but they didn’t do the booth style we wanted, so they gave me a couple of other companies to try. I called the first company, hit “one” for sales, and got sent to voice mail. After leaving my name, phone number, and what I was calling about I hung up and decided to call the second company and, guess what? You guessed it — I got sent to voicemail. This time I got a prompt that warned me that my messages might not be heard for a while and that I should try sending an email. The message struck me as odd that this company could get an email but couldn’t answer a telephone call. I left no message and decided to widen my search.

I did a Google search and found more companies that could provide what I needed. As my search area grew wider and wider, some of the companies started offering perks such as free shipping. Again, I hit the phone and called two more companies and got two more voice mails. On my fifth call, I spoke to a sales person. I had a couple of questions, which he answered, and he gave me a couple of suggestions of what might work better. I asked him to get me a proposal with the agreed-upon specifications.

Two hours later, he emailed me the proposal and called me to see if I had any questions. We agreed on timing, and I emailed my client. My client promptly signed the contract and paid the deposit. Within a three-hour window, the sales person sold a $26,000 trade-show booth.

The next day, a sales person from one of the other companies called me. I thanked him for calling me back, but I told him I had already found the product elsewhere. He seemed miffed and asked why I had left a message if I had already made up my mind. I asked why it took him more than twenty-four hours to get back to me. His answer was that I should have said I was in a hurry. However, what this salesperson failed to understand is that in the internet age, the longer it takes you to reply to a lead, the less likely you will be to get a sale. The person that should have been in a hurry was the sales person, not me.

Only two companies I called decided that the possibility of a $26,000 order was enough incentive to pick up the phone. The response I got falls into line with research by Harvard that revealed that 72% of leads never get followed up on.

I hear people say they don’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number. How do you expect to know the number of a prospect who has never called you before? Just to add a little salt to the wound, recent statistics from Forbes magazine show that 80% of callers sent to voicemail do not leave messages because they don’t think they’ll even be returned.

Prospects are impatient, and if you can’t answer your phone, they’ll simply hang up. You are losing a lot of business opportunities because you are not answering and people are not leaving messages.

When I ask people why they don’t answer their phones, a lot of people say it might be a sales person trying to sell them something. When I ask them, “Can’t you politely say not interested and hang up?”, and the same lie…err I mean, answer, always comes up: “I would never get anything done!”

Your Challenge

So here’s the challenge: answer the phone every time it rings for the next two weeks. Keep track of how many times it is a sales person trying to sell you something, and you will quickly realize that the flood of unproductive calls you are imagining is actually quite small. By answering your phone every time it rings, you will definitely talk to more sales people, but you will also talk to more clients who will be ecstatic over not being sent to voicemail again.


6 thoughts on “Not Answering Your Phone Is Costing You Sales

  1. Jennifer

    I think the situation you described is one more consequence of downsizing. When management cuts overhead, eventually there won’t be enough people to handle the phones and the followups. Fortunately the company I’m with now not only understands the necessity of following up on leads, but they’ve invested in a separate department to pre-qualify leads as they come in.


    • Colin Parker

      I would say are in a large company it might feel like it is okay to ignore a phone because you think someone else will get it but I am stunned by the number of small business owners who admit they don’t answer the phone. The excuse given is that I will spend my whole day answering the phone and it might be a telemarketer. My suggest is answer and if it is someone you want to talk just say no thanks and get back to work.


  2. Kelly

    I can definitely relate to that feeling, when it’s 5 minutes to home time and the phone rings. You know you really should answer it, but at the same time you really just want to get out the door. I used to work as a travel consultant, and every call could be extra commission… it could also be a complete waste of time, but you don’t know unless you answer the phone. It’s definitely important to answer the phone when working in sales – as you made it clear in your example, you could easily lose business and money.


    • Colin Parker

      One more call might mean more commission…love that Kelly. Once had a client who made one extra phone call every night when he put his coat on. It added up to 166 extra calls during the year and about 10 more sales per year, well worth the effort.


  3. Catherine Matt

    Oh yes! You nailed it.. This is simply one of the great ethics of business. I’ve learnt this from a friend who introduced me to business and since then I ensure I take all calls. Another thing is to sound quite professional when answering these calls from potential clients. I had a terrible experience lately with a customer care representative I called, sounded quite naive and unprofessional, that’s how I hung up and opted for another. Great piece, thanks!


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