2003 Fall/Winter Volume No. 2

Telephone tactics

Margaret Keech
President, Rama Plastics Inc.
Orilla, Canada
rpi@barint.on.ca

If you asked me what is the single most important tool I have as a businesswoman, the answer would be easy, the telephone. With this one simple device I can span the entire 4,000-mile sales territory I cover here in Canada. I can get to know my customers, and they can get to know me.

For portable sanitation business operators, the telephone is also your first line of communication with customers. For many businesses that use Yellow Pages advertising, the telephone may also be one of your best sources for new business. Obviously, how you use the telephone can mean a lot to your marketing efforts and your ability to keep your customers coming back
to you.

With so much riding on your telephone skills, have you given enough thought to building your skills and keeping them sharp? Here are some basic phone skills (reprinted from the PolyJohn Customer Service Book) to practice and to share with office staff, salespeople, and others in your organization who must communicate with customers daily, using the telephone.

Be Confident and Friendly
• Preparation. It always surprises me how much preparation people will put into meeting someone face-to-face, but how little they prepare for a first-time phone conversation. Write down briefly what you want and need to say.
• Relax! Nervousness and tension will be conveyed over the phone just as surely as it is in person. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and then let it out slowly before you begin to speak.
• Smile. One thing that always helps improve your phone presentation is to smile when you are talking. Believe it or not, it is practically impossible to sound negative or cross when you are smiling.
• Be Interested. In any phone conversation ask questions to show your interest. Treat each customer as if they are your first and only customer. And when you ask a question, zip-the-lip and listen.

Be Business-Like
• Answer on the first ring.
• Identify yourself and your business.
• Ask them to identify themselves "May I ask who's calling please?"
• Always have a paper and pencil at hand.
• Don't write everything down. Write key words and phrases that will help you rewrite the message after you hang up.
• If you have to put a customer on hold, give them the option of waiting or calling back.
• If you place a customer on hold,
• Ask permission to excuse yourself and let the customer know what you are doing.
• Use the hold button or gently place the phone down on a soft surface. Be careful what you say!
The customer may be able to hear you if the hold button wasn't fully engaged.
• If a customer is on hold longer than 30 seconds, pick up the phone and tell the customer that you haven't forgotten him or her. Again, give them the option to call back.
• When you return, thank the customer for waiting.

Whether you called the customer, or they called you
• Don't miss an opportunity to present greater value (sell) "Thank" customers for current business and ask if they have a few moments to answer a few questions so you may be able to better serve them now and in the future.
• Ask fact-finding questions beginning with Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
• Pre-plan monthly sales messages or special offers that you can provide to customers who call. Messages should be short and feature a few strong benefits such as "save money, save time, keep employees happier, healthier, or on the job longer."
• Present benefits in the form of a question. "Did you know...?"
• Ask for the sale

Practice these tips with your employees and you'll
start ringing up new sales with your telephone too!


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