But what about the rest of us with similar needs but no deep pockets to pull all that off? Are we doomed to endure the mediocre or amateurish image we’ve created by what we’ve done or not done since we started our businesses?
Not to worry. Here are five simple and easy phone tactics to overhaul your image. So easy you can phone them in. They require no investment—only some creativity and effort. Start small and simple. See how many you can add to your small business tool kit and start using them immediately.
Simple and easy tactic No. 1: Personalize you voice mail greeting
Most small businesses use a voice mail greeting when they can’t answer incoming calls. This message might be the first impression a prospect or new customer gets of the company’s style and values. And it might reinforce those impressions with repeat callers. Listen to your voice mail greeting like a caller would. How do you feel about the business and the people running it? Do you want to do business with them?
What kind of impressions does this recorded message cast?
“Your call is being forwarded to an automated voice messaging system … 475 338-0298 is not available … “
Probably not favorable. More like lazy, dumb and cheap. How simple to invest a few minutes to personalize that greeting?
“Hi, this is Ben Dover with Glitztronics. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you by the end of the day.”
Job done—concise, courteous and helpful. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
Simple and easy tactic No. 2: Listen to what callers hear
So, what do callers hear when you do answer the phone? What kind of an image does your greeting cast? “Hi …” is a good start, but it needs help: “Hi, this is Ben with Glitztronics …” is better, but “Hi … this is Ben Dover with Glitztronics. How can I help you today?” really works well. Which one casts the best image of Ben? Which is the most like yours?
Simple and easy tactic No. 3: Turn a problem into a pleasure
What do you say when a caller needs help, asks a question or just says, “Thanks”? I do have a problem with responding, “No problem”, which seems to be most everyone’s default response these days. Simply say, “You’re welcome” instead. And even better is, “My pleasure.” While the shift from “problem” to “pleasure” is subtle, it does say something about your attitude.
Simple and easy tactic No. 4: Review how you place out-going calls
When you place an out-going call, what do they hear first after answering? Consider a concise and courteous statement such as, “Hi … this is Ben Dover from Glitztronics … Is this a good time to discuss next week’s meeting?”
And if the other person says it’s not a good time, no need to apologize. If you knew that, you wouldn’t have called and also, remember, they picked up the phone in the first place.
Because most people have some version of Caller ID installed on their phone, make sure the read out isn’t lame like “unknown caller”, “not available” or blank. Those all signal a robo or spam call. Would you answer a call like that yourself? If I don’t recognize the name or number, I let the call go into voice mail where they hear my concise and courteous message. Most don’t leave a message, which tells me they were robo or spammers.
Simple and easy tactic No. 5: Please leave a (complete) message
When you do leave a voice message, what do they hear? “Hi … This is Ben returning your call” Is a good start, but not enough to really be helpful. “Hi … This is Ben Dover with Glitztronics returning your call. I can meet with you Tuesday at 10 or Thursday at 3. Let me know what works for you at 459-703-3162.’ While longer, it’s a more courteous and complete communication.
Little effort, big results
As you’ve seen, it doesn’t take much time or effort to phone in your image-casting make-over tactics that differentiate your business from the competition who don’t think it matters or have even bothered to try.
Everything your customers and prospects hear over the phone should be on purpose and for a purpose. What kind of an image-casting score would they give your business?
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.