Dos and don'ts of phone etiquetteArticle added by Ed Morrow on December 10, 2013
Ed Morrow

Ed Morrow

Middletown, OH

Joined: October 29, 2005

How is your telephone courtesy? When someone calls you, are they treated to a pleasant voice? Is the message short?

Maybe you have accumulated a few bad habits that can be very easily and inexpensively corrected. Anything that improves the image others have of you, even the smallest item, might gain you another client, another sale or another referral.

How concise is your voice mail greeting?

One experienced financial consultant was tipped off to this problem by his brother, who commented, “Why is your phone response so obnoxious?” He went on to clarify the extent of the problem. “When I call you, either about some family event or some aspect of your financial services, why do I have to listen to your gruff voice in a long message, when all I want to do is identify myself, indicate whether my call is time-sensitive or not, and if you should call my cell phone.”

When you call that same financial consultant now, a sweet, southern voice says, “You’ve reached Jack Listener’s phone, and he is devastated to have missed your call. Please leave your number, or enter [extension] to reach his assistant, Charlie.”

The first sign that the new voice mail greeting was a good change? “This is your wife, and I’ll be devastated if you don’t stop by the store and get a gallon of milk, English muffins and some eggs.” Maybe Jack’s sense of humor doesn’t fit your style, but you get the point: make it short, sweet and helpful.

How clearly are your leaving your voice messages?

You are in a hurry and have way too much to do, but do you make the effort to leave a clear message when making a call? Nothing is more frustrating than having to replay someone’s message in order to be sure you have the correct response number. Slow down. Say it clearly. Announce what is coming.

“This is Bill Brown, and I am calling about the quarterly investment report. I’m not in a hurry, but you can reach me at: [pause] 555-424-8888.” Make sure to repeat the phone number slowly.

Are you pausing for a pen?

If you want someone to call you back, do not assume they will mentally retain the phone number you quickly rattle off. Warn them that you are about to recite a number, then insert a pause to enable them to locate a pen and paper — or set their phone number up for an auto-recall. Then recite your number once, slowly and clearly. If a voice response to your call might be effective, then give them that option.

You might want to provide more data, depending on whether or not the person knows you and knows why you are calling.

“This is Sam Caller, with Resort Investors in Santa Clara. We have a client interested in renting your timeshare. Please let me know if it is still available. My toll-free number is: [pause] 866-234-1055. Thank you.”
Sometimes a longer message is desirable, especially if the best response is no response. Here is a call I recently received, verbatim.

“Mr. Morrow, this is Tiffany Tiger, with Biz Prospects. We talked on the phone several weeks ago about your great article in the Register on prospecting for business owners. I sent you some information as you requested. Gee, I hope you received it; it was sent in an emerald green folder. Maybe you are ready now to talk about some costs and our year-end discount. If so, please call me at: [pause] 866-234-5678. That is a free call, and it goes straight to my desk here in San Francisco, which means you can call me later from Ohio. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll call back in a couple of weeks. Thanks for your courtesy. My number again is: [pause] 866-234-5678.”

What are the effective techniques she used?

She slowly pronounced her name and that of her company. She was respectful (calling me Mr. Morrow), yet personal (with the phrase, “Gee, I hope you received it”). That gave me an opportunity to call her back, in case her folder disappeared in my mountain of mail. She knows that many practitioners work late, so she gave me the go-ahead to call her during later hours. She repeated her number, and gave me a heads-up me it was coming: “My number again is…”

Prospecting phone calls

You probably have a list of prospects you’d like to meet. Hopefully you are drip marketing letters to them to build and strengthen your image. Then your CRM system says it's time for a call. Hopefully, your prospect will answer.

What if they don’t? You get their message previously recorded on their phone. Then it is time for your message. Do not expect a prospect to call you back. They won’t do it. Even your clients aren’t always good at calling back.

Suppose you have been sending drip mail to business owners. Here's what you should say:

“This is Fred Financial. I’ve been sending you information on business planning, and I’m sorry I missed you. I look forward to connecting sometime in the future. Thank you.” Don't leave you number. They are not going to return a prospecting call from a solicitor.

Is it necessary to say thank you? Of course not, but everyone likes to hear those two words. Who doesn't appreciate that small courtesy? If your prospect had been referred by someone or had attended a seminar, mention that very briefly, such as, “You attended our business seminar last month at the Lake Shore Hotel.”

And where is your phone number? On your letterhead with the drip mail articles. This is why printed drip mailing is more likely to get results than email. Maybe they read them both, but in order to obtain your name, info and phone number, they have to re-locate the email and print it. But chances are, they read and deleted it — or instantly deleted it if they were busy (and what business owners aren’t?)

Many business owners simply collect your physical mailings. They may read some, but not all of them. However, each mailing adds to your image and possibly provokes them, increasing their desire to meet with you for more information.
Promoting yourself

You attend continuing education events and important conferences, workshops and courses. Brag on yourself by editing your phone message temporarily:

"This is Jack Smith. You’ve reached my voice mail because I am in Ohio for a registered financial consultant workshop about the seven-step financial process for businesses. My outstanding support technician, Helen Brown, would be delighted to take your call and be of service to you. I’ll transfer you to Helen now."

Because you have more to say, your response is longer, but you have just promoted your image as a consultant who is undergoing important professional education. Plus, you have set the stage nicely for your “outstanding support technician.”

Using your call phone

Your cell phone usage can enhance your service image, but it also has the potential to subtly insult your client. Have you ever been in a meeting and the person you were talking with received multiple calls? Each time they reached for their cell phone to see who was calling they were deciding who was more important — you or their caller.

One financial consultant, who is extremely busy and receives lots of calls, makes an issue of this. As he starts a session with a client or prospect, he says, “Excuse me,” and then dictates the following message into his phone:

“This is Jackson Jones. I’m entering an important meeting with a client and can’t take your call. Please leave me a message or call my assistant, Gloria Bennett, at 555-424 9999.”

Sometimes the meeting is not with a client, but with a prospect or an important supplier. Either way, the result is that he has just complimented the other party by elevating their importance.

As cell phones become more commonplace, practicing effective phone courtesy becomes even more important. You can increase your phone power with just a bit of forethought.

See also:

5 tips for calling insurance leads

10 tips for cold calling

A solid approach to calling referred prospects
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