A word on using the phone to sell

You’re a small business. Potential customers call you by phone to ask questions before buying things.

How hard is it to teach your staff basic phone skills that, I don’t know, might help bring customers to your business so they give you their hard earned money!

There are a number of bike shops in Perth, who all either carry, or can order, the bike I am going to buy (in the Radioactive Yellow colour if anyone’s interested).

Of those I called this morning, four  of them lost a guaranteed sale because their staff displayed an embarrassing ignorance towards a customer, terrible phone manner, or communicated with the customer in a way that made them feel like an idiot.

Each time, there was an opportunity for recovery, but none of these staff recognised or took it.

And you wonder why your customers are buying online? The phone manner of your staff is likely a big driver for it.

These stores lost an opportunity for $650 in immediate revenue today, in addition to ongoing income and loyalty from parts, repairs and accessories.

Now that might not seem a lot, especially when these stores have bikes worth $2,000-$4,000 plus sitting on the shop floor. But bikes of that value don’t sell every day, nor do the expensive parts that go with them. So constant sales of smaller price ticket items, like a $550 bike and the accessories the customer initially buys, are what keeps the doors open, the wages paid, money in the bank to buy new stock, and the tax man off your back.

Each and every phone call you receive is an opportunity – one to build your brand reputation, recognition, and most importantly convert callers into money in your bank account.

If you have a phone for your business, make sure you, and your staff, learn how to use it properly.

Some simple tips to do this:

  1. Treat each customer as knowledgeable, and when they don’t know a given answer, empower them the information in a respectful way that will help them answer or set them on the right path.
  2. Don’t have people to answer the phone who aren’t trained to sell, or understand your products.
  3. Don’t use cordless phones, unless they have an actual Hold option (preferably with music so the customer doesn’t think the line has gone dead). Nobody wants to hear Assistant X talking to Assistant Y to get an answer about something, or inane workplace chatter, whilst you’re waiting for information.
  4. Get your friends to visit your home one day, have them make some test calls to your stores. Do it on a speaker phone so you can observe and listen to what your staff say and sound like when talking to regular customers, so you can give your employees specific and actionable feedback to coach them, and drive them to do better.

And please, if one of your staff persistently displays an awful attitude or phone manner – ban them from answering the phones. They are going to be one of the key reasons that your phone calls aren’t converting into sales.

And credit where credit is due – to two Bike Force stores – Gerrard from their Subiaco franchisee, and Joondalup (can’t remember the staff member’s name there sadly. The individual staff who answered the phones at these locations were professional and personable. They knew and understood that phone calls mean sales, and took the time to answer my reasonable questions. If Joondalup wasn’t closer to me, Gerrard and Subiaco would have got the sale.