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.

SwF + RtL = Fail, or why fans matter

So if you’ve read Techdirt, you’d know their formula of CwF+RtB = The Business Model. It stands for:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB)


I’d like to modify this a little, with a variation I’m coining SwF + RtL = Fail, or expanded;

Screw with Fans (SwF) + Reason to Leave (RtL) = Failure


I’ve coined this today after the Ten Networks’ decision this weekend to royally shaft mess up the schedule for Formula 1 fans in Western Australia.

One, the networks HD multichannel targeting sport entertainment, drama and comedy; has made a point of screening both Formula 1 qualifying and races live to air. This is a vast improvement over what fans experienced whilst the Nine Network held the broadcasting rights for this sport in the previous decade.

We will however avoid discussing their woeful pre-race show offering, and their poor scheduling of ad breaks which usually occurs at critical times. These are topics that are worthy of entire posts in their own right.

One has also been running a TV commercial (TVC) highlighting the networks commitment to Formula 1, and that from later this month all races will be screened live.

However, this weekends programming flies in the face of their effort to date and the aforementioned current TVC.

The F1 race will now be shown nearly two hours delayed into Western Australia, and instead screened on the networks SD channel (10). In its place on one, you will instead see a movie from 2001, and a significantly delayed (per normal) telecast of Australian Women’s Netball.

So that explains the screw with fans (SwF) side of the equation , but how does reason to leave (RtL) fit into this?

Simple. The screwing with fans gives them a reason to leave, for second screen viewing options, and use of VPN services to access better quality live broadcast of the sport.

I know amongst my circle of friends across Australia that this is already happening, and most of them having the technical ability (or the Google-Fu) to access UK-based VPN services – which in turn allow them to use internet services provided by the likes of BBC and SkyUK to access live broadcasts and feeds.

And all of this is at a time when the Ten Network is having a horror of a time, with its profits taking continued hits, continually declining viewer share, a less than impressive start to its new breakfast show, and a swathe of new reality shows – one of which may not even get off the ground thanks to an irate council and residents.

So, what can Network Ten do about this – and reverse their direction to avoid annoying fans? Listen, and deliver. Will it happen? Probably not.

Australian Twitter user and big F1 fan Supercujo had this to say after trying to speak to the network about it:

Just rang ten Perth about the #F1 delayed telecast. They don’t give a toss. Give them a call on 9345 1010.
2:30 PM – 17 Apr 12

And he’s just one of a number of Australian fans talking about it right now on twitter. Tweets have even been sent to Western Australian born F1 driver Daniel Riccardo, and local Ten News sports supremo Tim Gossage to see if they can get the network to listen.

I’m doing my part to drive the conversation online, and I’ve also sent off a considered email to the network asking them to step up and fix the scheduling snafu for WA F1 fans. My email is below.

Will anything come from all of this – likely not. However, we all need to make our views known so they at least know we give a damm when they pull scheduling moves like this.

If you feel strongly about shafting of F1 fans, I’d advise you to let your feelings known by email (contactone@networkten.com.au), by twitter (@tensporttv, @OneHD, @TimGossage) and Facebook (One HD, Channel 10). The more people who express their views, the more chance you have of getting your voice heard.

And now, for a copy of my email to the network:

To: contactone@networkten.com.au
Subject: F1 delayed telecast in SD this weekend
Date: Tue 17/04/2012 2:52 PM

To whom it may concern,

I write to express my displeasure over the scheduling of the F1 broadcast this weekend in Western Australia.

Firstly, It has always been broadcast on One in HD – one of the big and only advantages we have in Australia considering how woeful your pre-show is.

Moving it onto Ten, at a time when One has been heavily advertising it’s position on that channel and it’s soon guaranteed live status, seems entirely counter productive to this very strategy and intent.

But worse still, the race will broadcast nearly 2hrs delayed into WA – on a night where One will instead be choosing to screen a movie from 2001 and some non-live Netball coverage.

Australian F1 fans suffered for years at the hands of the Nine Network, with unpredictable schedules, screening at an indecent hour, and a total lack of live coverage.

While Network Ten has vastly improved the offering to loyal fans of the sport since taking the broadcasting rights, the step backwards its Programming Dept. has taken with this weekends schedule flies in the face of all the network’s efforts to date.

If this is the kind of backwards decision making we can expect despite TVC advertising campaigns promising otherwise; it it any wonder why more and more fans are option for second screen viewing of the race and pre-show options.

My preference is already shifting towards using UK-based VPN services to watch live and direct, a decision driven by decent commentary, engaging pre-show coverage, and no ad breaks (usually inserted by your network at critical points of the race).

If Network Ten wishes for its fans to move to second screen viewing of F1 broadcasts, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s a great way to alienate fans and reduce viewing numbers; leading to further reductions in advertising revenue, something which the network at this time can ill afford.

Kind regards,

Michael Harris