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Opportunities You Are Missing on Inbound Calls (And How to Fix)

Learn about the four most common opportunities businesses miss out on during inbound calls.

1. The opportunity to get the prospect’s name

Of course this seems obvious. However, there are many calls that come in to your business from customers who are looking for simple, boilerplate information. When you take that phone call, you might not be thinking about turning it into a sales opportunity. But even the most basic of requests can turn into a sale if handled properly, and this starts with assuming control of the conversation and asking questions. A great question to start with is, “My name is Brad, what’s yours?”

Asking this basic question…

  • Establishes your control in the conversation
    When people call your business, they’ll want to get their questions answered. But what they also want is to be educated by someone who knows more about the subject matter than they do. You establishing this control lets your customer know that they are talking with a qualified professional.
  • Demonstrates your confidence
    If you didn’t have confidence, you wouldn’t be asking for the customer’s name, right? The idea that you have your wits about you enough to ask your customer her name communicates that you’ve done this before, and you’re the best person to take care of her needs.
  • Shows you care
    Taking a few seconds to get a customer’s name demonstrates that you’re focused on them. It’s a very subtle cue, but such a significant one!
  • Slows the customer down
    As you’ve likely experienced, many customers call you with “rapid fire” questions. This is good because it indicates their interest in your product or service and should make closing the deal easier at the end. However, at some point, you need to insert some questions of your own and establishing a slower pace will help you do so.

2. The opportunity to get contact information

Every phone call is a chance to earn your customer’s business. This is true even if she calls with the most basic of questions like, “what are your hours?” or “can I get a quick price on…”

Securing your customer’s contact information:

  • Elevates YOU. When a customer gives out their phone number or email address, what they’re really doing is entrusting you with valuable personal information. They’re trusting that you won’t abuse it by harassing them or selling their information. They won’t give this to just anyone, but since you cared enough to ask, they will give it to you.

  • Changes the relationship between you and your customer. So often customers fire questions at you one right after another. When you turn the conversation around and ask for contact information, they’re giving you something of value in order to receive something in return. This automatically turns the relationship into a “give and take,” further establishing your credibility.

  • Allows you to follow up. Hey, this is obvious, yes? Getting your customer’s phone number and email address gives you a chance to close a sale the second and third time around, if you weren’t able to do it on the first try. It gives you an opportunity to send an email notification if a new pricing incentive becomes available, or if new inventory comes in.

Asking for contact information is risky because, if done incorrectly, your customer can become defensive and the conversation’s tone can be changed. Therefore, there must be a good reason to get the information, and you’ll often need to create that reason. Offering to get additional information for your customer is often a very good reason to get a “best method of contact.” For instance, say your customer is looking for a ballpark price quote on a landscaping service from your company. You might be tempted to throw out a ballpark price without doing any research. This causes you to potentially make a mistake, and also squanders an opportunity to gain contact information from the caller.

Try this:
“Great question, I can definitely get that for you. In order to be as aggressive as possible it’s going to take me a few minutes to round up all the information but I should be able to call you back in 5 or 10 minutes with that. What’s the best way for me to reach you right back?” I’d be surprised if a customer ever said “no” to that.

Note: Do not say, “Can I please get a phone number for you?” That’s a yes/no question and the customer will often say, “No, I’ll wait on hold while you look up the info.” Don’t ask for permission. Take control, be confident, and don’t offer “no” as an option. “What’s the best way for me to reach you right back?” doesn’t leave any opening for “No.”

3. The opportunity to get more info on the customer’s request

Many customers call in with questions that seem quite straightforward. For instance, say you’re a landscaping company and a customer calls with this question: “Hi, do you provide landscaping services in Portland, Maine?”

If Portland is outside of your travel radius, you might be tempted to respond, “No, we don’t… sorry!”
But wait! At this early point in the call, you might not know enough about the nature of the work this customer needs; you should find this out before saying, “No.” What if the customer is looking for a massive amount of commercial landscaping work? Wouldn’t your company be willing to travel farther than normal under the right circumstances? Couldn’t you put your crew in a hotel for a few nights for the right amount of revenue? Probably…. and that’s why you should grab that opportunity to get more info from the customer before closing the opportunity.

Here are a few easy ways to get more information on the caller’s request:

“Please tell me a bit more about the services you’re looking for.”

“What attracted you to that particular ‘model’?”

“Is it only this service you’re looking for? Are there others you’ll need? If so, what are they?”

My own story with this:
Once upon a time I called a car dealership looking for a convertible. It was a small local dealership, and they were advertising a red Toyota Solara online. I called the dealership and inquired, “Hi, wondering if that Toyota Solara is still there.” Paul, the salesperson, responded, “No, sorry that one just sold.” Then silence on the other end of the phone. Me: “OK, thank you!” Well, it just so happened that this dealership was local, so I took a drive over the next day and found that the dealership had three other convertibles in the same price range. Unfortunately, the dealership was closed that day and I wanted a new car PRONTO! I found a car at another dealership and purchased it right away.

Here’s how Paul could have taken me out of the market for a new car during that first conversation:

Me: Hi, wondering if that Toyota Solara is still there.
Him: OK, let me check for you. Is there any other info I can get for you while I’m checking availability?
Me: Yes, is it a clean CARFAX?
Him: I’ll check it out for you. My name’s Paul, by the way, what’s yours?
Me: Brad
Him: OK Brad, I did check and it appears that car just sold today and will be taken off my website tonight, however, what was it specifically that you liked about that car?
Me: I’m really just looking for a convertible in that price range.
Him: Well, I do have three others. One’s a BMW, there’s a Mustang, and it looks like I also have an Infiniti. When might be a good time for you to stop in to check them out in person?
Me: Not sure! The Infinite sounds nice. What’s the mileage on that?
Him: I actually just took that car in so I don’t know everything off the top of my head… but I’ll gladly give you a shout right back with the info, as well as some pictures. What’s the best phone number to reach you?

Had the conversation gone this way, Paul would have likely sold me a car… if not that day, he’d have sold me one the following week when he followed up to tell me he had taken in another Solara. But he never got the chance, because he never gave himself the chance.

There are many reasons your agents might not be asking for more information on the customer’s request. Perhaps the agent is too busy to handle the customer’s call appropriately. Or, maybe the agent is assuming that the customer is specifically looking for the product or service they called in on. Even still, maybe they’re simply afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to appear pushy. Any of these reasons lead to missed opportunities. Paul from the car dealership was probably too busy to adequately engage in a conversation with me, and was assuming that the only car I wanted was the exact Solara he had just sold. He was probably also afraid that, if he suggested other makes and models to me, I might accuse him of trying to “pull the old bait and switch.” So, I ultimately bought elsewhere. This might be happening in your business, click here to find out.

4. The opportunity to secure an appointment

Every phone call should include a request for an appointment to talk/meet in order to get to know your customer on a “human” level. And, a face to face meeting proves commitment from both parties; you show that you care about the customer by setting time aside to discuss their account in person, and she demonstrates she’s serious about your service by doing the same. Let’s face it: if a customer invites you into her home or travels to your business establishment to learn more about your product or service s/he is far more likely to become a paying client!

By the way, don’t leave it up to your customer to initiate this step… very often, they won’t. Instead, be proactive! Schedule a time to meet and discuss your offerings.

Not sure how to ask for an appointment? Here are some ideas for various types of businesses:

  • Electrician: “Sounds like you’ve got a few things that need to be taken care of. I’ll be in that area this week and can stop by at your convenience. What would be a convenient time?” (This same word track can be used for most businesses in which an in person visit will be necessary, including roofers, plumbers, landscapers, home cleaning companies, and other types of businesses.)
  • Motorcycle dealership: “Sounds like you have a nice bike to trade, when’s a good time to stop in so you can see the new ones and we can give you a sharp appraisal on yours?”
  • Chiropractor: “As you know I can only do so much over the phone, so why don’t you stop in for a complimentary evaluation? We’re here until 5 on the weekdays, what works best for you?”
  • Software tool: “Let’s schedule something for end of week, so I have some time to pull some research together for you. What would be the best day? And what time would you prefer? I have a few times available in the morning and afternoon.”

Wondering how your people are performing on your inbound calls? Are they capturing all the opportunities available to them? Get your free “phone up” evaluation here and give your company the edge over your competition.

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