Stop Answering Your Dang Phone Already

Written by Christine Kane

Be the leader of the pack in your business.Used to be, you could reach Sarah day or night.

She was pretty much available on her cell 24/7.  If you were a client, you could call. If you wanted to ask about being her client, share your story or just kick her tires, Sarah was your girl.

Her reasoning?

“I might miss someone! It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I don’t want anyone to go find someone else to do the work they need!”

It’s the classic lack mindset.  “They’ll find someone else if I don’t perform when they snap their fingers.”

The problem with dog-eat-dog mentality is that dogs don’t actually eat dogs.  Dogs follow the strongest leader.

As a business owner, you must be the strong leader of the pack. And the pack is your prospects, your patrons, your patients, your purchasers… your peeps.  When you lead them, you become the alpha-female. You set the criteria. You teach them how to treat you. You create the standards.

Most business owners don’t create standards. They’ve simply trained themselves how to react to the needs, desires, doubts and drama of everyone around them. And they’ve trained everyone around them that they are available at any time for all of it.

Which is exactly how Sarah ended up owning a business where she had burnt up all her time, her focus and her adrenals.  She just thought she HAD to answer her phone and be there for everyone all the time – or else?

“They will go away.”

Not true at all.

Something magical happens when you take the leadership role in your business.  When you set standards, people not only follow, but they actually like to know the rules. They appreciate your clarity.

Though there are many places to begin with standards and leading the pack, the first and easiest habit is the phone.  Many solo business owners still answer their phone whenever it rings.

So think about this from a sales perspective.  When you answer your phone on the spot for a prospect, you are teaching that person from the very first minute they experience you, that they are the leader of the pack. They are the alpha.  They call, you answer and you perform.  Even if they do hire you, guess what kind of client they will become?   You got it!  The kind that wants you 24/7.

Stop this craziness and become the leader.  Create a structure or system that you follow to the letter each time a new prospect calls you.

Here’s what to do:

1 – Schedule a time slot in advance when you will return phone calls each day or week.

2 – Create an outgoing voice message indicating when someone can expect a return call from you.  Encourage them to leave an email if they want a faster response.

3 – When you return the call, you can either schedule a time for an intake session (if this is a new client inquiry), or you can trouble shoot on the spot, depending on the nature of the call.

(Obviously, none of this applies to clients who are calling in for their scheduled appointments.)

You can also eliminate all of this by hiring someone to answer your phone for you, and take care of your customer service needs on the spot.

If you don’t believe it’ll work, you can just test it out for yourself.  Sarah did.  And she was blown away at the results. She lost exactly two clients. The rest were grateful for the new standards she was setting.  And the best part is that her confidence level skyrocketed.

You can call her and ask her yourself if you want.  (But you’ll have to leave a message and she’ll call you back at 4:30 this afternoon.)

So, share with me in the comments below…

Do you still answer your phone?  Or is there another avenue where you make yourself available all the time for people?  How are you NOT behaving like the leader in your business?

{18 comments ... read them below or add one}

Friday Favorites
December 20, 2013 at 8:52 am

{18 comments ... read them below or add one}

Marlene Keys November 20, 2013 at 9:59 am

Thanks for the reminder Christine. I will post my comment on Friday, which is when I have scheduled time in my calendar to do so! :)

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Christine Kane Reply:

Okay Marlene – I’m holding you to that! :)

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Erin Goodman November 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

Thank you for this, Christine. So many good reminders.

One thing I recently did is scheduled a two hour block once a week for new client consults. What a difference! I used to write back to my inquiries and ask them when they wanted to talk and then I would bend over backwards to be sure I could be available. Now I email people back and tell them when my next available appointment is (which is now sometimes over a week away). Feels so much better.

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Christine Kane Reply:

…that’s great Erin! PLUS – it also gives them the luxury of not having to think. It’s like, “Oh, okay. Here’s my three choices” vs “Okay, all of next week is open. Who knows?” It’s actually a service for them too!

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Wendy November 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

Christine – I’ve experimented with all kinds of ways of doing this over the years. I do block off ONE specific two hour block for an intake each week, and if it’s full, folks have to wait til the next one is available. I DON’T answer my phone, actually, hardly ever. I wait, let folks leave a voice mail, and then return the call when I’m ready to do so. Usually that’s at the end of the day on my work days.

The one mushy boundary I seem to have is with texting. At first, I didn’t like the idea of texting with clients, but over time I haven’t really minded it too much. It’s a quick way for them to share a victory, change an appt, or for me to just give them a bit of encouragement….

However, I know that as my business grows (which it is) that’s not gonna work much longer. So yeah, this is one of those areas I’ve got to clean up…. Hmmmm……

Thanks for a healthy reminder about the importance of boundaries!

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Sharron May Reply:

Hi Christine, My business phone is my cell phone. Therefore my ‘appointment book’ is always with me and this has contributed to having a full schedule. I work alone and do not have a receptionist. When I am working, I return calls at lunch and at the end of the day. But when I’m out and about and run into an opportunity to schedule a client, I like striking while the iron is hot and getting it done. During slow periods (seasonal economy) I can bank on booking three appts just doing errands around town! I would have to pull out my phone to remind myself to call the person at “set time” or send them a text or email with my contact info, so why not just book it? Am I not seeing something?

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Christine Kane Reply:

Hey Sharron! If this system is working for you, then keep on using it, by all means! The problems may occur as your business grows. Yes, it’s do-able now. AND I’m always into “make decisions from where you want to be.”

So, all that might mean for you now is to just play with a more systemized way you might do it.

Still, it sounds like you’re returning calls and scheduling exactly when you want to do it and on your own terms. Which is great!

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Jack Kinley November 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

“dogs don’t actually eat dogs” – thanks for making me nearly spew hot coffee through my nose. I adore your practical and enlightening sense of humor!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Well, Jack if I made you spew coffee through your nose, it’s just a payback for all the times your posts do that to me on facebook! :)

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Jessica November 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

Christine, thank you for this post. I am in a beginning situation where I feel like Sarah, in that I won’t have any clients if I Am not available at all times. I will have to sit down I find the best time in my schedule.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Jessica,

Just take the time to think about how you’ve been thinking about this (yes, that’s confusing sounding but I mean it)… and see if you can find a better way to do it. Otherwise, you will slowly not enjoy your business or your clients and when that happens, it’s a symptom that you have to begin creating some standards.

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Tracie Thompson November 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

… and you know, I do still answer my phone, but this principle is why I stopped myself from responding to an inquiry online at 1:30 this morning when I saw it. I asked what I was telling the potential client and myself, if I was working at that hour. Nothing good!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Woohoo! The small victories are big deals Tracie! :)

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Katy November 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I learned long ago not to answer my phone. It started as a means to rule out friends or family calling with distractions. These days, it’s so I can focus on what matters. My clients matter. But it also matters that I set aside the time for them and their needs. And if they call while I’m out shopping, or in the middle of cooking dinner, I’m less likely to be able to focus on them.

I use a GoogleTalk number as my business number. I not only get voicemail messages, but I also get text transcriptions of the voicemail and an email of the transcription. I can tell from a quick glance if it’s important and needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later or if I can respond back via email or later in the day.

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Katy Reply:

I also use Boomerang to schedule my emails. So while you might email me at 1:00AM and I might still be up and able to respond, I’ll schedule my email to go out in the morning, at a reasonable time. This way I’m not quite so available 24-7 – even if I might work late nights.

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Monique Lusse Reply:

Thanks, Kate, for this resource tip. Will make my life a lot easier!

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Alle L'Eveille November 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

Great reminder. I’m improving on this. I set up slots for client phone conferences to keep my work flow flowing. I am still too available, but am not at the point where I have a staff. However, google phone number answering service definitely keeps some of the unwanted callers and spontaneous clients under control. Plus as part of my leak repair this year, I weeded out the demand-commando client because they are NOT my ideal peeps.

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