- Subject: Learning from answering your phone
- Essential Reading: Shop Owner, Center Manager
- Author: Noah Rickun
I took my own advice over the past week and spent a fair amount of time on our sales floor.
- I answered front-line sales calls.
- I took some customer-complaint calls.
- I talked with loyal customers.
- I talked with new customers.
- I fumbled through our new-ish computer system and created quotes, wrote a few orders and made a handful of sales.
- I learned a lot in a week.
I learned that there are opportunities at my fingertips to improve efficiencies, to increase sales and to provide better service. I learned that what I thought was happening on a minute-by-minute basis was actually pretty different from what is actually happening. Some things are worse, some are better, but most are different.
I also discovered that some of what I had been asking my reps to do was not a great idea (and, in some instances, was not even possible).
But the hardest-hitting moment came when I got a call from a nice-size account that had no idea who I was.
“Thank you for calling. This is Noah. How may I help you the most?” I said when I answered the call.
“Noah!” the caller enthusiastically shouted. “Are you new there?”
“New? Really? I’ve been here 10 years!” I thought to myself.
Later, the caller’s question echoed in my head. That’s when I realized that I am new here. I might not be new to the business, but I am new to the customer. I am new to the sales floor again. And, it’s a whole new world out there.
Technology has changed, from the phone system to the computer system and more. Customer expectations have changed. They want instant answers and seem to have ZERO patience for delays or hiccups. Relationships have changed. Our customers now have relationships with my reps. In the old days, everybody wanted to talk with me. This week, I often felt like a receptionist for callers who just wanted to speak with their favorite sales guy or girl. Buying motives have changed. Unlike in the past (when it was very focused on price and availability), I found customers today to be more concerned with warranty coverage and product specifications. So, basically, all these aspects of my business were new – except me. I suddenly felt old.
Instead of feeling sad for myself, I decided to get fully immersed in the newness. I’ve really been excited as a result. In fact, I intend to stay out here on the sales floor for at least another week and will schedule at least one day a month on the phones going forward. I have a list of a dozen action items and even more questions for my reps. This truly has been an eye-opening adventure, and I would recommend you try it for yourself.
- Want a reality check? Try answering your phone.
- Want new ideas for improving closing ratios? Try answering your phone.
- Want to get a feel for what your employees are facing on a daily basis? Try answering your phone.
- Want to discover new ways of increasing your business, building customer loyalty and eliminating inefficiencies? Try answering your phone.
I know you’ve hired a manager, a sales rep, a receptionist or somebody else to answer the phone at your business. That’s all well and good. Just don’t forget to do it yourself every once in a while. Your phone is ringing with new opportunities at this very moment. It’s amazing what can happen when you answer the call. Go ahead. Try it.
Noah Rickun, aka Captain Reman, is the vice president of sales & distribution at ETE Reman. An aftermarket veteran, Captain Reman is known for sharing his sales, business and customer-service knowledge weekly through the e-newsletter Reman U.