Thursday, January 31, 2008

To Phone or Not to Phone?

That appears to be the question...

I learned another valuable business lesson yesterday regarding doing business with others on their terms and not mine.

I don’t know about you, but I hate annoying sales calls in the middle of my productive day. Nothing irks me more than interrupting a creative session to answer a call from someone who wants to sell me something. I’m usually not in the right frame of mind and if I’m on a deadline, they will most likely get the following response from me, “I’m sorry, I’m just not interested at this time…”. If they had sent me an email, they may have gotten a different response.

With former backgrounds in sales, Michelle and I both decided when we started our own business to be more on the “soft sell” side. We discussed the risks of not pushing for the sale and decided that the benefit of being the type of company that we wanted to be outweighed those risks. We thought people who were interested would buy and we wouldn’t have to be the annoying pushy salesperson that we were forced to be at our other positions in past years.

It appears that may have been a big mistake on our part…

Yesterday we were on-site meeting with one of our current clients. During our visit, the client mentioned that someone she had referred us to said that we hadn’t contacted him. We were stunned. Michelle had met with the client, sent a proposal and followed up twice with email. It turns out that the potential client doesn’t really read his emails. We "ass"umed that he was too busy and that he just wasn't interested at the time. We were wrong. The client perceived us as not contacting him and in turn hired another designer.


Our policy was to send a proposal via email and to follow up with a phone call after the client showed interest in pursing a business relationship by sending a reciprocal email or by calling us (as we requested in the email).

Our business model has failed us. How many other potential clients have we lost due to our assumption that people don’t want to be annoyed with phone calls? Where we thought we were helping our potential clients, we were actually hurting our bottom line. Our thinking was that our potential clients could read and respond to our emails or proposals at a time that was convenient for them, rather than interrupt their busy workday with our sales pitch.

Another item to take into consideration is our industry. Most designers and programmers prefer to communicate via email and live chat. Many of us have instant messaging and emails sent to our phones, whereas most likely our clients don’t. Even though the Internet is an essential part of our business, it may not be to our clients.

I am curious though, do you prefer to have email or phone calls when it comes to sales? I’m going to create a poll to find out your answers. Please take the time to weigh in (over on the right hand side of this blog post near the top).

Moving forward, we’re changing our business model and we’ll be spending more time on the phone and less time emailing prospective clients.



Darlene Z said...

If you were sending me a bid, I would prefer email to phone as I would like to read it over and make my decisions without pressure.

I don't read junk email or spam though. I would have to be expecting it to read it.

Complete Business Systems said...

I agree Darlene! I scan our webmail junk folder every couple of days. Unless I am waiting to hear back from someone, then I'll go in there more religiously.

Ken H said...

To me, I read email religiously as that is part of the business I am in. However, I would also think it worth while to not only send email but snail mail as well, then follow up with the phone call as normal. This allows the non-technical folks to have the same leisure as your more technical crowd without forcing too much change on your company.

Complete Business Systems said...

Good strategy Ken. We should have followed up with a phone call after we didn't hear from him. If we had, we'd be designing his website right now rather than another firm...

blogtommy said...

Hi Joanne. I got your Logo up over at onequartlow but did read your latest post here and was interested in commenting as well. I wouldn't get too distraught about the practice but would go back to understanding your client/customer. I moved into an administrative job (offline) this week and was shocked at the lack of technical know how or for that matter even, interest in anything remotely modern these folks have shown me. As business people our first mistake can often be assuming others have the same interests/technical know how that we ourselves possess. I like your soft sell approach (even though most will tell ya it's not effective). I think if your product and/or service is all that, it will speak for you. I still believe strongly in that. Good luck!


Complete Business Systems said...

Thanks Tommy - the soft sell worked for us for quite a few of our sales, but really it's better business to be the hound (even if it's not what we want to be).

I agree with your comment about other people not being "up" with technology. I have spoken to people that don't know what a browser is, and others who haven't heard of YouTube!

It's a fine line we have to walk because many times you can lose someone with too much technical talk and other people get offended if they are up on technology and you leave something out because you were trying to make it understandable...

I'm rambling...I need to stop work for the day and go enjoy the new episode of Lost!

I appreciate your comments and putting the logo up. I'll check it out tomorrow.


Shane said...

I would think most people dislike being disturbed by a sales call. But, in my opinion it is not about what you prefer, it is about the client and being diligent.

In business people have to be prepared to answer a phone or return a message. What is wrong with a quick and polite call or voice mail?

It can be as simple as, "Hey, ______ we just sent a proposal to your _____ email account."

At that point they'll typically tell you what they prefer. That they'll check it, ask you to fax it or talk about it right then and there or in extremely rare occasions tell you off!

I haven't had the telling you off situation as of yet. As I said, it's a necessary evil of business and people accept it.

Complete Business Systems said...

Hi Shane,

Thanks for weighing in with your comment.

I've been doing my best to improve in this area.

JLevoff7579 said...

Hey Joanne,
My name is Josh and i work in phone sales for a telecom company. I cold call just biz to biz and most people are annoyed with me when i call. It is most likely because they have been contacted hundreds of times before. So it really depends on whether or not its a cold lead or a warm one!