~by Haley Gray~
If I can give any entrepreneur one piece of advice, it is to answer the phone. You need to have a consistent way to answer all of the calls you get, and follow up on those calls. Ditto for emails that you may receive. Every time you get an email or phone call from a prospective client, treat it like gold.
Okay, so you have lots of calls coming in and they are preventing you from getting your work done, and you don’t know how to handle them. That’s a fantastic problem to have. You have to manage those calls, though. How you decide to manage the call volume can depend on what your goals are, and how you want the individual calls to be handled.
- The easiest way to handle calls is to answer the phone yourself. Carry your cell phone and a calendar book everywhere. Make appointments and follow up yourself.
- Get a live answering service. We’ve used Ruby Receptionist, and have been extremely pleased. Using and answering service ensures that calls are answered within a few seconds, and prevents them from being dropped. Because callers and clients reach a person quickly, they won’t be left wondering if and when their calls will be answered, and they’ll appreciate your business’s professionalism. Answering Service employees act just like a receptionist, and you can tell them exactly how to handle each type of call. Best points – they know when a call is ‘phone-spam’, and can treat it appropriately, because as a business owner, other people will try to call you and sell you lots of things.
- Get an assistant or Virtual Assistant (VA). One of the hottest trends right now is to hire a Virtual Assistant, or a part time assistant, to help with scheduling, returning calls, answering phones, and more. There are lots of people out there looking for positions, and this can be very helpful. You have an almost unlimited variety of people and different modalities to choose from. I’ve hired people who are just looking for part time work, moms, seniors, and others. ODesk offers Virtual Assistants, and there are other offshore assistants that can perform a huge variety of tasks to help keep you on track. You just have to decide exactly how you want your phone answered, and make it happen.
None of these options have to be very expensive. Note that you can get support from an answering service for a couple hundred dollars per month. A virtual assistant in the Philippines working 40 or so hours a week is also just a couple hundred dollars per month. So research your choices, and choose something. Don’t over spend, but make sure that you answer the phone! Clients can’t reach you, and your business can’t grow if you don’t answer the phone!