What is the one thing that small businesses never have enough of? Money? Partially True. According to Andy Paul, author of Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, “If you don’t have enough money, then the one thing you wish you had more of is TIME.” When analyzing your company’s needs versus your resource constraints, business owners are often left in a difficult position. They need a team to support them, but cannot yet afford one.
To solve the underlying problem of overwhelming amounts of work and no (or little) support, business owners begin to take on more and more hats. Some hats may fit them well, generally those directly related to their product or service. Other hats, may not fit well at all. So how can owners of the new “lean start-up” find time to focus on the areas of business that will generate money? One way is by outsourcing your “front desk” functions.
In our last blog we spoke about the benefits of selecting a quality “reception service.” When an owner is handling the front desk, many calls are going to voicemail or to an automated system instead of your customers being greeted by a knowledgeable, welcoming, person who is able to immediately address product or service related questions and route their call to the proper associate. This can be catastrophic to sales conversion and customer support. In this blog, I want to address the opportunity cost of two other hats: scheduling and the use of (or lack of use) of customer relationship management (CRM) software.
By engaging with an outsourced executive assistant (as opposed to just a “reception service”), that service can enable shared scheduling on-line to enhance your customers’ experience, increase your conversion rate, and to free up time for the owner. The business’ calendar can be shared online and appointments can be booked directly for anything from a consultation, to an estimate or a service without the business’ owner or its employees being involved. Better yet, clients’ expectations are exceeded by the prompt service. The business owner can then use that time to build their business, see more clients, work on your business instead of in it (as the esteemed Michael Gerber advocates) and yes – make more money!
Now you may be thinking, there is nothing else that my outsourced executive assistant can take care of for me. There is no more time that can be created. Not true! Every company must have and fully utilize a CRM system…but in reality less than 20% of small business clients even own a CRM system and less than half actually use the one they have. Again, by engaging with an outsourced executive assistant all incoming leads are input timely, customer interactions are recorded, and emails are attached into the CRM system leaving a complete record for each prospect and/or customer. Follow ups and reminders related to each prospect and customer are assigned and scheduled in the CRM system and 100% lead follow up and customer satisfaction can be targeted and ultimately attained. Having a comprehensive file on communications with each relationship is PRICELESS. Should your business experience any turnover – or your memory fails you – you have a comprehensive history to refer back to. Your ability to exceed your customers’ expectations will again gain you both new clients and referrals from existing clients.
The ultimate benefit is, as I always say, that by engaging in professional behaviors your company instantly gains trust and credibility within its marketplace. That trust and credibility can ultimately be the difference between someone buying from you, or buying from your competition.
“Not Just a Receptionist – an Executive Assistant”
Zero-Time Selling by Andy Paul suggests that prompt follow up – that is, the first business to get its prospective clients (even leads), the information they need, has the highest likelihood of winning the client even with the same functions or service and yes – even at a higher price!
Key, according to Mr. Paul is to “Provide the Human Touch:” meaning that every time the phone rings it is answered by a person, not a voicemail greeting, and not an auto-attendant. It means you must have a receptionist or administrative assistant who assigned to answer the phones. Each call must be answered promptly, competently, and personably, even when the business owner, the sales representative or the customer support representatives are at lunch or in meetings: networking, with clients or with their families.
Zero-Time Selling also endorses in the “Practice [of] Unconditional [Customer] Support”: meaning a live person must always answer the support line. Why? Because all customer-support inquiries have to be responded to in less than 30 minutes. Why 30 minutes? Because a response in 30 minutes or less will feel like instantaneous responsiveness to a customer. It is that “instantaneous responsiveness” that will, as Mr. Paul dubs it – allow your business to “hunt with the sharp end of the stick.”
This means that if a competent person, thoroughly knowledgeable about your product or service answers your phones and is authentically engaging with your clients and prospective clients you increase your responsiveness and hence your rate of CONVERSION. By routing each call to the correct employee, a good front line receptionist is not a “gate keeper” they are a salesperson. They can expedite calls such than important calls are even received during other meetings and ensure that an opportunity is never lost.
The moral of the story is, if you do not have a dedicated person answering your phone – get one. One who is trained in your product and acts as an extension of your business. Not any phone assistance service will do. Interview services, ask for recommendations, and look for ways that they can further integrate with your business like scheduling appointments with your clients using a shared calendar and facilitating your CRM (customer relationship management software) by entering leads, conversations, and follow up prompts. For a very small monthly investment, you will find that it is not leads that you lack, but follow through to conversion.