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3 Fatal Phone Mistakes That Kill Sales…

Author: Charlie Cook   |   March 6th, 2012

Most businesses throw 30-80% of the leads they get away and I’m talking about my clients and yes, you too!

It’s incredible to me but it’s true.

Almost every business owner I’ve talked to wants one thing…more people interested in buying their services. But then when the phone actually starts to ring, they make the following fatal mistakes.

Phone Sales Killer Mistake 1 – Not answering the phone
We have one client who is eager to sign up more people for his gym in San Diego. But he’s a busy person (we’ll call him Tom) and rarely able to pick up the phone when prospects call. The result was that 50% or more of the calls went to voicemail.

Imagine you were looking for a yoga class, or a new fitness trainer. You call a gym you’re interested in and no one picks up the phone or you just get voicemail. What do you do? You move on, and you call a competitor, another gym.

Not having a live person answer the phone during normal working hours is fatal to your business. You’re essentially handing your business to your competition.

In the case of the above client, Tom’s concern was that it was going to cost him a couple hundred dollars a week to hire an answering service or make a staff person available to answer the phone. Which is true.

But by not having someone available to answer the phone, spending a few hundred dollars a week, Tom was losing between $2,000 and $4,000 dollars a week.

Is it worth it to pay someone to answer the phone and avoid losing your leads? You do the math.

Phone Sales Killer Mistake 2 – Directing prospects who call to your website
Another client of ours, again a fitness center owner – (we’ll call her Sue) –recently opened her facility in Chicago and wanted to sign up new members, get fitness buffs in the door.

Here’s what happens when prospects call, ready to schedule a class (the first one is free). With the exception of one staff member, the people answering the phone, tell the prospect to go signup on their website and end the call. Which in essence tells the prospect they’re not worth talking to. Nice!

Now if you’re United Airlines or Continental – you can get away with degrading your customer experience and insulting your customers – because they don’t have a lot of choices. You can make it more costly to book your flight by phone and force people to use your website to cut your costs.

But if you’re a local service provider this kind of arrogance is bad for business, actually fatal to your sales.

Everybody likes the idea of using the web to handle all marketing and sales. But, unless you’re an, the web isn’t a sales tool – it’s a lead generator.

The purpose of your website is to get the phone ringing so you can talk to prospects, ask them what they are interested in – and one-on-one on the phone you can help them sign up for the class or service they want.

To be fair, Sue had one staff member, who in contrast to the rest, excelled at talking to prospects on the phone. Instead of basically hanging up on prospects, Sandy took the calls and used them to sign people up right there – yes on the phone.

In one case, we heard Sandy talking to a client who was paying for a babysitter so she could come to the gym. Sandy, pointed out to the client they could save some money by scheduling her son for a class at the same time.

That was brilliant. And by doing so, they helped the client and sold her on two classes – one for herself and one for her son. Neither of which could have happened if Sandy had just told them to go sign up via the website.

Phone Sales Killer Mistake 3 – Telling prospects a sales person will call
At one company we work with, their primary product (industrial machinery) goes for around $50,000. It’s a big order and each prospect has the potential to be worth a lot to the company.

But like most companies – when someone calls and is interested in talking with them, they, in essence, throw away the leads.

When you call this equipment manufacturer the standard procedure is to take the prospects’ information and tell them a sales person will be in touch. Big mistake!

As I mentioned before, when a person finally picks up the phone to make a call and expresses interest in your products or services, they want to talk with someone – right then. They don’t want to get the brush off.

Ignore them and they’ll move on to call your competitor or even if they don’t – good luck getting them back on the phone. Typically when you try returning calls you’ll be doing well if you get 10% of them back on the phone – which means you just lost 90% of the leads calling your office.

Instead, the smart thing to do is to have one of your experts available to talk with the people who want to spend money with you. You want to have the receptionist ask the prospect a few questions and then connect them, right then and there to someone who can get the conversation started.

Even if your staff person doesn’t have all the answers, they can start to discover what the prospect is looking for, and start building the relationship.

Okay, what do you do if you get more calls than you have people to answer them?

Have the receptionist explain the situation, e.g. you’re swamped with buyers calling in and all your staff is busy, and explain how much you value the prospect’s interest and then schedule them for a follow-up call. Get them to open up their calendar, pick a time and schedule a time for them to call one of your product experts. And of course, after you hang up, send them a confirmation email.

By now you may be asking yourself how is it I know all this stuff about my clients? How do I know how they answer the phone and what they say to prospects?

At ClientsDelivered we use tracking phone numbers and we record all incoming calls to our clients. Then, once a month, our staff actually listens to the calls and scores them. And more often than not, what we find out is shocking to us and to the business owners – at least the first couple of months before we train them on how to answer the phone.

How about you?

Does your company record and review incoming phone calls?

With just a few changes, using proven phone answering formulas and systems you could easily increase sales next month by 30% or more.



To your success,


P.S. I’ve only mentioned 3 of the fatal phone mistakes most people make above. There are dozens more but you probably knew that.

P.P.S. We only accept select clients into the lead generation and sales support program. Apply here to see if you qualify >>

One Response to “3 Fatal Phone Mistakes That Kill Sales…”

  1. Catherine White Says:

    These are some fantastic tips which can be used for any business.
    Mistake #1 of not having a live person answer the phone is a huge one. I have been searching for a service person and, as soon as the call goes to a machine, I immediately hang up and go the next name on my list to call.
    Some parts of customer service are just common sense, yet we forget to implement a plan that would work for us. Think of how you would feel if you were the customer, then make improvements on your marketing skills.

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