Stop. Breathlessly. Standing. By. The. Phone. And. Answering. It. On. The. First. Ring.
It was around June 2004. I was in tech sales for a startup out of Austin covering the 18 westernmost states on my own. I was running my self ragged setting my own appointments, booking my own travel, doing my own demos, generating my own quotes, handling delivery / shipping updates, coordinating on-site installation, and even taking some support calls.
I lived with a headset around my neck and took calls in the hall, in the bathroom, on the tarmac, in the Hertz rental bus, on Sunday mornings on the way to church, on weeknights while tucking the kids into bed...and it sucked.
At the recommendation of my mentor I stopped answering every call immediately and if I saw an important call coming in but wasn't in a great place to handle it properly I'd quickly answer and say "Hi Mary, I'm on the Hertz bus / dropping off a package / stepping into a quick meeting, etc...may I call you back when I can focus on our call?"
Guess what happened?
I had fewer deadend conversations with deadbeat tirekickers.
I had more quality conversations with motivated prospects.
Stress went down.
Sales went up.
Selling is theater. You are performing. The phone is your stage. You use words to build the imagery and vision in the minds of your prospects.
You are limiting yourself by winging it.
Football teams don't call yank a fan from the stands and make them sprint onto the field with 17 seconds left and force them to kick a game-winning field goal.
Baseball managers don't point to a random player on the team and hand him a bat and tell him to pinch hit for their star pitcher with no notice.
But that's what you're trying to do when you drop every single thing you're doing and take any and every random call.
"But Wes, shouldn't I expand my staff and hire an assistant to take my calls, thereby negating the purpose of this series and growing sales without growing staff?"
Maybe, but not necessarily.
When I hired my first assistant it helped me grow faster...once I knew how to leverage her assistance.
However, in both my technology job and owning my own business, my real growth when I realized the value that I brought to my clients and to my family by being present and remaining focused on the task at hand and completing it before moving on to the next fire.
They say that after an interruption it takes 15-22 minutes to regain our focus, but the average office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes.
That's why you work an extra 2-3-5 hours per day and still feel like you "never get anything done."
Let your calls go to voicemail.
You can listen to it right away and call them right back at first and say "Hey, I was just getting off a call and couldn't grab yours. Sorry I missed you. How can I help?"
Trust me. That's 99% as good for the prospect in demonstrating timely support and responsiveness, but it lets you remain in control of the timing of the conversation.
As you see this work, give yourself five minutes, then 10, then 30 if that is how long you need to finish whatever it is you were working on before you check messages and return their call.
For the 1 out of 100 that complain or are perplexed at why you didn't answer "right away like everyone else" you can reply with "I apologize for missing your call. When I'm working on something for my clients I stick with it until it's done. That's why they get such great results with me. Now what can I do for you?"
Try that and let me know how it works.
Ready to stop being on call 24/7?