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Has Your Telephone Become Your Sales Prevention System?

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I was shocked at how such a simple oversight could be sabotaging my client's sales efforts. Not only was the client losing sales, it was actually paying hundreds of dollars to alienate each hot prospect.

The CEO of an enterprise software company asked me to work directly with the VP of marketing and take over it Google AdWords campaign management. The company was routinely paying $35 to $65 per click in its highly competitive niche.

My objective was to optimize the campaign so as to get more sales opportunities for each dollar spent.

To help quantify the value of the AdWords investment and identify measurable results, I set up tools like traceable inquiry forms, Google Analytics, measurable conversion goals, and a special toll-free number that allows the company to actually listen back to the inbound calls initiated by Web site visitors.

Now It Gets Ugly

After I set up the toll-free number, my routine is to test it a couple of times to make sure it works and is forwarding the call to the right number at the company. This also gives me the opportunity to "mystery shop" the company's phone call answering and routing process, as though I am a prospect who just found the company's website and is calling the phone number on the screen in front of them.

When I made my call to the company's toll-free number, here's what I was treated to: "This call may be monitored for quality control and customer service... ring... ring... ring... ring... thank you for calling [company name] please wait while we transfer your call to the next available representative... ring... ring..."

Half laughing and half grimacing, I hit "0" to try to get a human on the phone, only to hear "the option you have selected is invalid, please select again..."

At that point, I hung up... just like a prospect would. I couldn't help but wonder how many potential customers had hung up in frustration and how many potential sales opportunities had been squandered.

How to Measure Ugly

This company was paying $65 per click to get roughly 1 out of 10 visitors to actually pick up the phone and dial a call to the sales team. This amounts to $650 per call (actually much more, when indirect marketing costs are factored in), and that $650 call was immediately flushed down the abyss of the automated phone system. Any chance of a positive impression was immediately turned into a lost sale.

Sadly, this sales prevention system is not at all unusual among businesses today. Too often companies get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of increasing Web traffic and rankings—and overlook the simple yet vitally important things such as making sure that sales calls get answered and emails are handled in a timely manner.

The result is lost sales opportunities and a poor impression of the company, which can lead to much larger problems that ultimately sabotage business growth.

A Sound Solution

Luckily, I had set up the toll-free number recording system. I called the VP of Marketing and enabled her to hear what I had just experienced.

"Horrified!" inadequately describes her reaction. The next day she called back, saying she had replayed the call for the CEO, who was also sickened.

The company made an immediate decision to engage a live answering service to handle the calls, at least for the short term. A team was quickly trained to ensure that every inbound call was adequately and professionally handled.

From Ring-Ring to Ka-Ching

Is your company guilty of throwing dollars at campaigns to increase Web traffic, only to turn around and squander sales opportunities due to poor telephone and email handling?

Quick: You'd better make sure that your telephone system isn't preventing prospects from reaching out and touching someone at your company. As soon as you finish reading this article, pick up the phone and call your company's sales lines and test the process for yourself.

Is your experience exactly what you'd like your perfect prospect to encounter?

If so, congratulations. If not, take some action to remedy the situation, such as implementing a professional answering system or training your sales team to handle the calls in a timely and professional manner.

These little common-sense things are often unnoticed and unresolved because no one thinks to test all the components in the process. Getting each one right will make a big difference to your top line.

Also, implement a system to record incoming phone calls for quality review and to mine/transcribe details for the sales team. If you don't know where to get one, contact me and I'll connect you.

Make time to honestly assess your telephone and email sales processes. Your sales efforts depend on them to operate with friendly flawlessness.

A Beautiful Ending

Recently, my client called and was excited to share with me the recording of an inbound phone call: "This is [one of the executives] at [a $3 billion dollar] company. We're currently using your competitor and not real happy with the results we're getting. We'd like you to come out and meet with us..."

I was as thrilled as she was with the good news. We both agreed that this call came as a direct result of:

  • Installing the traceable, recordable 800 line
  • Directing the call to the professional, human answering service

As my client put it: Not only would that call have likely never happened under their old system, but there would be no way they could go back and play the entire call to provide the sales team with precious and timely details that may have been lost in translation on a memo pad or in a database field.

Don't let your telephone system sabotage sales any longer. I guarantee that making these few simple changes will bring you more sales opportunities for each precious marketing dollar.

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Todd Miechiels is a B2B Internet marketing consultant who specializes in search engine marketing and Web site visitor conversion. Reach him via

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