I am perplexed by phone messages that say, "If you have a rotary-dial phone, please stay on the line...." Does ANYONE have a rotary-dial phone in this country? And if they do, don't they just ride their horse and carriage to get whatever they need from the five and dime? I am afraid that getting "ear" time with a prospective client is an ever-increasing anomaly -- like rotary phones.
In fact, just last week, I was discussing a product with a former agency person, who said to me, "I would probably listen to this [if someone were to call and pitch it], but since I don't answer my phone, I'd just go online to see it." She said it so nonchalantly that it gave me an idea of just how de rigueur this habit is in the agency community.
Although it shouldn't really surprise me by, now since I have been on the other side so many times: Dial the phone, expect to get a voice mail, instead hear a live voice, and it is not an assistant! Maybe it's just a really realistic-sounding recording. Nope. It is the elusive media buyer herself on the phone, and now it's GO time. You adjust your headset, announce yourself as media salesperson X, and before you get your next line out, you hear the "sigh" on the other end. More often than not, she only picked up the phone because the caller ID looked similar to a friend of hers. Or she thought it was the deli calling to confirm the delivery address for her lunch order.
Whichever the case, she certainly did not want to speak to YOU. So now what? Resist the temptation to pretend that you are, in fact, calling from the deli. My best recommendation for you is to ask permission first: "Hi, Ms. Media Buyer. This is Media Seller from Company X. Do you have a few minutes now, as I would like to talk about a product I think would be great for you, or should I call back at a better time?"
Yes. You heard me. I suggest that you be willing to get off the phone right away. Why? Primarily, it is polite, and secondarily, if you just roll right into your elevator pitch, the person will most likely be annoyed, not listening, or both. If she tells you to call back later, ask for a good time. Even if you never connect again, you have cast yourself and your company in a positive light. Nobody wants to be known as that irritating guy from the deli.
Speaking of headsets, I would bet that the ratio of headset use in our industry is 25 to 1, sellers over buyers. Sellers use them when they sit down at the desk for that ever-present one-hour power session of rapid-fire dialing for dollars.
So Amy, what do you think? Ever see a headset in an ad agency?
Actually, the supply room doesn't carry headsets, it's a special order, which your supervisor has to approve -- so no, agency folks don't have headsets. But even if we did, we would only use them for outgoing calls.
Caller ID is definitely an agency buyer's best friend, and no one ever does pick up the phone. Mostly because the phone rings constantly, and at least half the time it's someone from whatever new site or ad network just happened to launch that week. This phone problem is one of the biggest complaints I hear in the industry from both sides, so let me share some of my thoughts on the subject.
As someone who has led many digital teams, this is a very tough issue. I know that it is not good business to ignore phone calls, not return calls, or even just leave voicemail full for all eternity. I have tried to impress upon buyers that their own reputations can be tarnished by not calling people back. I have tried to tell them that business courtesy dictates a return call, or at least an email to complete the transaction in a socially respectable way. Mostly this is to no avail, a situation caused , I think, by a number of reasons within the mind of the buyer, some more valid than others:
Buyers receive such a volume of calls that they could never keep up even if they tried. I'm not sure about this one, though, as they have no trouble keeping up with their buddy lists and instant message throughput.
Buyers already know whom they need to be doing business with. Being overly selective about whom they call back means they are serving their client's needs. This is debatable, because the next big thing could be the answer the client is actually looking for; plus, buyers should be always trying to learn new things.
Buyers are not phone users. A desk phone is an unnecessary and unpleasant, antiquated piece of technology for which they have no use. This is closest to reality, I think. Buyers aren't using the phone to talk to their friends and family, they are text-messaging and Facebook-chatting and sending status updates. So the big issue may be that phones are falling out of favor as the communication channel of choice for most buyers.
I agree with you that getting off the phone is the right thing to do for a seller. But what is the next step in doing business? Email is the next best thing, and you have to follow the best CRM strategies regarding subject lines to get a response. Or you need to work your network to see about getting in via instant message or Facebook.
Once you get to know someone, they may talk to you on the phone, but only if they really need something. This dynamic of phone calls not working is not going to get better, it's going to get worse. We need to rethink communication in general to solve this one. Just give me a call if you want to hear more. :)