When it comes to having your telephone calls screened, I am becoming more and more convinced that the real culprit is call display and not voice mail. I suspect there are a lot of prospects and customers who quickly glance at their call display, realize who is calling and completely avoid picking up the call. They let it ring to voice mail and there the call is screened and often, buried.
The trick is to get the client to answer by ‘disguising’ your particulars. Here is a collection of tips and techniques to avoid call display and get your call answered. Please note: use these techniques if, and only if, you have attempted to call the prospect or the customer several times using your usual process. These ideas are reserved for those who you feel are “dodging” your call.
Try Internal Transfer
I love this technique and have used it successfully from time to time. It can work wonders for you. The idea is to call an extension other than your client’s extension and then have the person who answers transfer the call. In some scenarios, your prospect or clients sees not your phone number but an internal extension.
Here are some interesting approaches. Call the president’s office. Usually you will go through a receptionist or auto attendant, and in all likelihood you will reach an executive assistance. Never mislead or lie. Simply say,
“I am trying to reach Jenn Jones. Could you transfer me?”
If she is at her desk when the call is transferred will see a call from the executive suite, not your name or number. At this point, what is she going to do? Ignore it? I doubt that. They tend to pick it up. Pronto.
Another effective route is to call the accounting department. When a call come from accounting there is a compelling interest on the part of your prospect. Typically it’s something like “Why the heck would accounting want me?”
You can use the same approach and call a customer service or sales department. One of the advantages here is that your call is almost always picked up by a live voice. (There’s always someone in sales looking to grab an order or a customer service rep available for an inquiry.)
It should be noted however, that some phone systems identify your number and it is transferred onto from call to call. In other words, you might try and deke through reception and another department but your name and number still get passed on.
Be prepared. Sometimes you’ll get a prospect or a client who might be a little annoyed that your call came internally. Again, you never, ever want to misrepresent yourself or mislead your prospect. Integrity and honesty is the best policy. If asked, tell them the truth. For instance,
“Well Bob, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t having much luck in contacting you directly so I thought I would take a different approach. Now that I have you …”
Notice that the reply was direct and factual but don’t dwell on the matter or seek their feedback. Move onto a question, or the reason for your call.
Call from Another Location
If you suspect that your number and/or company name is flashed on your client’s call display regardless of the number of transfers, try calling from another location or phone. For instance, one simple method is to try using your cell phone and see if that increases your hit rate.
If you can, you may want to spend a morning or afternoon calling from your home. Your home number is unlikely to be recognizable to the client. You’ll be amazed at your contact rate from home compared to at work. Caution: if you call the same number from your home (or cell) to often, the client can and will screen it out).
A third option is to use an old fashioned pay phone. I know pay phones are not always situated in the best locations and not always ideal for work, but some of your calls may warrant this approach. Sometimes call display will indicate that a pay phone is calling. Despite this, it can work in your favor in that it will likely create a degree of curiosity. Not many people get calls from a pay phone while at work. Try for a few of your toughest clients that you feel are avoiding your call.
Use *67 (Call Blocking)
Some phone systems or networks allow you to enter a code such as *67 which will block your phone number. There is often a charge for this so bare that in mind. Depending on the client’s phone system, it might show “call blocked” or “number unknown” on the call display. Clients can be suspicious of this and may avoid picking up. Nevertheless, it is a technique you can use to help you reach your clients.
Some sales reps are uncomfortable using these approaches. Fine. Don’t use them. But at the end of the day, your job is to sell. If the client playing hard ball and using technology to avoid your calls, you might need to play hard ball back. As long as you do not misrepresent yourself, these techniques are quite legitimate. Try them yourself and see.