Overwhelmed is a word I use in most of my workshops and keynotes. I use it to describe why it can be difficult to reach people on the phone today and why it’s vital for all of us to know our customers’ needs and be precise with our information. Almost everyone has a to do list that’s too long.
Having said that, it’s important that we don’t allow our “overwhelmed” to rob us of opportunities. When we put our entire focus on being effective, efficient and productive, it’s possible we miss out on new and exciting possibilities.
I’ve been reminded of this the past few weeks as I’ve attempted to reach senior executives at a company on behalf of an investor. These executives know me. We’ve met and I’ve delivered a workshop to their staff . But today they are incredibly difficult to reach and I believe it’s because they’ve created systems to help them stay focused. But those systems are keeping me – and my investor – out.
My several calls to the company have been routed to what I believe is an answering service. While professional in every way, the service lacks the “tone” of welcome, and other voices in the background indicate a multiple-phone environment. The receptionist is unable to tell me whether the person I am calling is in, on vacation, will be free this afternoon, etc. Each time I am put on hold and then told the person is not available but a message will be passed along. There is no voice mail option.
Companies that eliminate voice mail do so to free up time. Executives provide a direct line or cellphone number to clients and prospects with whom they want to communicate. This makes for less interruption of focused work by unexpected phone calls. And I suspect these companies also rely a lot on email.
While this streamlining does make sense on many levels, but is also builds a wall. Opportunity needs a window.
Due to the sensitive nature of my call, I am uncomfortable leaving too many details with a receptionist, particularly one I believe does not work directly for the company. I’ve used my basic “I have one quick question” and provided my availability, but no one has called me back. And I’m not selling something. I’m calling to introduce someone who wants to invest in their business. While this may not interest them, I’m confident it’s an opportunity they’d want to consider.
Will I connect with them? Yes – I’ll reach out to a wider circle and track down a cellphone number. Or I’ll send email and set up a specific time to talk. I’m unusually stubborn – someone else with an opportunity might simply move on.
Now compare this with another company I approached on behalf of the investor. I called the CEO’s executive assistant. Again, I know the company and have delivered workshops to their staff. The executive assistant answered the phone. I explained why I was calling. She agreed it was of value and suggested I email both herself and the CEO. Within 24 hours a meeting was organized.
While I do understand the need for focus and efficiency, it’s important to remember that the phone can be a harbinger of good news, of opportunity and possibility.
What are your thoughts? Have you encountered a corporate “wall” when trying to reach someone with an opportunity? How did you handle it? Or have you created system to help you stay focused? Is it a wall or a window?
On a personal note: On Saturday September 27 I’ll be sleeping outside as part of Sleep-Out for Change, a fundraising initiative of Shelter Nova Scotia. Funds go to providing support for those experiencing homelessness. I want to extend my thanks to the 20 individual donors who have helped me exceed my fundraising goal of $1,000. If you want more information or would like to donate, please click here: Sleep-Out for Change.
Enjoy your PhoneWork everyone!
The Phone Lady On The Road
September 23 – Telephone Talent: How to Communicate Effectively with Customers and Prospects by Phone, Power Lunch with Centre for Women in Business
September 30 – Effective Phone Communication Skills with OTC Insurance, Halifax, NS
October 2 – Essential Phone Skills with the Multicultural Career Group, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS
October 2 – Celebrating Entrepreneurship and the Telephone with the Valley Women’s Business Network
October 3 – Train the Trainer, Self Employment Benefits Conference, Halifax, NS
October 7 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous with Northern Opportunities for Business Limited, New Glasgow, NS
October 8 – Phone Power: Best Practices for Customer Service Representatives with Wilsons Security, Halifax, NS
October 15 – Guest Huddle – Powerful Phone Skills with Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Dartmouth
October 21 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous with Rural Action Centres, Central Bedeque, PEI
October 23 – Telephone Talent: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Customer Service and Sales, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, Charlottetown, PE
October 24 – Essential Phone Skills,University of Prince Edward Island, Business Cooperative Education, Charlottetown, PE
October 29 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous, Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, Halifax
November 5 – Public Debate: Phone vs Email at Yuk Yuk’s, Westin Hotel, Halifax NS – Please vote for me! Even if you are unable to attend the Halifax event.
November 17 – Job Search Phone Skills, Team Work Cooperative and the WorkBridge, Halifax