One of the most exciting moments of a new coaching practice is hearing the phone ring, especially for the first time.
Don’t answer it. What?!
In every other business, a phone call is the lifeblood for survival. You get your clients over the phone. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s important not to answer your phone.
Let your voice mail service or answering machine pick up your calls. If you’ve created a great message that will bond potential clients to you, then you’ll have no worries letting calls go directly to voice mail.
Here are eight reasons why to let it ring:
1. You want to give your clients your undivided attention. You may be ready to start your next appointment or need to take a bathroom break when the phone rings. Not answering it will give you the opportunity to talk to new or existing clients without sounding rushed. Plus you also don’t want to be rushed or late to your next appointment.
2. You may come across too excited. One of my clients noticed that the odds of him getting a new client went down if he was too excited. “I’ll only have a 50-50 chance,” he says.
Jump up and down with excitement when you listen to your first voicemail rather than during your first phone call.
3. You set a boundary with your clients when you don’t answer the phone. If you answer your phone every time it rings, your clients will expect that you will always answer. That can be a problem down the road when there’s a point where you can’t answer your phone promptly. Clients may feel disappointed that they can’t reach you immediately, and that disappointment could lead some clients to quit coming to sessions.
This boundary becomes particularly important when you want to take a vacation. If you are planning to be out of the office for an extended period of time, be sure to let your ongoing clients know about it at least a month in advance. That gives them time to think about it and be prepared for when the time comes.
4. Waiting gives you time to think about what you want to say. Listen to the message and give yourself a little time to think about the best response. You’ll have to think about questions to ask, what tone of voice to take, and how much time you should be spending listening to them versus time talking to them.
5. Waiting allows you to settle yourself down. Grab a glass of water or take a brisk walk around the block before you answer phone calls. Take a few minutes to meditate and gear down from the busy-ness of the day. Being settled helps you think more clearly, especially at the end of the day.
6. You want the perception you are busy even if you aren’t. If you answer your phone, you’re not in a coaching session. You want potential clients to believe that you have a full plate, even if you only have one or two coaching clients when you start your practice. It sends a message that you are professional. It also tells potential clients that you will value their time when you are working with them.
7. Your voicemail or answering machine can be a marketing tool. Let it do its job! If you are in the market for more clients, let it pick up after one or two rings. This gives less time for potential clients to change their mind and hang up. If you are completely booked, set the service to pick up after five or six rings. Some people will give up after four rings.
8. You’ll have time to remember more about the client. If you have a lot of clients, you really need to review your notes about the one calling to give yourself a refresher before you pick up the phone. You’ll want to anticipate what the call is about, if the caller doesn’t tell you specifically. If she does leave a detailed message, remind yourself of the facts about the situation from your last session. Remembering the details will make you sound empathetic and concerned.