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Posted: September 27, 2012

Eight great tips to get your phone calls returned

Don't assume I know who you are

John Heckers

In a recent search for a new health insurance broker, I made what turned out to be a pretty major mistake: I posted a request for good brokers on LinkedIn in my groups.

I was inundated with calls.  Some of them got to give me their pitch, but many lost the opportunity for an immediate sale. Here are a few tips to make sure that your phone messages get you a return call and a happy customer.

1). Be clear. There are some brokers I could not call back because I couldn’t understand what they said. Slow down! Some of us old geezers are a bit hard of hearing (eh?), and when you race through your name and number, we can’t understand what you’re saying. Young, upcoming sales people! This means you!

2). Speak up! My wife is not hard of hearing like me. But even she can’t hear people on the phone sometimes. Don’t whisper. Speak in a normal or even slightly louder speaking voice, but don’t yell.

3). Don’t ramble! I got about 30 calls, but 15 of them I just deleted. Why? Some because they talked too darn fast, some because they didn’t speak up, but most because they told me their name then gave me a three-minute commercial before they told me their number.

If I want a commercial (or 1,000 of them), I’ll turn on the Science Channel, thank you. Tell me your name and your number at once. Then tell me what you want me to know. But don’t ramble on and on and on. I won’t give money to someone who bores me.

4). Repeat your number. I truly hate it when someone just says their number once. Repeat the number. Repeat it s—l—o—w—l—y. If your number is jumbled together, I can’t call it back. If I miss it and have to go back and you’re trying to sell me something, I might just decide it isn’t worth listening to a message again to get it.

5). Repeat your name and number (and company) at the end of the message. Don’t just tell me this info up front. Repeat it again, slowly, at the end of the message. Here is an example:

“Hi John. This is John Jones of Beta Insurance. 303.555.1212. Again, that’s 303.555.1212. I’m responding to your request for a small business health insurance agent from LinkedIn. Again, John Jones at Beta Insurance, 303.555.1212. I look forward to speaking with you.”

That's all you need to say.

6). Pick up your blanking phone! This is a message for all of the folks who want to screen all their calls and return them at their leisure. You’re unnecessarily missing business. Unless you’re in a meeting, a movie or unavailable for a valid reason, answer your phone! This is especially true of younger people, but everyone and their sibling wants to screen their calls these days. Don’t. At least don’t do it if you value business.

If you must let it go over to voicemail, call back ASAP. Don’t make people wait a few days. They’ll have gotten another product.

7). Don’t answer with texts. Many of us have paws too big to text on the miniature keyboards they provide, or just don’t like texting. If you’re trying to sell someone something, call them in person unless otherwise instructed.

8). Nix the 800 numbers. I don’t ever answer 800 numbers. Why? It’s a waste of my time. Call from a line where the number is available – I don’t answer “unavailable number” calls, either. Both 800 and unavailable numbers are surveys, someone trying to sell me something or my credit card companies trying to get me to sign up for more useless services. Sorry, don’t have time for you if you’re one of those.

Just a couple of general phone tips.

1). Unless you’re calling your mom or your spouse, say who you are. Don’t assume I should recognize your voice. I may be talking to lots of people.

2). Don’t yell. If someone asks you to repeat what you just said, don’t yell it in an exasperated tone. Slow down and repeat at a regular volume.

We are very dependent on communication to make business work. If we all follow a few simple business phone rules, like becomes a great deal easier for us all.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Great article, John! As a national authority and award-winning author on telephone communication for great customer service...I couldn't have said it better myself! Your readers might benefit from my book entitled, Beyond Hello: A Practical Guide For Excellent Telephone Communication and Quality Customer Service. It is available on our website at or through any major book seller. Keep up the good work! By Jeannie Davis on 2012 10 19
Yes, we only have a few seconds to make a good first impression. Thanks for reminding us that this also applies to the phone! It would be nice to hear "I'd be honored to give you a quote" or "It would be my pleasure to give you that information" rather then listen to someone try to sell themselves at high speed on the recorder. Great tip! By Carol Mazur on 2012 10 09
I agree 100%, and I wish everyone could read this article. Even those receptionist in some offices answer so quickly I have to validate I have the right company. A good exercise is to time your message. Twenty seconds is about it, absolutely no more than 30 seconds. That means thinking through your message before dialing. By Garry Duncan on 2012 09 27
Excellent article - another point to add - cell phones don't always have great reception or clear tones. Another reason to speak slowly and repeat information on a short message. ...and yes, not everyone texts or has a gigantic fancy smart phone. Some people only have phones that make telephone calls. Thanks! By SusieQ on 2012 09 27
Great article, John, especially points 1 and 4. It never ceases to amaze me the number of voicemail messages I get from people who drag on and on with their message, only to spit out their phone number at light speed. If you want someone to return your call, your phone number is THE most important thing and it should be repeated slowly and more than one. By Nathan Jansch on 2012 09 27
Does #8 contradict #6? By David on 2012 09 27
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