Telephone Etiquette
for Business Success

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Etiquette may not seem like a new small business idea, but professional courtesy is often forgotten by both large and small businesses. Surprisingly, I often find myself needing to coach my clients in the fundamentals of business telephone etiquette.

While the results of forgetting etiquette on the phone aren’t good for any business, large businesses don’t suffer as much because they make more money than small businesses. But as a small business owner, your telephone is one of your most important business tools, and mistakes on the phone can cost you dearly.

So here’s a refresher in some tried and true telephone etiquette techniques. Remember to use them and your business will grow at a steady pace.


1. Return All Phone Calls Within 24 Hours.
When you don’t return phone calls promptly, you’re telling a potential client “I’m so busy that I don’t need your business.” In addition to the bad impression it gives, you may be missing an opportunity to return the call of your next big client.

This is especially true when it comes to returning calls that are referred to you. In essence, you are turning your back on business. For example, let’s say you receive a voice message that says “This is Bob Adams. I was referred by Joe Smith.”

This type of call is called a warm lead and will probably end up in a sale. Why wouldn’t you want to return Bob’s call?

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2. Call and Thank the People Who Give You Referrals.

Thanking people who send you referrals seems like a basic small business idea, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t do it (I’m speaking from personal experience!). Follow up and let them know what happened.

Using the same example in #1, Bob calls and you end up doing business with him. Follow up by calling Joe and letting him know that you were able to help Bob. In all likelihood, Joe will send you more leads. If you don’t let Joe know the outcome of his referral, he’ll think nothing came of it, or worse, he'll think you're not courteous enough to say "thanks" for a lead and will stop sending them to you (and he'd be right!).

3. Make Your Voice Mail Sound Professional.
Loud music and babies crying in the background are not O.K. Furthermore, a commercial about your product or service is not good either.

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Clients won’t take you seriously if your voice mail message isn’t professional. Small business owners are notorious for making this big mistake. If you’re serious about your business - and want to be taken seriously - write out what you want to say, and practice it before you record your message.

4. Get a Personal Voice Mail Box for Business Only.
Don’t list everyone in the family and ask your clients to leave a message. For example: “You have reached Kathy, Bob, Josh, Sara and the XYZ Company. Please leave a message and we’ll call you back.”

Spend an extra $5 on your phone plan and get a private mailbox for your business. This is an essential small business idea.

Here's an example of a simple yet professional outgoing voice mail message: “This is the private voice mail for Kathy Snow. Please leave a message, along with your phone number, even if you think I have it. I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”

Asking callers to leave their phone number, even if they think you already have it is always a good idea in case you are checking messages from a place you don’t have their number. It can be very frustrating when you want to return a call, but don’t have the phone number to make the call. The person might also be calling from a different phone that is more convenient to reach them.

5. Smile When Making Your Outgoing Voice Mail Greeting.
I called a life coach one day and her voice on the voice mail sounded sad. I wondered “Who would want a coach that sounds so depressed?”

When you smile as you deliver your voice mail greeting you sound happy and welcoming to the caller. Try it. Record your voice mail with a straight face and then try smiling. You’ll hear the difference.

These small business ideas will subconsciously invite people to call you more often. Most people like to feel special and your customers are no different. They like personal attention.

Remember, as we learn new marketing techniques and strategies to promote our businesses that the use of good old fashioned etiquette, especially when using the telephone, is still a profitable small business idea.

-by Anne Hilbert
Anne Hilbert is a Networking Expert
She is available for Private Coaching and Public Speaking
Anne can be reached at: www.MyNetworkNavigator.com


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