It may surprise you to know that in my PR consultancy I don’t get loads of telephone calls – I make lots of calls.
When I do get calls though, they tend to be important. They will be from:
- Clients asking questions or making appointments.
- Clients who don’t want to use email to communicate.
- Potential clients who want to make first contact.
- Journalists trying to get hold of me or one of my clients.
- Occasional marketing calls.
Given I don’t get a lot of calls, it’s taken me a long time to embrace the necessity to get cover for my calls when I’m on holiday. After all, it’s not lots of calls, yet 80 per cent of them have potential value to my business.
Yet, like many business owners, I have a hesitancy to spend on something where the benefit is not always immediately obvious. A bit like media relations I suspect!
Recently I took off for my annual two-week summer holiday, and during those first few days I spotted an email from someone who wanted to talk to me and who had clearly resorted to email. This person said it didn’t bode well that they couldn’t talk to me on the phone or couldn’t leave a message. I now know this person, previously unknown to me, came via a direct referral and has the potential to be an ongoing client.
Why has this not been an issue before?
I can answer that quickly. The pandemic.
Having pivoted my business by offering a lot more training and consultancy via my Power Hours, I get a lot more people wanting that kind of ad hoc support. My retained clients all knew I was away and acted accordingly and they know my VA.
It’s different now. New potential clients will have come via my own media relations coverage or social media engagement, or word of mouth. None of these marketing activities stop when I’m away however I was shooting myself in the foot by not considering phone calls. Many people rely on email or social media messaging however some do not.
My first thought when I got that ‘narky’ email was to think ‘what the hell I don’t even know you!’, my second thought was ‘it’s a fair point’. To truly have a break and not feel guilty I need someone to help me and answer my calls in a professional manner. I realised that potential clients need to know they’ve been heard.
I sneaked off and got in touch with the team at the Virtual Business Centre, known to me as a client. It was now time to invest in them. Within two hours they were ready to answer my calls while I was away and understood what I needed them to say and do, depending on the needs of the caller.
What were the outcomes?
The first one was business. I got work from it.
I had about ten calls during that ‘almost’ two weeks. All were answered, messages were sent to my VA and my email so, if necessary, action could be taken. I also paid a little extra so that really urgent messages could be sent to me via text – I had only two of these.
*Of those calls, two were from new clients who wanted to book power hours with me. This was done, ready for my return. One has now become a regular client.
*Two were from existing clients where something had come up and they needed urgent advice which I was able to provide via text.
*Three were from journalists wanting to follow up with my clients – I could then action that via email in a few moments of down time.
*One was from a wider family member who forgot I was away.
*Two were general marketing calls by people unknown to me.
The cost of one single hour of consultancy more than covers the monthly cost of this service to my business. In fact I worked out that once I was 17 minutes into a power hour I’d paid for the cost of the Virtual Business Centre’s service to me for that period of time (less the line set-up cost which is a one-off cost).
What does this mean for me as a business owner?
*I can go away without worrying I’m missing or losing business.
*I can go away without worrying that if something urgent came up, I wouldn’t know about it.
*On my return I can go into a client meeting and switch to VBC and not be distracted by telephone calls, I can be truly present.
*I can go to a networking meeting or virtual event and be truly present – and not miss any important calls.
*I can turn my phone to VBC when I really need to get my head down to complete a task without interruption.
*I can, if I wish, switch to VBC, at weekends to be absolutely sure I’m not missing any important calls which will mainly be from journalists.
*I can screen calls if I need to – the VBC team now know which marketing calls I’m not interested in and, as sometimes happens with journalists, which people are calling me because they have developed a needy attachment to me.
*The relationship speaks to my reputation. It gives callers confidence that I have a professional team who will take a message if I’m not immediately available.
*If someone says they’ve been trying to get hold of me via the phone and cannot, I’ll know if it’s true. When you are a journalist that happens quite a lot.
*I feel more professional. This may sound silly – as I know I’m good at what I do. It gives me confidence in myself and allows me to plan how and when to get in touch with those trying to talk to me.
If any of this resonates with you, you can check out the Virtual Business Centre (operating throughout the UK) here – https://www.virtualbusinesscentre.com