Change Your Niche, Increase Your Income

By Lori Jenkins

The Telephone Answering Industry is changing as we all know. We have been losing the typical client that wanted us to get the name, number and what it is regarding. In the past, when we took a sales call, we would explain how we went about the normal message taking procedure and then quoted rates and hopefully closed the sale.

In the last year or two, I noticed that I was closing fewer and fewer sales and wondered why. I have always used the same method and was very successful in closing in the past. One thing that I think we all forget to do is really listen to what the client wants, instead of our normal way of thinking customers should be handled. In retraining my ear, I began to notice that all my sales calls were going way beyond the normal account! So I began to sell way beyond the norm.

I started by offering receptionist services instead of answering services or live service. All our sales calls express that now we offer several different types of receptionist services. Let me explain a few to you and then you can help me in determining exactly what your needs are for your business.

Always telling the potential client first of the niche that you want to go after helps reach your goal for that niche. For example, with the help of two-way DIDs I decided that I really wanted to go after the Off Premise Receptionist field. I started with the very simple account where three men all worked out of their homes and wanted a professional answer when their callers called in.

We answer, “Wedge Welder Supply,” then ask, “Whose calling please,” and then say, “One moment while I connect you to Mr. Stockman.” Then we patch the caller to Mr. Stockman’s residence when he answers. We state who the caller is and connect the two parties and hit the release button, which with two-way DIDs drops us from the loop. If Mr. Stockman is not home, he has no-answer call forwarding back to our voice mail which he recorded, “Hi this is Glen, sorry I’m not at my desk, please leave me a message and I will get back with you as soon as possible.” So if he does not answer within the fourth ring we simply patch and let the voice mail takeover the call.

This is a very simple account that takes very little training. The revenue was much higher and the labor burden much less. By offering this service first to every sales call, I have been able to reach my goal in that “special offering” to my client base. You can make this type of account as simple as 1-2-3 even if you are answering as a receptionist for a very large company. By setting this type of account up in a client directory base, you can answer for a company with many employees. They do not have to be a home based business.

One account we have has sixty or more employees. We simply connect to their actual desks and the same procedure works great. “One moment, I’ll connect you,” or after four rings, patch and let the voice mail take over.

We also have gone after the call scripting type of customer. With using order entry we have a customer who is doing a national marketing campaign to get new employees. They feel, and I agree, that especially in my area, anyone who wants a job has a job. So they are running this campaign in the sports section of the newspaper, not in the classified.

We take the incoming call with the first question being “What area of the state a re you calling from?” with an a, b, c of choices, for the receptionist to choose from. Then we say, “What division are you interested in?” again with choices, and then ask “Which position are you interested in?” with more choices. Once we determine all of the above we read a script to the callers on the rate of pay, the benefits and get the normal name, number and when would be the best time for our human resource representative to give you a call back. The key to this call is, we are the company.

By following a script we have all the information the caller needs. The labor burden is a little more time consuming, but is well worth the cost that we charge for this type of service.

In retraining yourself to new markets, remember to retrain your staff. By teaching your staff that they are not the answering service, they are the receptionist for multiple companies, is one of the first steps needed in changing from the normal account. Without the support of the staff in this change you will f ail in reaching your goal.

With technology changing and our potential customers needs changing, it is essential that we develop new markets and offer new advanced services for the survival of our business and growth of our industry; for instance “off premise receptionist, email delivery, call scripting, Internet marketing and many more. So retraining your ear and really listening to what your potential clients are looking for can open a whole new niche that can bring in better revenue than “the normal TAS account” and move your company into the new millennium.

Lori Jenkins is the Office Manager of Answer-All Secretarial Service, Inc. and Current President of the Startel National User Group.

[From Connection Magazine – September 1998]

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