Sales disasters - Inbound sales callsJohn and I discuss a common sales disaster – you’ve spent a ton of time and money constructing a successful marketing campaign. You’ve got enthusiastic prospects calling your office.

And then you blow it with a bad process (or no process) for handling inbound sales calls.

It’s incredibly frustrating to have a great marketing system that generates a lot of interest in your product or service, only to lose those hard-won prospective customers with a poor first impression!

We talk about some of the disasters we’ve seen in our practice.

That really bad news? Many times owners and sales managers don’t even realize how much potential business they’re losing!


Listen to this episode –

[smart_track_player url=”″ background=”default” social_linkedin=”true” ]

Transcript  – Sales Disasters – Fumbling Inbound Sales Calls



Announcer: You’re listening to aviation marketing hanger flying, the community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn to fly just from a book, you learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills and the territory. Your hosts John and Paula Williams are your sales and marketing test pilots.

They take the risks for you and share strategies, relevant examples, hacks and how-to’s. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you won’t miss a thing. [SOUND]

Paula Williams: Welcome to aviation marketing, here we’re playing episode number 102, inbound call disasters and how to avoid them. I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: And I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are AVCI and AVCI’s mission is

John Williams: To help all you ladies and gentlemen out there sell more products and services in the aviation land.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. And if you would like to reply to this or make comments or anything else, we look for the #avgeekmarketing, and we’ll reply to any tweet, comment, question, or anything else that you’d like to say.

John Williams: Pretty much.

Paula Williams: Pretty much. Okay. [LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: So the big ideas in this episode are, number one, we spend a lot of time and money encouraging more inbound calls. That’s really the focus of a lot of our marketing efforts is getting people to call you, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: So those inbound calls are incredibly valuable source of sales, would you agree?

John Williams: Imperishable.

Paula Williams: Yes, the third big idea here is that most companies handle inbound calls really, really badly and I’m talking big aviation companies that handle this really badly. Right? You’d agree?

John Williams: Yeah, I mean it sounds horrible to do a better job.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. So

John Williams: But then some of the small ones did as badly as well.

Paula Williams: That is true. But you would think, out of all of things that you would expect from an aviation company, above all things especially the ones that advertise great service and personalized and customized and all of the stuff.

John Williams: Then you get into a fun tree you can’t get out of.

Paula Williams: No kidding, exactly. So this really is the number one most frustrating way to ruin your marketing. You can spend a lot money with also with any other marketing agency, doing fantastic ads, and really great lead generation activities, and really great PR, and other kinds of things that get your phone ringing.
But then you ruin it all if you answer the phone badly, right?

John Williams: Or don’t answer.

Paula Williams: Or don’t answer, exactly. So first of all, let’s talk about the solution to this, and then we’re going to talk about some of the things that can go wrong, and then how we can fix it.

So storyboarding we talked about last time, and we had a couple of questions about it, people saying I see what you mean by that, but I’m not sure exactly how you do it. So we thought we’d give you an example. This is a storyboard for our cartoon. Basically, all it is, is you walk through each step visually of the process, right?

If you are a process engineer, you can call this process mapping, if you feel better about that. If you are familiar with the movie industry or with cartoons, or anything else, it is kind of an easier, simpler way to visualize it. You don’t have to be a process engineer or a PMI, or any of those other things to make this work.

You have to think in smaller steps. What happens first, what happens next, what happens next, what happens next? And then he says, and then they say, and then the scene shifts and those kinds of things. So who’s doing what in which scene? And we ran across a statistic, actually, while we were sitting there waiting for the movie.

[LAUGH] Those things that you see when you’re in the movie theater and they’re spending time, I’ll show you.

John Williams: Yeah, that was down at the theater we went to. And they said that the Matrix had over 500 different storyboards to get through the movie.

Paula Williams: Exactly. Which is a lot of storyboards but often the more storyboards you have, the better your outcome is.

Paula Williams: And that’s one of the reasons that movie was so good is that everything was thought through. The less you leave to chance, the better things tend to turn out, right?

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: Okay. So now let’s talk about storyboarding inbound calls. This is often what happens, right?[LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Okay. So basically you do search optimization on your website so that when people search for, as an example, aviation marketing, they find us. Or FBO marketing or MRO marketing or whatever, they end up on our website. And now, of course there’s lots of ways that they could respond to that.

They could send an email, they could send a text, they could schedule an appointment or whatever but the most common way and especially the most common way of people that end up being our customers is that they pick up the phone and they call our office. Right?

John Williams: Yes.

Paula Williams: Okay and you do that too, right? Your phone is your thing, right?

John Williams: Say that again?

Paula Williams: The phone is you thing, you don’t do emails to people that you don’t know generally if you want something you pick up the phone and call them. Right?

John Williams: Yeah.
I mean that is a hold over from long time ago when phones were it.

Paula Williams: Right but,

John Williams: But I still much prefer that cuz then I know, one, they got the message, two, they didn’t misinterpret it. If they did, I correct them on the spot.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: And three, I get a response.

Paula Williams: Yeah. And John actually has a lot in common with most of the people that buy from us and most of the people that buy from a lot of aviation companies. They’re college educated male, over 30, possibly former military. There’s lots of demographics that John actually matches.

[LAUGH] So, he’s kind of our test market for a lot of things. But, a lot of people say well people will send me an email first or they’ll fill out a form on my website. No they won’t. I mean younger people might but a lot of times people think that’s just going to go into a black hole or I don’t want to mess with it or I don’t know if I want to commit to filling out a form yet.

I just want to talk to somebody, right?

John Williams: Right. I mean there is the occasional person that will do that. So, you will have to have them there.

Paula Williams: Exactly. So, that has to be one of the methods that works really well. If you’re in the aviation industry, this is probably your number one priority is making sure that you answer calls well.

So, they find you on your website because they looked you up on Google. They could find you in an article. Let’s say you’ve got something published in Aviation Week, Aviation eBrief, general Aviation news, or some industry publication, deal, and magazine, whatever indicating that you’ve got a new product or that you’ve solved a problem for a customer, and somebody sees that.

And says, wow, I want to talk to you about a problem I have. And the first thing they’re gonna do is look up your phone number and call you. Right?

John Williams: Yeah, in fact, I look up phone numbers on websites, and if it’s not easily there, then I go to another website.[LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Exactly. Social media ads and posts, a lot of times, the call to action for that, or one of the possible calls to action should be, give us a call and let’s talk about your situation. Conventions and events, whenever we do public speaking we hand out business cards.

Or we have our phone number on one of the slides or one of the hand outs, so a lot of times after we do one of those education sessions we get a lot of calls into our office. So those are all really really valuable things that we have done a lot of, put a lot of time and energy into making that happen and I much rather have them call us than have us to call them, right?

Okay. But what usually happens, is when they call [LAUGH] our office, or when you call any office in the aviation industry or pretty much any other these days you end up in some kind of a horrible phone tree right.

John Williams: As a matter of fact a very large, let me say call it a financial organization in our country.

Of which we’re fairly decent customers ended up with a new phone tree. And one I couldn’t get out of, so I pretty had to get a hold of him [INAUDIBLE] tell them that this is not personalized service when you got a phone tree I can’t get out of no matter what I do.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: And I changed it, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one calling in, but it seems like the next day it was changed.

Paula Williams: I mean, it’s funny because one of the companies we have worked with in the past is a fairly large and well-known aviation company.

And you ask them when we were putting marketing materials together for them, what is your primary difference between you and your competitors? And they say service. Okay, great. A service is a wonderful thing. We should blast that all over your website and make sure that that’s a really prominent thing.

But then, when people see that on your website, and then they call your number, and they end up in a phone tree, what is that telling them? Your call is very important to us.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah, right?

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: That’s like having your address at, instead of at your business name.

Paula Williams: I think it’s worse.

John Williams: Yeah, it is, because this is just disgusting.

Paula Williams: Yeah, because I’m making an effort to reach out to this company that says that they have fantastic service, and my very first impression of them is not fantastic service, or personalized or anything else.

John Williams: No.

Paula Williams: It’s, they’re treating you like an imposition or a number, you know. So my effort of calling them is not being rewarded instantly with a good first impression, right?

John Williams: No it’s not.

Paula Williams: Okay, so here’s another cartoon that I found. To listen to stupid music for 20 minutes before getting kicked out of line, please press one.
To get kicked out of line right now please press two. To talk to an incompetent sales call center agent who can’t help but will kick you out of line, please press three. Thanks for calling, you will now be kicked out of line.

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: No matter how much you pay for your phone tree system.

Most of them are, one, an instant put off because people don’t like talking to robots. And two, no matter how well programmed it is there are going to be people who want to bypass it and are gonna just do nothing but obsessively press zero until they get hold of a human being anyway.
And those are the kind of people that you end up talking to right?

John Williams: And what’s going to take the place of this is not a person but AI is going to do that. I’ve already had calls from AI and when you give them. And they sound good.

Paula Williams: Yeah yeah.

John Williams: Up until you give them data they don’t know what to do with and they just sit there and say nothing.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: And I hang up.

Paula Williams: Well I would not be the first one to do AI. I think that’s a, still got a ways to go.

John Williams: No but it’s going there.

Paula Williams: It could.

John Williams: No, it will.

Paula Williams: It will, but as a marketing professional I can’t advise that you use something that’s gonna go haywire on your customers.

John Williams: No, no, that’s not what I’m saying but that’s what a lot of companies are doing and working on right now.

Paula Williams: Exactly. Well, it will come to that eventually but for now I think our advice is really not to use anything automated until they get much better right?

John Williams: Yeah. Absolutely.

Paula Williams: Okay. Some folks specially people in insurance, other solo professionals who don’t really have much of an office, will sometimes just forward their office phone to their cell phone, which is great.

At least it gets answered by a human being, but i have called professionals in the aviation industry, doctors, lawyers, and accounting people things like that, and have ended up talking to them unexpectedly while they’re in their car picking up their kids from school or at home with their dogs, at the dog park, at the race park any number of places which is also fine but if doesn’t give the most professional impression, right?

John Williams: Nope.

Paula Williams: Cuz then you’re thinking well, do I really want my lawyer, my accountant, my tax person, my whatever professional person to be answering the phone this way? And if they are handling my call, especially my first call this way, how are they going to handle my files?
Are they really going to be a professional person that I can count on, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, so forwarding it to your cellphone can work on certain occasions, but I don’t know that I recommend that either, right?

John Williams: Well, its depends on severity of calls and what industry you’re in-

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: What business you’re in.

Paula Williams: And of course after hours all bets are off. But during business hours I think call should be answered by a human being in an office, but we’ll get to that point. Okay, the third option is or the third disaster that we run into is the calls go into voicemail.

So you’ve spent a lot of money on an ad, or an advertisement, or a social media post, or an article in a magazine, working with reporters to get that right, and everything else. People call you, and it goes to voicemail. [LAUGH]

That really tells people that your call is not that important to you or you’re not really in business or you’re not serious about taking ca

re of your customers.

John Williams: And 99 times out of 100 if I go to the voicemail, I hangup. I don’t leave a message.

Paula Williams: Exactly and then you’re off to the next person on Google or the next company to see if you can find somebody who can solve your problem. People have very little patience these days.

And your competitors are just one click away.

John Williams: So are you saying I’m not patient.

Paula Williams: No, you are not. [LAUGH] You are many things. Patient is not one of them.

John Williams: Great.

Paula Williams: And that’s true of a lot of people in this industry.

John Williams: Back pedal, back pedal, back pedal.

Paula Williams: No. And, this is not back peddling this is not that this is and, that is a lot of people, in this industry they got where they are and they’re successful in their business because they are not patient people. They don’t put up a lot of crap. Yeah [CROSSTALK] they don’t wait for things to happen, they do what they need to do to get a problem handled.

John Williams: I suppose you’d call that patience or lack thereof. But the fact that they don’t wait, they make things happen is I think, different from lack of patience.

Paula Williams: Exactly. So if you must use voicemail after hours, that’s cool but you do wanna return those promptly. During business hours I really really really think that every call should go to a human being who is sitting in an office.

And this is not as expensive as difficult as you might think.

John Williams: No it isn’t.

Paula Williams: Lot’s of ways to do this. Of course the idea is to have an assistant or somebody whose job is to answer the phone. But if you can’t afford that, or that’s not in your business model, or whatever, there are services that will do this-

John Williams: Very good ones, too.

Paula Williams: Very good ones that will take a full page or two pages of instructions, and FAQ’s, and everything else. They will be personable and polite, and will do their best to handle your calls in the way you instruct them to right?

John Williams: They handle your calls as if they were sitting in your own office.

Paula Williams: Exactly and people won’t know that they’re talking to someone from an agency and we actually use one of these agencies, I’ll give them a plug it’s Call Ruby, we use another one it’s called Answer United, for two different businesses that have different needs. The Call Ruby we use for people that need to call us during US business hours.

And they’re very friendly, very personable, follow instructions very well, and those kinds of things. The other one, Answer United, is a 24-hour service, but it is a little bit less customized.

John Williams: Right or customizable.

Paula Williams: Or customizable, so there is lots of ways to have a human being answer every single phone call and even if all they do is say, let help you make an appointment or let me find out if she is available or let me answer a question for you or let me get back to you with an answer to that.
At least you’ve talked to a human being. It’s a lot more satisfying, a lot more pleasant, a lot more comfortable for the type of customers that we work with. And if you’re working with high end customers, they have absolutely zero patience for automation, voicemail, talking to you in your car, [LAUGH] those kinds of things, right?

John Williams: Mostly.

Paula Williams: Yeah, and of course there’s always exceptions to every rule. But in general I think this is the way that you should plan to have your calls answered. This is gonna make a whole lot more sense. This is an example that I love. This is a great story.

Sydney Biddle Barrows aka the Mayflower Madam.

John Williams: And here I thought this was a family show.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: What are you talking about?

Paula Williams: The Mayflower Madam, she ran a very expensive and successful escort service in the 80s and 90s. And she ended up spending a little bit of time in jail.

But then became a marketing consultant and working with Dan Kennedy who. You know we work with and we’ve been in some of his mastermind groups and other kinds of things. So she says she ran the wrong kind of business but she ran it the right way and everybody in her organization got paid really, really well right.

I mean you can imagine this is a very high end call center or a very high end escort service right?

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: Okay, but the person that got paid the most in her organization was, guess who it was?

John Williams: No clue. Except her.

Paula Williams: Well probably her, but who was her employee that got paid the most?

You’d think it’s be some fancy escort, right? But it was the person that answered the phones.

John Williams: Nice.

Paula Williams: And the reason was, because, she’s like spent a whole lot of time recruiting and hiring and interviewing the right person for this job with the right voice and the right attitude.

And the right judgement and everything else. And this is really, really important. She spent a lot of time training this person because this person was responding to people who were calling based on a very simple ad in New York magazines and newspapers, right? And, of course, you couldn’t say what kind of business it was because it was illegal, right?

So, the person that answered the phone had to set the right tone, make sure that she was screening calls very carefully, and anyone who was the slightest bit impolite or rude or showed bad manners or haggling over price or any other indication that this was not somebody they wanted to deal with, she’d say, I’m sorry there must be some misunderstanding let me refer you to somebody who can probably serve your needs a little better.

John Williams: And what’s interesting is contrast that with the rest of corporate America, and they pay the phone answerer the least amount of anybody in the company.

Paula Williams: Exactly, or they outsource it to a machine because that is the cheapest possible way to get the job done.

John Williams: Yep.
Your results may vary.

Paula Williams: Your results may vary. [LAUGH] But you think about it, you know, not that anybody i was listening to this is running an escort service but maybe you are, and if you are that’s great. You know it’s good advice for you.

John Williams: Krista has a deal with aviation.[LAUGH] Gonna work here, right?

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: Gonna listen to this.

Paula Williams: But there are some similarities with high end clients. You have to take care of these people from the very first step. If you set the tone correctly, and if you make a really good first impression, you’re gonna have a much better relationship with that person all the way through.

And you’re gonna set the right tone so that your pilots and customer service representatives and everybody else have a better time with this person, right?

John Williams: And what’s interesting is even though we have this is documented our approach on how much you pay the phone answering person, and we know that is not so and corporate America much less than the aviation world.

Paula Williams: Right.

John Williams: That the CEO, CFO go like, yeah thats nuts, we’re not gonna pay them any more, they’re gonna say that.

Paula Williams: Of course they are. But just imagine what difference it would make to your business if the that person were the highest paid person in your organization.

John Williams: Yeah, well and you would have to deal with the fact that they understand all the things that she hired this person for.

Paula Williams: Absolutely.

John Williams: And if they could do that, they’d be worth their weight in gold.

Paula Williams: Yeah and had the expectations of that job set accordingly.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: With that price. But yeah so I mean and not that you should do that. But you should consider that approach. You know?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: All right. So this is our process. Basically, same as before.

John Williams: Now, wait a minute. What happens if they’re just listening and can’t see?

Paula Williams: I’m walking through it. So if you’re listening, if you’re watching, we’ve got a process map on the screen. If you’re listening, what happens is the same as what we were using before. We’ve got, the steps are simply somebody finds us on the web using search engine optimization or they find an article in the aviation magazine or they find a social media post or we talk to them at a convention or they get one of our post cards or any number of things, right?

Okay. So that’s the first step and that’s how they find us. But there’s other ways that they can contact us, email and so forth. But the most common way is that they pick up the phone and they call us.

John Williams: That’s true.

Paula Williams: Okay, so Allison at Call Ruby answers the phone or whomever is working that day at Call Ruby.

And they do a really fantastic job of following our instructions as we outlined, right? And they have a copy of this map as well. So they know exactly what’s supposed to happen. So is this person interested and qualified possibly as a customer, right? Or are they just trying to sell something.

And they’re really good at telling which of those things is the case right? Okay. If the answer to that question is, yes, this is a potential customer, their instructions are to immediately try my phone, say, let me see if I can get a hold of her. If I’m available, and I pick up the phone, they transfer the call, then they talk to me immediately.

So this is on their first call to our office. What is more common is that I am not available and I’m already meeting with the customer or I’m already on the phone or whatever, in which case I was, and we’ll ask them, do you want to make an appointment?

And if the answer to that is yes, she’ll find them an appointment or answer their questions or do whatever. So she’ll help them make an appointment. If they don’t want to make an appointment, she’ll answer whatever questions they have. And carry on from there. Let me start that over.[LAUGH]

John Williams: [LAUGH].

Paula Williams: Okay so if I am not available to ask if they want make an appointment, if the answer is yes, they want to make an appointment, she’ll help them make an appointment on our schedule, which she has access to, using some software that we use called TimeTrade.

It’s a pretty nifty little tool. And it can tell when we’re busy and when we’re not, so it’ll help them make an appointment. And then, she’ll let us know that they need to be sent a questionnaire by email so that we’ll be prepared for that appointment. And she’ll let us know that we need to send an information packet so she’ll get their postal address.

And then we send them one of our blue folders with all of our information in it. So, that really sets them up well for an appointment in a week or two or whenever they are available and whatever is appropriate. And then we’ve made two more contacts with that person by phone, email and postal mail, right?

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: If they don’t wanna make an appointment. And just have a question or whatever then Allison will answer their questions as well as she can. She’ll take a message and then I’ll get back to that person later that day. So there’s no voicemail, there’s no phone tree there’s no press one for this or two for that.

None of that stuff happens to our customers under any circumstances. As long as they call during business hours. If they call after hours they do get voicemail but then they get a call back the next morning. So that’s our process. Is it right for you? Maybe, maybe not.

A lot of people have to have a 24 hour operation. So they can’t do voicemail under any circumstances. A lot of charter companies and others need to answer the phone every time it rings, right? So, that’s one of the things that screws up marketing faster than anything else, is just badly handling those incoming phone calls, right? .

So, big ideas one more time.

John Williams: One more thing is [INAUDIBLE] to not answer them.

Paula Williams: Yeah, just playing not answering the phone this person’s mailbox is not been set up yet.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah right.

Paula Williams: That is the worst.

John Williams: Well but we had a client once upon a time.

Paula Williams: Uh-huh.

John Williams: They said that they were answering the whole is inbound calls, come to find to find out the person that was supposedly doing this wasn’t.

Paula Williams: Exactly. So they were just going to voicemail or whatever, never to be heard from again.

John Williams: That’s right. Almost put them out of business.

Paula Williams: It did. Exactly. Almost every company that we evaluate in any way, and we actually do a service where we do mystery calling, and this is really helpful for a lot of companies. It’s not I gotcha kind of a situation. It is kind of a gotcha situation, but basically, we’ll call posing as a customer with a fairly common scenario.

We can work with you on what that should be, and have someone with an unfamiliar voice, so it’s not John or me call the company, and then we go through a checklist. And we also record the call, and a lot of business owner are really surprised at how badly incoming sales calls are managed.
And a lot of time it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just that it’s nobody’s job and everybody just assumes that this is gonna be handled. By magic.

John Williams: [CROSSTALK] [LAUGH] One client we had they had engineers answering phones.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Right.

John Williams: And that went just very badly.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

They didn’t wanna be answering the phone and it was obvious that they didn’t wanna be answering the phone.

John Williams: And they were talking about technical stuff and customers don’t want that upfront, they wanna know how it’s gonna fix their problem.

Paula Williams: Right, exactly and also they were just not very enthusiastic about finding out about the customer.

They just wanted to get them off the phone as quickly as possible. So, the motivation of the first influence was the phone, it’s very important as well. And in a lot of cases your engineers wanna be building things they don’t wanna be answering the phones.

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: And that’s the wrong person to have doing the job, so big ideas, In this episode, we spend a lot of time and money encouraging more inbound calls, right?

John Williams: Yes.

Paula Williams: And if you handle those badly [LAUGH] Those inbound calls are an incredibly valuable source of sales. But most companies in the aviation industry handle them really, really, really badly. Okay?

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: Okay, so those are the big ideas from this episode, make sure you subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google play or wherever you get Podcast from and please also leave us a review that’s how other people find us and we stop making Bad, what we call random acts of marketing, one of which is [LAUGH] badly handling your inbound calls, right?

John Williams: Exactly.

Paula Williams: And if the industry improves the whole, rest of the economy improves, it’s good for all of us when we all do a better job, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: Okay. Have a great afternoon.

John Williams: I’ll see you later ciao!

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for aviation marketing hanger flying the best place to learn what really works in sales and marketing in the aviation industry.
Remember to subscribe on iTunes and leave and a rating.[MUSIC]..