In any small business, the telephone is a lifeline to success. Yet, for many small equipment rental businesses, the telephone is seen as a nuisance. It seems to ring at all the wrong times, and the incoming calls interrupt important work that needs to be done. Or do they?
The truth is that most of your sales originate from a telephone call. Calls can be distracting, but without them you would be out of business. So, let's consider eight ways to use the telephone to your advantage. Follow these eight suggestions and you should see tangible benefits in your rental business.
Get your number out to the public
Telephone accessibility for your clients and prospects to you is a key component in the marketing plan for any service-oriented business. In fact, most rental businesses can't afford to spend a lot of money on marketing and, frankly, don't need to. But it's imperative that you take every opportunity to let your customers know how to reach you. The phone book is the first place to start. You should get an automatic listing in the business section of your local phone book. As for the Yellow Pages, you should consider a modest display ad in addition to the normal listing. The Yellow Pages will be your best source of "cold calling." A good display ad will draw several calls a year from prospective clients who do not know any local small equipment rental businesses. Landing a few of these per year will more than pay for an ad. The display ad should include the name of your business, location, hours, areas of specialty (i.e. equipment available for rental) and telephone, fax and e-mail number.
Keep your telephone system up to date
Have you ever called a business and gotten a busy signal? Or maybe you've had the phone ring 15 times before it's answered. Is this happening in your shop? If it is, it's time for a new phone system. In keeping with the "your telephone is your lifeline" theory, it's vitally important that you keep that lifeline completely open. It will not be nearly as valuable if your phone system is out of date and can no longer handle the volume of calls coming in. Here are a few pointers regarding what your telephone system should and should not include:
First impressions are critical
Many calls that come into your shop are from people you don't know at all or with whom you have infrequent contact. So, the first impression of the caller is critical. It's recommended that you have a central line that is answered by a salesperson or clerk first. Most people like to at least have the option of talking with a human.
If the designated person who answers the telephone is already on the phone or out, it is best to have the call automatically roll to another line. If this isn't possible because everyone is busy inside the shop, have a cordial message programmed into the system to automatically answer the call and explain that no one is available to take the call but that it will be returned promptly if they will leave a message. As previously mentioned, a busy signal or no answer at this point in the telephone call process will likely mean a lost sale, particularly given the often urgent nature of calls in the equipment rental business.