Every business knows that your phone is your lifeline. Even in the age of the internet, if the phone lines go down your sales follow. Your phone allows your customers to reach out to you, and it allows you to reach out to them.
The phone is the easiest and most convenient way for customers to remotely contact your business, and for less tech savvy customers the phone remains the only way.
Making sure your business is getting the most out of your phone can be complicated. Simply having a phone line and someone to answer it isn’t enough anymore. Callers expect their call to not only be answered promptly, but answered by a professional who can respond to any questions they may have about your product or business.
Knowing how to handle inbound calls, how to collect leads for outbound calls, how call tracking can help your sales, and how to train your staff to handle any situation are all crucial elements of properly running your business over the phone.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help your business understand inbound calls, outbound calls, call tracking, and how to best use each to increase your company’s bottom line.
This is any call that comes into your business. Any time that your phone rings, it’s an inbound call. Inbound calls can have a number of purposes, including someone needing information about your product or service, general questions about your business (including directions or hours), complaints, or sales.
Inbound calls are important to your business. Remember, these are customers (or potential customers) who are actively trying to get in touch with you.
Each call represents an opportunity to make a sale or at least leave a positive impression of your business on someone, increasing your chances for a conversion.
Inbound calls represent a major portion of your business’s sales. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers:
- 70% of all local searches result in an inbound call.
- 66% of businesses rate inbound call leads as “excellent”.
- Conversion rates are 10x higher for inbound calls vs. clicks.
Increasing inbound calls can have a serious impact on your company’s bottom line, so it’s important for your business to do everything it can to increase its inbound call volume.
How Can I Increase Call Volume?
One of the best ways to do this is online. Customers are overwhelmingly using search engines to gather information about a business, including NAP (name, address, and phone number) information provided by listing directories.
If a customer wants to learn how to contact a business, they are doing so online.
- 70% of all calls originate with online searches.
- 52% of people who connect with a business after a mobile search do so over the phone.
- 70% of mobile searches have used click-to-call to connect with a business.
In order for your business to increase its inbound call volume from online sources, there are several areas you can optimize.
Your website is going to be one of the first places people think to look for your phone number. There are several ways to design your site to take advantage of this and encourage people to call your business.
- Include your phone number at the top of your site. On the right side of the header on every page, you should list your business’s phone number. The number should be large enough to draw attention to it without taking over the page.
- This number should be a call-to-action. Don’t just give visitors your number, give them instructions. You should tailor the CTA to your specific needs as well. Let the caller know why they are calling:
- Use a click-to-call feature on your site. Click-to-call allows mobile visitors to be able to instantly connect with your business from a website, SERP, or PPC ad. Mobile is the future of search, which means that this feature will become increasingly important as time goes by.
- Place your number in the footer of each page as well. NAP info in the footer is a standard design principle for websites, and your site should be no different. If a visitor expects to find information in a particular place, that information should be there on your site.
- Put your number on your contact page as well. It seems obvious, but too many businesses make this page all about the form. Your business’s NAP info should be one of the first things a visitor should see on this page.
- If your business has multiple locations, make sure the location’s phone number is listed on the page for that particular location. Like the contact page, it should be prominently displayed.
- Make sure you’re putting your phone number on any downloadable content as well. Leads who have downloaded content from your site are already on the path to a conversion - give them a number to call when they decide to make a purchase.
Your social media sites are another place customers are going to be looking for your phone number. Many customers use social media as the default place to gather information about a business - give them the information they need.
Make sure that the correct information is available on all of your social media profiles and that it’s in the proper places. It’s important that you have completely filled out your profiles on every site so that no matter where a customer looks, the info they see is correct and available.
For most sites, the About page is the place for this, but go through each site and make sure that your information is available and correct everywhere.
If your business has profiles that you no longer use or if you have duplicate profiles on the same platform, make sure those listings are deleted or removed.
Click here for a comprehensive guide to claiming and deleting duplicate listings on Google+ and Bing places.
For all other social media, here are some basic guidelines:
- First, if the listing is not claimed by you, you will need to claim the listing.
- If the listing is unclaimed, simply claim the listing. There will usually be a “Claim This Business” button on the page.
- If the listing is already claimed by another business (there can be several reasons for this), follow the platform’s instructions for gaining control of that listing.
- If the listing is already claimed by you, continue.
- Once the listing is in your control, follow the platform’s instructions for deleting or removing the listing. This is usually done from the dashboard or settings page of the site, but individual sites vary.
Directory listing information (also called NAP info) is a major source of data for most search engines, so having your phone number listed properly here can have an enormous impact on the information people are provided when searching for your business.
Search engines use data in these listing directories to provide information to search engines. When someone uses Google to search for a business, Google often returns results that include a phone number on the SERP (search engine results page).
Google gets this information from listing directories. If your information is incorrect in too many of these directories, it will be wrong on the SERP. If your information isn’t in the directories at all, you might not even appear in the search results.
Making sure your NAP info is correct in listing directories is important not only for making sure your phone number is listed correctly in search engine results, but for making sure you show up in these results at all.
Much like with social media, it is possible to have multiple listings in directories. You want to make sure that you are removing or deleting these additional listings as well. The process is the same as for social media - claim the listing first and then request its removal. Again, the process varies from directory to directory, so just follow the instructions provided.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is another place where your phone number should be listed. You might be wondering why you should include your phone number in an ad you want viewers to click on. Let’’s take a look at some of the numbers:
- CTR increases by 8% when a phone number is included in the ad.
- 52% of people who click on a PPC ad still call the business.
- PPC landing pages drove 2x more phone leads than downloads.
Adding your phone number to your PPC ads will increase the CTR of your ads and the total number of calls you receive, so it’s vital that you list your phone number in the ad and on the landing page for the ad.
In Google AdWords, it’s possible to use an extension to add a click-to-call feature in your PPC ads. Not only does Google like it when you use extensions (you should be keeping Google happy, trust us), but customers are much more likely to contact you if you provide this feature.
Make Every Call Count
There are some circumstances when you don’t want people to call your business. Some information can be provided on your website or social media that will answer many of the questions callers ask.
- Location and hours of operation. These are some of the most frequently asked questions by callers. Making sure that information is provided in the proper places wherever your business is listed on the internet can go a long way towards reducing these types of calls.
The header, footer, contact, and location pages of your site should all have this information (along with your phone number).
- Create a FAQ page for your website that answers the most common questions. If you are continually receiving calls asking the same questions, put those answers on the FAQ page, and the number of calls you receive about them will decrease.
These pages are also a good idea for SEO purposes, as they positively impact user experience.
- Make sure your website is clear about what it is your business does. It seems simple, but you might be surprised by the number of businesses that make this mistake. Sometimes it is so clear to the business itself that they don’t think about how content reads to someone who knows nothing about the subject.
A good example of this is HVAC. If you’re in the industry this is a common term, but someone who just wants their air conditioning fixed might not know that HVAC includes air conditioning repair.
Have an outsider read your website and evaluate it for clarity. This can go a long way towards reducing unwanted calls.
Thank You For Calling
Making sure that your company’s online presence is optimized in the above areas will help you drive inbound phone traffic to your business, increasing your leads, CTR, and overall sales.
Outbound calls are the opposite of inbound. Any calls your sales team makes to your leads or customers are outbound calls. Outbound calls are almost always sales related, and involve attempting to convert a lead into a customer.
There are three basic types of outbound calls - cold, warm, and hot:
- Cold calls are unsolicited attempts to make a sale, where the potential customer has displayed no prior interest in your product or services. This is the least effective of the three types.
- Warm calls are a follow-up contact after a potential customer has expressed some interest in the product or has been referred by a friend. Usually a phone number was obtained in a form, through social media contact, or via a referral.
- Hot calls are leads that have been nurtured through the sales funnel by your marketing team and have been determined to be ready to make a purchase. They have shown great interest in your product and have a high chance of converting to a customer. These the most effective types of calls.
Of the three types of outbound calls, cold calls are by far the least effective.
- Only 28% of cold calls lead to conversations.
- Only 1% of cold calls lead to appointments.
- Almost 9/10 top-level B2B decision makers don’t respond to cold calls.
These numbers make it clear that cold calls aren’t very effective, but there are ways to generate warm leads and improve your chances of converting potential customers.
Warm leads can be turned over to your marketing team to nurture into hot leads that your sales team can convert into customers.
Lead Generation Forms
There are several ways to collect visitor information from your website or social media. By collecting information in the right way, you can give your sales team more information about what the lead is looking for and what kind of information might appeal most to them.
- Forms. Your site should have a form on the Contact page that has (at least) name, phone number, email, and comments sections. The name, email, and phone sections should be required fields.
You can also include forms on the side bar or footer of other pages if it is appropriate to the design and still allows for a good user experience.
- Pop-ups. Pop-ups should be used sparingly, and there are some types that you should avoid like the plague, but they can be an effective way of generating leads.
Google has released some dos and don’ts for pop-ups, and these guidelines should be strictly adhered to (once again, you should be keeping Google happy).
- Call me back features. This is a way for your website's visitors to leave their name and phone number along with a best time to call them and a comments section. This allows your sales team to call the lead at a time that’s convenient for them, making sure that the call isn’t interrupting something.
- Appointment schedulers. Many sites now offer visitors the ability to schedule an appointment from the website. Of course this completely eliminates the need for outbound calls and skips right to the point, which saves everybody time.
Any time you’re collecting info for your marketing team through a form you should provide an optional comments section where you encourage visitors to let you know what information they would find useful. This can give your team a chance to prepare the proper type of material, increasing the chances of conversion.
Referrals are another way to get warm leads for your marketing and sales teams. Satisfied customers can be a great source for new leads, and those referrals are more likely to become customers.
- 91% of customers say they’d give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople ask for them.
- 84% of B2B decision-makers start their purchase with a referral.
A lot of sales decisions are made based on referrals, and it turns out that referrals aren’t that hard to get - all you have to do is ask! Referrals can be a powerful and effective sales driver for your business.
People want to connect with brands they like on social media, which provides a perfect way to gather contact info from them and generate warm leads for your marketing team.
There are several ways to generate these leads, depending on the particular platforms you are using. Remember that your type of business and your customer demographics should determine what platforms you are active on.
Posts (and the times they are posted) should be tailored to suit your audience as well. Make sure you use available metrics when determining where, what, and when to post.
- Forms. Many sites allow you to create forms for lead generation. LinkedIn has recently introduced this feature to its site, and Facebook allows you to create form pages as well.
When designing a form, keep in mind how people use the site. Many social media users are likely to be using a mobile device, so any forms should keep this in mind. Mobile forms should be short and have text boxes that are easy to click on.
- PPC. Ads are a great way to collect lead information. Of course you can’t collect the info directly from an ad, but the landing pages present a terrific opportunity for this.
- Landing pages. Landing pages are a great way to collect customer info. Links from social media (or anywhere else) should send viewers to pages that are optimized for lead generation. CTAs should be clear and content should be relevant.
- Contests and polls. Contests and polls can be a great way to generate interest in your brand, engage with people, and generate leads all at the same time. All you need to do is collect email addresses as the gateway to the contest or poll.
There are many ways to use social media to generate leads for your business. All of the above methods work well, or you can get creative. Try different approaches and see what works best for your brand, your customers, and your platforms.
By collecting contact information and comments from visitors, you can give your marketing team warm leads that they can nurture into hot calls for your sales team, increasing your bottom line.
Call tracking provides your business with a way to determine the ROI of specific marketing channels.
Before call tracking, all calls were from the same number, making it impossible to tell which marketing channel provided the lead. Call tracking solves this problem.
Call Tracking Allows for Proper Attribution
Call tracking uses different phone numbers for different marketing channels, so someone calling after viewing your PPC ad would see a different number than someone calling after visiting your Facebook site.
Call tracking allows you to determine the ROI of different marketing channels by attributing traffic to that channel. Without call tracking, it would be nearly impossible to tell what marketing channel was responsible for driving the traffic.
What is Dynamic Number Insertion?
Dynamic number insertion allows your website landing pages to change the displayed phone number according to the source of the traffic.
This allows you to use the same landing page for different channels while still giving each channel the proper credit.
For example, a social media channel and a search PPC ad might both be promoting the same campaign and sending visitors to the same landing page. Dynamic number insertion directs your site to change the displayed phone number based on where the visitor came from.
The PPC visitor would call a different number than the social media visitor, allowing you to track the traffic from each source.
You Can Direct Your Call Traffic More Efficiently
Call tracking also allows you to direct calls more efficiently. If your business provides multiple services, then each page on your site dedicated to a particular service could have its own number, and calls could be routed directly to the appropriate department.
This eliminates the need to force customers through a hold cycle while their call is transferred from place to place. It also eliminates misrouted calls or calls that get dropped through technical problems (i.e. employees who don’t know how to transfer calls).
Call Tracking Isn’t Always Best
There are some instances when you need your phone number to be the same. The NAP info in your business’s directory listings should be identical across directories.
In order to get the SEO juice from these listings and to make sure that your info is correct in search engines, the NAP info should be identical from directory to directory.
You can still use dynamic number insertion to track calls if the visitor clicks on your site’s link in the listing, but if they call directly then attribution to the specific directory isn’t possible.
How to Use the Phone Like a Boss
Now that you know how to encourage inbound calls, generate leads for outbound calls, and track calls for attribution, let’s make sure that your employees are properly trained in phone etiquette.
Whenever your employees are speaking with customers, there are certain things you want to make sure they're doing in order to present your company in the best light.
Here are some of the things your employees should be doing to make the most of every call:
- Be polite. One of the best ways to make sure that you’re always being polite is to smile whenever you’re speaking to a customer. Even when on the phone, a smile can help keep you positive and polite.
- Ask open ended questions. Open ended questions encourage conversation with customers, creating a sense of friendliness that encourages customers to do business with your company.
Open ended questions may also provide you with more information about the customer or what they are looking for. This is valuable data that sales uses to more effectively target buyers and when creating buyer personas.
- Don’t interrupt customers. This sounds like common sense, but it happens. Make sure your employees are listening to everything the customer has to say before they respond.
It’s not just polite - this can be another source of information for your business. Customers may reveal details that give you a better idea of how best to sell to them.
- Pay attention. Make sure that when your employees are on the phone with a customer, they’re not just waiting for their turn to speak, but that they are really paying attention to what is being said.
Use the customer’s name at least three times, and summarize what the customer has asked for when they are done speaking. This let’s the customer know that you’ve been listening.
Make sure your employees are well-versed in the industry, your business, your products, and with the operation of the phone system.
Customers are more well informed than ever before, and will often research a company or product before making contact with a salesperson.
Make sure your employees know more than your customers!
Your employees should be comfortable with the phone system as well. Modern phones have features that not everyone is familiar with or comfortable using.
Don’t just ask employees if they know how to use the phone! No one will admit to not knowing how to use a phone.
Provide training for all employees about how to put customers on hold, how to transfer calls, how to set up conference calls, and how to use any of the other features available on your system.
Don’t lose business because of dropped calls!
Call recording can be another instrument to improve employee performance and to gather more data about your customers.
Recorded calls can be used as a way to evaluate employee performance. Calls can be reviewed for quality assurance, and can be used to train future employees in best practices (and worst practices).
Calls can also be used to gather keyword data. The best keywords to use are long tail keywords that reflect the ways your customers search for your products. Conversations with your customers can reveal these keywords.
The ways callers discuss and describe your products can provide valuable insights into the keywords they use when searching for your products online. Combined with keyword research tools, this can be a powerful way to expand your SEO.
Even in the digital age, your business needs its phone to survive. Knowing how to best encourage inbound calls and how to generate leads for outbound calls can help your business grow.
Being able to use call data to improve your ROI is equally important. Call tracking gives you a way to follow a customer’s journey from their initial impression to the call to the conversion.
With the above information, your business will be able to take full advantage of every phone call you make or receive through lead generation and conversion.
Turn every call into a sale by being ready every time you pick up the phone!