How to answer the phone in agency-land

We speak to agencies a lot. Whether it’s calling our clients to chase up some clever creds they’re pulling together, or contacting agencies we think would benefit from the service we provide, we know how agencies tend to communicate. A lot of them – a scary majority in fact – answer the phone incorrectly.

I don’t mean they say the wrong thing (though you’d be surprised how many agencies just say “Hello?”, rather than a fairly cheery “Good morning, Ambivalent Elk!”*). I mean failing to spot a potential incoming lead.

When we call agencies, we don’t always announce who we are at the top of the call. I’ll call an agency and ask for, say, the Business Development Director by name. The phone answerer will very often explain that they’re on a call, or out of the office and suggest I call back later or leave a message. Not the type to pester, I rarely leave messages. I’ll most likely say that I’ll call back later. At this point it’s the phone answerer’s job to find out who I am (in fact they should have done it already). It’s frighteningly rare though. And that’s scary.

If the Marketing Director of Rockstar Games calls you because they’ve had a look at a bunch of agency web sites and they liked your one, among others (they’re not going to choose one, they’re going to call a few), it’s not their job to make sure you find out. They’re trying to rule agencies out, not share the wealth. If your receptionist, staff member who happened to pick up the phone, PA or helpful temp doesn’t find out who they are then you're out of luck. They’re not going to call back. They just ruled you out. And you don't even know it happened.

Make sure everyone at your company knows that an incoming call is a potential pitch – a potential win. They should treat it accordingly. Get a name, a company and a direct number to call back on. If it’s a genuine lead, they won’t mind – in fact they’ll want to know that their chosen agency is efficient and thorough. Anything less and you have to ask yourself why they’d be impressed at all with that first exchange.

I know, by the way, that you get a lot of sales calls. New business agencies like mine, electricity companies and telecoms suppliers all add up to a barrage of messages. Think about how much time and investment you put into your new business endeavours though and remember that and incoming lead is the strongest kind. Deal with it as such.

*Ambivalent Elk is not a real agency, but it should be