Ah, the receptionist! The gatekeeper to all. 

This is the person who answers, screens and forwards calls and engages with customers. When I put  my “sales hat” on, I know that reception is typically the first “live” touchpoint in the sales cycle.  And yet, the cavalier approach to hiring, training and retaining the receptionist transcends companies of all shapes and sizes.

The other day I was asked to train a new receptionist.  I decided that my goal for the session would be to address the human aspect of her role.  Why start there?  Because, I know that if I can both make a human connection and provide a solution for a prospect customer, I will increase sales conversion.

She called me promptly at 11 (a good sign), and I immediately tried to make a “human” connection with her. So, I took a moment to illustrate for her – a day in her life. I let her know that I understood the positive and challenging aspects of her job.  On the plus side, she’ll engage with a lot of amazing people.  On the challenging side, there will be a lot of demands place on her from a variety of people (callers and visitors).  And, to add on an extra layer of complexity, the people demanding her attention may not always be kind.  In fact, oftentimes the people she engages with will be downright rude or aggressive. 

So, how can I help her to manage these conversations to increase sales conversion?  That’s where the “human connection” comes into play.    

First:  I asked her to walk the caller/visitor’s path.  I asked her to think about the last time she called a company to buy something or to make an appointment, for example.  How did she feel?  What did she need?  What were her thoughts prior to picking up the phone?  For me, I know that I often feel angst prior to making a call to inquire about a product or service because I anticipate being put on hold, getting disconnected, being asked a million questions only to repeat myself again.  I asked if she ever had that experience and indeed she had.

Second: We identified, the common thread that ties irate, and happy callers/visitors alike:  the pain point. We ultimately agreed that each person who calls/visits has a problem that needs to be solved.  And, as the first connection to the brand and to the sales cycle it is her responsibility to make a connection and begin identifying that pain point so that we can start the process of solving that problem.

Third: Knowing that each person she encounters has a problem that she likely didn’t cause, enabled her to look at her interactions in a different light. I asked her if her friends or family members ever called her with a problem they need help with.  Of course, she said, yes.

Fourth:  Ah! She realized then, that it is her responsibility to offer individuals she encounters an open mind and open ears. Just as she would with a friend calling for advice, she needs to connect on a human level and to guide the problem-solving process.

So, let’s pull this all together.

If your friend called you with a problem, you would likely have to ask a few questions – right?  Well, the same process applies when identifying pain points with a prospective customer.  The only challenge is, people don’t like being questioned. So, we find that the best way to get the caller/visitor to share, is to let them know exactly what’s going to happen, how long the process will take and how he/she will benefit. 

I created this framework for a script to train receptionists (really, anyone who answers or screens calls).

• Ring.ring: “Thank you for calling  XYZ company, this is Jane Smith, with whom I am speaking.” Not that she gave her first and last name.  Offering up her name first, provides a layer of trust and gives her permission to ask the caller for his/her first and last name.

• Next, “Jane” sets a super quick agenda. “I’m so glad you called today Joe. I want to make sure I connect you with the best person to take care of you.  I just need to ask three fast questions.  How does that sound?”.  Letting the caller know next steps, how the steps will benefit him/her and how long the process will take will put the caller at ease and again, provide another layer of trust.

• Finally, when Jane connects the caller to the right person, she lets the caller know that his/her time was invested wisely because the information provided will be transferred to the person who will provide help. “Thank you, Joe for sharing your information with me. I’m going to connect you with Nancy Smith. Be assured I will provider het with a quick brief of what we spoke about so that you won’t have to repeat yourself”.

• How fantastic is that! Jane fulfilled her role in the conversion process by providing Joe with a seamless experience from preliminary needs identification to the next step in his search for a solution.

In closing:

Every milestone of the sales process from first impression, to connection (website / receptionist), qualifying, providing options, closing (and beyond), must be dissected to ensure the maximum likelihood of conversion at each touchpoint. I contend that perhaps the most important touchpoint is the first “live” connection – the receptionist.  Train your receptionist to make a human to human connection, to begin the process of identifying the callers pain point and to start down the path of solving that problem. When the receptionist expertly manages the call, the prospect will feel warm, fuzzy and taken care of. His/her ears will be wide open for the solution they are seeking for their problem.   Conversion and hence revenue will increase. Investing in your receptionist will pay off in dividends.

Wonder Woman by: Cabell Molina.  https://www.loveartgalleryandstudio.com/cabell-molina

My husband and I saw the Bison photo at a Cyrilla Home  in South Norwalk, CT.  The artist is David Yarrow   and I have to tell you this Bison had me at “hello” .