As an almost three year old firm whose phone now rings with actual potential clients I was thinking back to the early weeks of going out on my own and lurching for the phone anytime it rang, only to be greeted by a company cold calling to solicit my law firm to sell me “much needed” (fill in the blank-SEO marketing, office equipment, Business class internet, phones, temps, leads, law books, 10,000$ coaching seminars, website development…) You get the picture. At first, despite my secretary’s valiant efforts to screen those calls by yelling out; “don’t pick up-it’s a 1-800 number”, or trying to dive for the extension first, I always picked up and gave the caller a chance. Call me crazy, gullible, shopaholic, lonely, thrilled to get a phone call, polite, or maybe just empathetic-part of me wants to give the seller a shot as long ago I too had a sales job cold calling in New York City and know how terrible constant rejection can be. But after surviving a dizzying array of calls selling ridiculously expensive “indispensable” products that I never knew even existed, I started to feel harassed as if I was the only new business out there. So to save new solo lawyers or entrepreneurs a valuable learning curve and maybe try to have cold calling companies try to grasp why 99% of people hang up…here are my top ten personal pet peeves.
- Do not ever and I mean EVER call me with a computer voice asking me to “punch 1” to reach their agent. This should be self-explanatory. You might get punched through the phone line!
- Don’t pretend your name is Google if it’s not. Google does not typically call you. This one kills me, I’ve had fights with agents who “explain” that “No, we are not really Google when I ask why they are using the Google name and they babble some nonsense about how they are licensed to sell Google products and are the only people who guarantee to put me on the front page of rankings. After explaining the concept of fraud or bait and switch, I hang up!
- Do not call and tell me that you are not selling anything! This one drives me nuts. I feel compelled to toy with these people because of course they are indeed selling you something-be honest! See # 4.
- Know what it is you are selling and how much it costs. In other words, don’t waste my time. A perfect example is the call I got yesterday from a girl who claimed to have left numerous messages as someone named, let’s say, “Mary”, no company name, no hint of who she was. I then asked her if she was selling something to which she said no. I asked her why she was calling. She wanted to set up a meeting to discuss her product at my office, (that she wasn’t selling!) Now, I launched into full on criminal defense lawyer mode and asked her why would I set up a meeting to listen about a product that she wasn’t selling from a company that she had not yet told me the name! Finally, after ten minutes (I know, lots of you would say I should have hung up by now, but I had already started writing this article and this girl was proving my point-I couldn’t resist…) she told me she was from Aflac and after much probing told me she was selling supplemental benefit plans for employers to give their employees. So since I am not a cold hearted employer and I like their commercials I asked her for an overview and cost of benefit plans. Here is where she started stuttering, trying to look up what they sold and the cost. This girl literally had no idea of the cost of anything! It became clear that I had violated her script of calling to get an in person meeting. She had no ability to adapt her script to a customer who may actually want to explore what she sold but had no time for an in person meeting. She lost a potential customer.
5. Do not oversell or lie. How many times have you received the call from a company telling you that only their product, service, company can save me from financial ruin, put me on the front page of Google, and find me fifty clients a day all for one low price of 29.99 which later turns out to be an introductory offer for a week followed by an ironclad contract that costs an arm and a leg and self-renews without a 30 day cancellation.. Oh and let’s not forget the three free magazines you don’t want that are impossible to cancel!
6. Do not make an end run around my secretary. I am lucky enough to have had two wonderful and very fiscally conservative secretaries in my two + years of private practice who literally screened out all sales calls that we did not need. My secretary would say a polite but firm; “No, we are not interested”. Then they would ask her if she was the attorney and she would say; “No, but that this is based on my attorney’s authority.” Invariably, the person would call back numerous times hoping for me to pick up which occasionally I did. Just to give them hell-if you don’t respect my secretary, I don’t want to do business with you!
7. Do not ever call to ask if I am the person in charge of the electric bill! Enough said. Particularly if you are in Park Ridge where the power goes out on a regular basis….
8. Please learn to take “No” for an answer, particularly if you cold call me at the office. See # #9.
9. Please take it on faith that I know how my business operates and whether what you sell fits into my needs. Persistence can be a great virtue s your job and yes I have been in your shoes but remember you are interrupting someone in the middle of the day and again if my secretary out front says we are not interested, we usually are not. She actually does give me messages! See # 10.
10. Research the company you are trying to sell to! If I am a brand new solo practitioner in a Criminal Defense Law Firm, chances are really good that I will not be interested in a $20,000 computer network. Chances are also really high that I have obtained my computers/phone system/electric before I made the investment to open for business. Another true story-I had two very nice girls from one of the second tier phone providers walk in two years after I had been in business to sell me on their business phone plan claiming they could reduce my bill by half and provide me instantly with four new phones exactly the same as my old ones or better. Because it was my 4:00 PM lull, I listened to the pitch. Unfortunately for them, I have become an educated phone consumer and had just read up on this “too good to be true” offer. Upon further questioning (since they were really nice, I only went into half criminal defense lawyer cross exam mode) it was clear they had no idea how or if an IPad fit into this plan. I am addicted to my IPad and waited while they called their boss. I watched as this sales supervisor herself was put on hold by her own company for over 20 minutes! Being a soft touch, I still let them run a soft credit check to even see if my “acceptance” into the plan with no money down was even possible. I cleared that hurdle and delved further into the incredible sounding offer of sending me four new upgraded Iphones overnight. Finally, I found out that the replacement phones would be android based, not IPhones and that the customer had to go into the store, fill out a rebate form, transfer their number, and stand on their head to obtain a completely different phone for which I would have to send in rebate forms etc.!!! Still no info on the IPad. The total savings? Fifty Dollars! See # 6 above.
This is just my list and you may laugh at my idiocy or disagree with my top ten. But if this saves any of you budding entrepreneurs or start up law firms out there future pain on the learning curve it’s okay! Feel free to share yours!