Blunt Truth About Cell Phones & Professionalism
Nationally known marketing expert Steve Stewart deserves a hardy “bravo.” In a piece he wrote last year, Stewart identifies 10 reasons top producers get the listings, noting that the #1 reason is because they (top producers) treat their work like a real job.
So true! From my work with real estate professionals, I too have learned how to identify the top producers – they are professional, treating every aspect of their work like a real job, just as Stewart says. For example, they: respect others' time, space and opinions; arrive on time for meetings; promptly return phone calls; and control their gadgets and processes (rather than letting their gadgets and processes control them).
What’s more, thanks to their business practices and professionalism, top producers are also top receivers – receiving referrals, repeat business, and initial calls from prospects, in far greater numbers than professionals who do not treat their work like a real job.
Control Thy Cell Phone!
Mostly, I notice that top producers display professionalism in every aspect of their communication, particularly when it comes to use of cell phones. In short, the top producers use cell phones as a tool to facilitate communication, not as another appendage hanging off their face.
Don’t get me wrong, cell phones are a must. They are convenient and necessary if you are planning to live a productive, busy, and competitive life as a real estate agent, dealing with the other 130 million mobile phone users in this country. What’s more, I would be the first to tell agents that they need a cell phone and a service with a find-me-follow-me feature.
However, technology moves much more quickly than business etiquette and habits do. We all must develop professional protocols and manners around changing technology. As an example, remember when employees first began using personal computers at work? Companies slowly realized that employees were spending time shopping online and playing games. As a result, employers created policies that eliminated those concerns.
Likewise, I have noticed that the real estate industry is beginning to harness and “professionalize” the out-of-control use of cell phones. This is not good for several reasons: (1) cell phone usage in offices is annoying; (2) cell phones tend to prompt an informality which, rather than being “personable” is actually unprofessional; (3) cell phones are too unreliable; and (4) offices (with one person or 50) should have an upfront announcement of their business name.
1. That’s so Annoying!
Unfortunately, we as a society of cell phone users have forgotten that the meeting we’re in is important. We have lost sight of the fact that the person we’re talking to takes precedence. We seem oblivious to the fact that checking the number of an incoming call while talking to another person is interpersonally the same as constantly looking around the room to see if there’s someone more important to talk to.
When you meet with clients, team members, co-agents, even vendors (they buy and sell houses and make referrals too you know!), they deserve your undivided attention. Turn off your techno thingamajigs! If you must be available at all times, follow the tips at the end of this article.
2. Keep it Professional.
With cell phones, we tend to answer with a mere “hello” or our name, thereby losing the cool, unruffled detachment that is a major part of professional protocol. You should have a message announce you and your business prior to the “hello.” (See more at #4 below.)
What’s more, don’t answer your cell phone when in a business meeting. Besides being rude, your response might derail any business decisions and progress taking place.
Finally, don’t rely on a cell phone or your cell number as the primary phone for your business. You never see “real” businesses do that. Think about it – have you ever heard an attorney, accountant, or doctor’s office say: “Ooops, no cell tower access here,” or “This connection is bad, so let me call you back from a landline,” or, worst of all, “Let me call you back from a less expensive phone.”
To remain professional and “always available” at the same time, follow the tips at the end of this article.
3. Unreliable – No Surprise There!
Everyone who has ever owned a cell phone knows about lost, delayed or dropped calls. The answer to this dilemma is to rely on software, not hardware. Generally, if new clients can’t reach you the first time, they’ll immediately move on to the next service provider! This means that if you rely on your cell phone exclusively, you may miss an important call if you in a poor reception area, are charging your cell phone, or distribute multiple phone numbers.
To learn how to turbo charge your cell phone, follow the tips at the end of this article.
4. First Impressions Are Lasting.
The initial greeting that callers hear is the front line greeting, advertisement and manifesto of the company. It is the first – and often the most important – contact between the business and its clients, and, if done well, it imparts the company’s name and attitude.
To learn how to establish a dynamite upfront greeting in conjunction with any phone you’re using, follow the tips at the end of the article.
Finally, the “tips at the end of the article.”
Keep and use your cell phone, but optimize it with a unified messaging service that brings together your voice, fax and email communications. Most importantly, this number should allow you to forward your calls to wherever you are, using a find-me-follow-me feature. Then:
- Use your unified messaging number as your only contact number. (You can port your cell phone number to become your unified messaging number if you wish.)
- Record a greeting that announces your name, company, and caller options on talking with you.
- Use the find-me-follow-me option to forward your number to wherever you are, using any phone.
- Decide where (or if) to take calls live. (You can screen calls without callers knowing, and you can give callers the choice to leave a message or speak to you directly. Calls you choose not to take live go to your unified messaging voicemail, not cell or home voicemail. This is achieved through programming.)
- Use the same number for faxes. (All faxes come to the same number. You view, print and/or forward faxes to any email or any fax machine.)
- Train yourself to take advantage of each of your service features – for example, you can even forward faxes and voicemail by e-mail to anyone, and you can save voicemail, faxes and emails on your computer, just as you save any transaction record. Then download everything to a ZIP drive for mobility at meetings, closings, etc.
Using unified messaging, you are not only unifying your communication, you are turbo-charging your cell phone as well and turning it into a more professional tool. These services will enable you to do the following with your current cell phone:
- Transfer calls from cell phone to landline and vice versa.
- Give your caller a choice of simply leaving a message or talking to you live by pressing a number.
- Never again use precious cell phone minutes to check voice messages.
- Conference call up to seven people.
- Contact other users on the same service nationwide using a dial-by-name feature.
- Store substantially more minutes’ worth of messages for substantially more days (with each message length as substantially longer) compared to only 20 two-minute messages, kept for only 21 days, with the standard cell phone.
- Forward any calls to team members, anywhere, anytime.
- Never again panic because your cell phone battery is running low.
- Direct incoming faxes to print at whatever machine or printer you wish.
- Laugh at your cell phone’s quirkiness for not delivering all messages as they arrive (With a unified messaging service, your messages are always waiting for you).
(Debra Traverso is the author of hundreds of articles and five books, published in eight languages, a speaker, marketing consultant for Fortune 50 companies, regular lecturer at Harvard University, and vice president of OneCall. She can be reached through www.makejustonecall.com.)