So I am in the market for a large, expensive piece of office equipment. Someone tells me the name of a vendor, an established international brand. This person also sends a spec sheet from the vendor’s website, which includes telephone numbers for all of the regional offices. I assume that these are probably sales offices (which are usually divided into regions) or they can at least direct me to the right local office to get my order in the system.
At 5:30 pm, I call the nearest regional office. The phone rings for a long time, but no one answers. OK, it must be after hours. But it does seem a little strange that there’s not even a directory message (“dial 1 for x, 2 for y …”) or a short message apologizing that the office is closed, and to please call back during normal business office hours. I mean, new customers call this number. Shouldn’t the company try to help them, even if no one can take the call?
At 10:30 am the next day, I try the same number. Still no answer or phone directory options. Mind you, this number is for the East Coast office, and is on spec sheets that are probably downloaded hundreds or thousands of times per day. How many prospective customers call and can’t get through to the sales team?
Whatever. Maybe they want prospective customers to reach out via the website, and they’ll call back. I go to www.vendorname.com. They have more spec sheets, and I spend a while looking at some more products and comparing them. However, there is no online contact form, just a 1 800 number. The 1 800 number is actually not a number, but a phrase like “1 800 ACME YES”. There is no numberical equivalent below it, so I have to squint at the keypad to make sure I am dialing it right.
The phone rings. Someone answers. “What ZIP code are you dialing from?” he asks. I tell him, but he has trouble understanding — it’s a long distance call, maybe to a call center in another country, and he is not a native speaker. No worries, he gets it when I speak slowly and then asks if I have a pen. I tell him I do. “Then write this down: 1 617 439 XXXX”.
I have a meeting. When I come back, it’s just after noon. Someone has got to be in the office, even if it’s lunch. Especially the sales team. So I call the 617 number. This time, a robo operator answers with directory options: “Dial 1 for sales, 2 for service, 3 for …”
I press 1. Finally, I’ll be able to start the process of buying this piece of equipment! This will be the easiest sale they have to make today, because I have already made a purchasing decision and am ready to place the order.
But the phone rings. And rings. And rings. No one answers. There is no voicemail or operator option.
No sale will be made today. Maybe not ever, because at this point I am ready to try the competition.
This, my friends, is a textbook case of a broken sales funnel. Not only is the handoff from marketing to sales screwed up (e.g., no online contact form, an unresponsive regional number on a widely distributed spec sheet; a lack of basic automation to handle customer messaging and redirection) but the local sales team doesn’t even answer the damned phone.
If you sell products of any type, make sure your sales funnel works. Test it out yourself — call the sales numbers, use the phone tree, submit contact forms, etc. If some element is not responsive, make sure it is. If it feels bewildering, clarify as needed so your customers are reassured and are able to find the information they need to make a decision and place an order.