Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

I would rather be infested with fleas, bed bugs, cooties and head lice than have to deal with another spam phone call! I’m sick of it. I’m on all of the “no call” lists and I still get nearly 20 calls a day from robot callers, call center solicitors or pitch men. Heck, we even pulled our home line and now just use our cell phones and we still get the “nuisance” calls. It’s an incredible waste of time and frankly a major pain in my backside to try to answer every one of these calls.

I think we all have the ingrained, knee jerk reaction to answer the phone when it rings. But don’t you feel like kicking yourself when you do answer and get stuck taking some inane survey, or listen to a pitch from a charity, or even worse to have dead air on the other end, while the random dialer was sending you to the first available operator. Most of us are just too nice to hang up, even though some calls may only take less than a minute to deal with, it can still add up to a ton of lost opportunity time and frustration.

You can always just decide not to answer any call from a number outside of your calling area, but with the portability laws, your customers and prospects may have moved from somewhere else in the country to your city and they simply moved with their phone number.

So, there are a couple of things you can do. One, you can talk to all of them and waste time. Or, you can talk to all of them but come up with some cute line like, “Oh golly, I was just waiting for you to call. I’m pretty busy right now but if you’ll give me your home number, I’ll call you this evening and we can talk then!”

We just learned that our carrier actually has a service to intercept spam and nuisance calls. It’s free and can be set up by calling the carrier. We did that. I still am getting the calls. Not as many, mind you, but I’m still getting them.

The approach that I prefer has worked really well over the last few years. Many phones today have the capability to create custom messages that I can select from and send to any incoming caller. The message can be as simply as, “Sorry but I’m on a call right now. Please leave a message and I’ll return the call as soon as I can.” This message alone will run off 75% or more of all nuisance calls. My strategy, and yes, I do consider it a strategy, is to let 100% of my calls, without caller i.d., go to voice mail. If the caller is a client or a known business contact, and they do leave a message, I will call them back immediately. I will also request that they take a moment and purchase caller i.d. This service let’s me know immediately who they are, and I can address them by their name when I do answer.

This approach takes some getting used to, but it will save you so much time and effort and eliminate so much frustration that you’ll see fairly quickly the value of doing it. The bottom line is that to be totally effective at whatever you do, you must master the art of managing the noise. And, the best way to do that is to just say NO! All of this, in the end is nothing more than an Interruption of your focus. And we can get “addicted” to interruptions. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Turn you phone on the loudest vibration you can. Then sit at a lunch or meeting and wait for your phone to ring. Once it vibrates, watch as everyone grabs their phones and checks to see if it’s theirs that’s “interrupting”. We are addicted to the interruption, and we crave more interruptions. Research shows that after you experience a telephone or text interruption it takes your brain 17 minutes to get back into focus. If you allow your phone to ring or vibrate or play a rock-n-roll anthem every time someone calls or texts you, then you will never, ever, be completely focused on your job. I’m not suggesting that you get rid of your phone, but you must manage the process. If you don’t, the process manages you. The best solution is to set a time to check your messages and then just shut the ringer, vibration or notification noise off. Put it on mute in two-hour increments. Trust me. Most of the calls that you’ll get you don’t’ want to talk to anyway.

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