If you’re running your business like I am, the phone is going to be a pretty important part of your life. This is one of the primary communication tools you will be using on a daily basis to find new opportunities, follow-up with leads, close deals, and make money.
If you’re going to be effective in the business world, you MUST have a reliable, efficient cost-effective and easy-to-use phone system that allows you to accomplish those essential, daily tasks that every business owner needs to do. There’s just no way around it.
Even if your goal is to spend less and less time on the phone (as mine has always been), you still need the right infrastructure in place. If you haven't already taken the steps to get a good phone system in place, chances are you're either working a lot harder than you need to, or you're not doing the best job of managing your verbal communication with clients and customers.
Why Is This So Important?
A lot of new entrepreneurs fail to see the importance of a solid phone system (especially in the beginning, when they're boot-strapping, pinching pennies and scraping by with as little money as possible).
I totally understand the need for frugality – this is not a bad thing. There's no shame in hobbling along and using the free tools at your disposal before you start making some serious coin (this was exactly what I did when I was first getting started).
In this day and age, there are ALL KINDS of free services and solutions that are more than sufficient to accomplish the various tasks we need to get done. Most of them can work just fine.
That being said… a good phone system comes with a level of importance that demands a little more respect. Of all the things you get for free, this is one of the few items in your toolbox that you might actually want to work into your budget. This video explains more…
The bottom line is, a good phone system is not something to cheap out on (or avoid dealing with altogether). When you're willing to pay the price for good communication, you're going to get several benefits that are extremely valuable.
The phone system I've been using since day one is through RingCentral (aff link) and there are SEVERAL other service providers out there who offer similar packages at a similar price (e.g. – Phone.com, FreedomVoice). All of them probably do a fine job, but RingCentral is the one I have the most first-hand experience with.
Why do I like RingCentral? Because their system offers all of the things that I've found to be VITAL features of my phone system…
Faxing Capabilities (Incoming & Outgoing)
When I first set up my business number with RingCentral, I didn't realize how important this one would end up being. It's huge. Let me explain…
The fax machine isn't something I naturally gravitate towards. I generally prefer to use email to send and receive documents to and from the people I work with. The problem is, it's not just about my preferences. When you're dealing with every kind of buyer and seller under the sun, you'll learn pretty quickly that there are MANY different levels of sophistication out there, and just because I don't prefer using a fax machine doesn't mean there aren't tons of other people out there who do (perhaps out of necessity).
If you're working with a property owner who wants to sell you their $100,000 property for 10% of market value, or a buyer who wants to give you a $40,000 profit – trust me, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to work with you. You DON'T want to create barriers and make them work harder to give you what you want (all because you're not willing to pay a few bucks each month for the ability to accept faxes). When you make it easy and effortless for the right people to work with you, you'll find yourself doing a lot more profitable transactions with a lot more people.
Answering Rules & Extensions
If you choose a paid service like RingCentral, be sure to record a nice greeting, create some extensions (if you need them) and set up some basic answering rules. For example:
- Are there certain hours of the day that you're available to talk? Tell the system when you’re “open for business” and willing to accept calls!
- If you want calls forwarded to another number during certain times and days (or after a certain number of rings), tell the system what to do!
- If your business receives calls from different types of people (e.g. – buyers, sellers, vendors, business associates, etc.), set up a few extensions! Give your callers a better experience by automatically routing them to the right person/department/voicemail box. This will save everyone time, especially you.
The ability to set up these kinds of rules is a HUGE luxury. It will take some time to do it the first time – but you only have to do it once and believe me, it's worth the effort on the front end. If you aren't sure how to do this – I'll show you have to handle this in just a few minutes on RingCentral…
These days, I honestly don't even pick up the phone when a prospect calls me. My phone system is programmed to route callers straight-to-voicemail and this message (below) is what that they hear.
Note: If you want a copy of this exact voicemail script, you can find it at the bottom of this blog post.
Of all the perks that come with paid phone systems like RingCentral are toll-free numbers. These are probably the least crucial item on the list (just being totally honest), but nice to have with the situation calls for it. This kind of feature is not a “must” – and working with one local number for everything is totally doable, but I've also found that toll-free numbers can be a great tool to have at your disposal (especially when you're dealing with clients outside of your immediate area code).
The additional cost of using a toll-free number nominal, it helps make your business look like a serious operation and it also helps eliminate some of the minor reservations/hesitations that some folks may have about calling you.
For years now, I've used two different 888 numbers in my business account – one for the buying arm of my business and one for the selling arm of my business. I take every measure to make sure these two arms work like two separate businesses:
- With two separate phone numbers
- With two separate company names (a simple dba filing with my state)
- With two separate websites
Luckily, RingCentral has made it VERY easy for me to organize my phone numbers in a way that aligns with this overall design.
Smart Phone App
When I first signed up for RingCentral years ago, their iPhone app was a relatively new thing (and they had some bugs to work out of it). Fast forward 5+ years and their app has come a long way.
The RingCentral app is an amazing perk that comes with their service. At no additional charge, you can have full control over your office phone system, all from the convenience of your smart phone. It doesn't just forward calls directly to you, but it also allows you to make calls on your cell phone from you business phone number (so you won't have to give out your personal phone number to every person you call for business purposes).
This has really enhanced my overall experience with the service and it has given me a lot of freedom that I otherwise wouldn't have – and this app by itself is enough to sell me on RingCentral over many of their competitors.
The Cost of a “Free” Phone System
I've talked to several folks who have tried to rely entirely on a free phone service like Google Voice. I’m not saying this can’t work – but in my experience, I've found that these free services just don’t have nearly the same kind of customization settings (including toll free numbers and faxing capabilities) that I need to have. As such, these free services just aren't a good long-term solution for me.
In the vast majority of cases – there are usually some very real costs that come with any “free” service out there. Free stuff tends to cost you in terms of their overall lack of convenience and lack of abilities. As a result, these things will consume even more of your time, mental energy and they might even result in lost business (the most costly part of all). Is it worth the cost of “free” to work with a system that is more cumbersome for you and your customers?
I'm not saying you need to start shelling out money for this right now, but I do think that your phone communication is something that should be very easy, requiring a minimal amount of effort and mental energy for you to carry out simple tasks like the ones described above. If your phone system isn't easy to work with (and be honest about this), this is something that should probably be near the top of your priority list. If you need a better system than what you already have in place, do it sooner rather than later.