Value On-Hold. Seize the Silence.

Value On-Hold. Seize the Silence.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


Can you hold for a second?

Captive audience. It doesn’t matter if you called them or they called you, your most prized prospect (the one you’ve been courting for months) is now on the other line. What happens when you press hold? What does the caller hear?

Ask yourself this, “If you value this prospect (or customer), what value are you giving him while he’s on hold?”

Answer: NONE.

You can answer the question yourself: Just write down what personally bugs you about being put on hold.

I decided to call an expert Andy Dinkin, president of Tegra Telephone Systems, and asked him if he had a formula for “on-hold” success.” A prospect or customer on hold is as captured an audience as you could hope to find. Make use of hold time to implement the 3 E’s: Educate, Entertain, Empower,” said a confident Dinkin. “Our on-hold customers are asked to take our World Famous Tegra Test. This test challenges the caller to examine the way communication is handled within his or her own place of business. The 10 questions are stated in a professional, studio quality voice, and set to uptempo music. Many callers ask to be put back on hold just to hear the rest of the questions.” Cool.

BUT BEWARE: Here’s how the process leads to failure (customers and prospects on hold who HATE you by the time they talk to you). If you wanna make ’em mad just do this:

1. Play your phony commercial, by a phony announcer, with annoying music, or irritating “ask about our…” crap. Stupid commercials and messages about your products are irritating. No one wants to hear it especially on their time.

2. Play the radio. It’s actually illegal, and your competitors may be advertising on your station of choice.

3. Tell me how IMPORTANT my call is while I sit there and stew then repeat the same dumb message every minute or so.

4. Have nothing on hold. At least let the caller know they have not been disconnected.

And the biggest insult of them all:

5. Play stupid information that everyone already knows. Stupid pieces of information make “on-hold” go beyond irritating to insulting.

EXAMPLE OF STUPID: US Airways was real bright. To their most preferred traveler (people who travel every day and pay outrageous prices for the privilege), when you were on hold, they reminded you to get to the airport an hour early. Wow, I never knew that, thanks for that brilliant piece of information. Wait, let me write that down. What idiot thought that one up?

Can you imagine that US Airways think tank meeting? It probably went something like this: “Hey everyone got any ideas how we can piss off our best customers?” One genius says, “Hey, I got an idea. When they call up, right after they push a bunch of numbers to get more recordings, and go on hold, which is just about every time, let’s tell them to get to the airport an hour early, that oughtta do it.” Another genius pipes up, “AND keep repeating it AND play our annoying music AND never change it!” Everyone screams in unison, “Yeah that oughtta do it!”

What are they thinking?

Where’s the value? The object is to never put people on hold BUT if you do, at least value them and their time. Don’t puke all over people with a phony professional announcer and tell me how much you “appreciate my business,” and how important my call is. If my call is so damn important, how come you don’t just hire more people to answer the phone?

Another classic example of the 1990’s corporate mantra: “Profits before People.”

When you put people on hold, it’s an opportunity. How are you capturing it? How are you taking advantage of it? How are you getting one person to tell another about your information on hold? I’ll give you the answer right away. Oh darn, the other phone is ringing can you hold for a minute?

OK, ok, can you hold for a week? Out of space but not out of ideas and solutions. BIG answers in the next edition, but here’s a clue to the opportunity: Create your own value message.