When you’re chatting with a potential client, you know that every word counts. But what about the words that are exchanged before you talk to that client? Whether greeting customers in person or over the phone, your receptionist has the power to pique interest in your business, or leave potential clients feeling unsure. Here are some key phrases your receptionist should avoid, and enticing alternatives:

“He/She is unavailable.” You may not be able to give your sales pitch to every potential client at the moment they seek you out, but hearing that you’re “unavailable” can lead customers to feel like you don’t care. Encourage your receptionist to use specifics instead, and make it clear that you’re excited to talk with potential clients, even if you aren’t able to right now:

She is in a meeting at the moment, but she’ll be delighted to return your call! May I take down your number?”

“I don’t know.” Even the best receptionist will be stumped by a question now and then, but saying “I don’t know” to a potential customer is a big no-no. Instead, encourage your receptionist to show eagerness with, “I’d be happy to find out!” or, “Great question! I’ll gladly look into that for you.” There are tons of ways to turn a tricky question into an opportunity to showcase a desire to help. Brainstorm a handful of replies that work for you and your receptionist, and you’ll both be armed for any question that comes your way.

“You’ll have to…” Commanding phrases like “You’ll have to”   —  as in “You’ll have to set up an appointment” or, “You’ll have to talk to Jim about that”  —  turn a receptionist from greeter to gatekeeper in the eyes of a potential client. Whatever you might prefer potential clients do, they never have to do it. They can always take their business elsewhere! Don’t be demanding with potential customers. Instead, politely ask for what you want:

I’ll be happy to ask one of our salespeople to give you a call this afternoon. What works well for you?”

“May I take down your email address? I know Jim would love to send you some information about the services we offer.”

Photo by Flickr user William Brawley