No matter what kind of business you run, you’ll occasionally have to deal with unsolicited visits and calls from people who want to offer their services or raise money.
Phone calls from telemarketers might be the most common form of office solicitation, but in-person visits are also common — especially for the companies that keep their doors open to encourage customers or other visitors to walk in throughout the day.
Most office managers aim to deter these unsolicited visits and calls as much as possible. After all, they interrupt your employees when they’re trying to work, and enough interruptions over time can really add up to some lost productivity.
A few office policies and design tactics can go a long way toward cutting down on unwanted interruptions.
However, there’s no way to completely prevent them. For that reason, your front desk staff and reception staff should also be trained on exactly how to handle unsolicited requests for business. If they know how to respond appropriately, they can minimize interruptions and time spent on these calls and visits while still upholding your company’s values by treating people with respect.
Consider Access Control and Perimeter Designation
As we mentioned, some companies must present an easy-to-access storefront that invites passersby inside.
But if you aren’t a retailer and don’t need to invite the public into your space, you can invest in some perimeter control investments that clarify where visitors are welcome.
As we explained our post about physical security for software companies, security experts often talk in terms of an “outer perimeter” that surrounds your property and an “inner perimeter” that surrounds your office building. A few security tactics at each stage can keep away all unwanted visitors, including uninvited solicitation.
- Outer perimeter: If you have higher security needs, you’d use things like gates and locked doors to keep out as many people as possible, both onto the property and into the building. However, something like a row of hedges or a garden gate may also go a long way to indicate where your business property begins. If you’ve done a good job using landscaping and walkways to funnel all visitors to a common entry point, it may be easier to make sure all visitors notice a “no soliciting sign” should you choose to place one there.
- Inner perimeter: The reception desk or reception kiosk and some strategically placed planters or furniture can make it clear visually that any solicitors must officially check in or at least stay in the semi-public area of the lobby.
Consider “No Soliciting” Signs
There are a variety of “No Soliciting” signs available for purchase on sites like Etsy and even at big-box hardware stores. You can place those on the door to the main entrance to your building and on the outer perimeter of your property to deter some unwanted sales visits.
However, you might want to consider the fact that signs with harsh messages might influence the overall impression you make on visitors. Businesses that want to project a friendly brand might want to stay away from signs that don’t strike a welcoming tone.
Plus, the fact is that many solicitors can and do simply ignore these signs.
According to this article from the Houston Chronicle, any laws regulating salespeoples’ activities at businesses tend to be at the city or county level, but most cities and counties don’t have any laws that can be used to enforce the sentiments of a “no soliciting” sign.
That said, if your business gets serious interruptions from solicitors, you might consider posting a more detailed, thoughtful notice that explains how unscheduled visits will be handled. That can preserve your invited visitors’ experiences and might make it easier for your receptionist to refer back to the sign once solicitors do come into the lobby.
Train Receptionists to Handle Solicitors
A bit of education and training can be helpful to novice receptionists who may not have any experience handling aggressive or tricky solicitors.
You can encourage front desk staff to refer to an official office policy, perhaps with specific details for each common type of solicitation: uninvited sales visits, charity solicitations, and religious visitors. Receptionists need to know that sales reps often are trained to get past the initial “no” and have learned through many iterations which questions and tactics break down resistance.
Giving your receptionists scripts can also be a nice tool for them to use to shut down any potential unwanted visits. After a bit of practice, they can use the scripts confidently to minimize time spent with salespeople.
Receptionists should also try to follow a few best practices when they’re responding to solicitors:
- Don’t name drop – If salespeople learn the name of the decision makers at the organization, it will make it easy for them to bypass phone-screening tools and reach (and potentially bother) those people directly by phone or email in the future.
- Don’t make assumptions – Someone might appear to be a solicitor but later turn out to be someone who has an appointment, was invited, or has something valuable to share. Assume that all visitors are expected until you can prove otherwise.
- Use empathy – Even if someone is a solicitor, they still deserve respect. Think about it: It’s difficult work to try to sell in person and experience rejection over and over again. You can remind receptionists that they should act according to values of kindness and respect no matter who walks through your office doors.
The Important Role of the Front Desk Worker
Even if your office has an employee who sits at the front desk full-time so they can greet and manage visitors, visitor management probably isn’t their only role in the office. In many cases, it’s not even their primary role.
Most office receptionists are also tasked with answering the phone and assisting clients with basic questions. Plus, most administrative workers have plenty of other work, from managing office supplies to taking care of HR work and assisting executives with their schedules.
From dealing with solicitors to serving as the front line of office security to performing health checks and keeping the lobby sanitized in the COVID-19 era, these front desk workers deserve all the best tools at their disposal to manage visitors efficiently.Front desk workers deserve all the best tools at their disposal to manage visitors efficiently. Click To Tweet
One of those tools should be a digital visitor check-in system like The Receptionist for iPad.
With this app, visitors can check themselves in using a tablet or even using their own smartphone, which saves the receptionist time and minimizes close contact between the receptionist and the guest — making both feel safer. The app also automatically contacts hosts that their visitors have arrived via SMS or chat message, so the receptionist can use their time in other, more useful ways.
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