Americans received more than 26 billion robo-calls in 2018. This prompted an FCC vote to let phone companies block robo-calls by default, even when consumers have not opted in to robo-call blocking services.

By Mike Pugh

Besides being a time suck, robo-calls are just as annoying as the high pitch sound of a fax machine used to be. Maybe it’s just me, but these calls usually send me into a terrible mood, and fast, and interrupt both my business meetings and personal conversations.

The reality is, small businesses are not immune to this issue. A leading research firm surveyed hundreds of small business executives and found that 59% of SMBs use their own mobile phone for business calls. In fact, if you’re a small business owner, imagine how many of your calls are simply ignored as the person you’re calling assumes you’re a robo-caller. This phenomenon is tough to measure, given the inability to pinpoint why your calls are going unanswered; but it’s safe to assume that if you’re personally trying to avoid these robo-calls, so are the people you’re calling.

Even the experts now tell us that one of the best ways to avoid robo-calls is just not to answer our ringing phone unless we recognize the number. That’s drastic, but understandable. It’s time for small businesses to think about how this impacts their ability to make sales calls, manage an account, engage a vendor or build a relationship with a prospect. Try these three steps to fighting the robo-call epidemic.

#1: The art of saved numbers

Sometimes easier said than done, getting customers or prospects to save your number in their phone can make all the difference. This ensures your name– and depending on the phone model your picture—show up each time you call. It’s okay to be upfront about this too. If you meet in person, for example, you can take the initiative to pull out your phone, save their number and show it to them so they can double check it and spellcheck their name. Hopefully, that moment will prompt them to do the same.

#2:  Get a cloud phone system

Think of a cloud phone system as a virtual business phone, built around an app. It lets you take your business phone number with you anywhere and use it to make or receive calls from any internet-connected device: computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Now let’s imagine you’re back on the road, wanting to call that prospect who asked for more information about your product. With the right cloud phone system you can use your personal mobile phone to make that call from your business phone number.

A cloud phone system ensures your business number and your name (or your company’s name) display on your prospect’s phone. The prospect recognizes your name, takes your call, and you can more easily make the sale and not be mistaken for a robo-caller.

#3: Send a text or message first

This can be especially useful when you are calling someone for the first time. Perhaps you have already been in an email exchange with an individual, and it’s time to pick up the phone and give them a ring. About five to ten minutes before you plan to call, shoot them a quick text to remind them that it’s you. Many of today’s phones, including the iPhone, are smart enough to automatically leverage that information, or information from your email if you have it synced, to suggest that you’re the one calling, even if they don’t have your information saved to their phone.

#4: Avoid cold-calling altogether

Remember that only 1% of cold calls actually result in meetings. And in the B2B space, 90% of decision makers don’t respond to cold sales outreach altogether. By the time you are calling someone, you should have already tried other means of reaching out, whether it’s via email or engaging with them across social channels or at an event. By avoiding the cold call, it’s more likely their phone will have the data it needs to suggest you’re the one calling, and you increase the chance that they’ll recognize your location (area code).

As consumers, we will most likely continue to combat robo-callers, inevitably ignoring numbers we don’t recognize. But as entrepreneurs and small business owners, we have a unique opportunity to avoid this adverse reaction altogether. With a couple precautionary steps, we can fight the robo-call phenomenon and ensure we get in touch with our customers, prospects, partners and colleagues.

Mike Pugh is the Vice President, SMB, RingCentral.

Robo-call stock photo by