How Not to Sell Your Telephone Answering Service

There are some commonsense steps to take when selling your telephone answering service, just as there are when selling anything. Common key elements include presentation, promotion, correcting problems, and so forth.

At the risk of comparing a business to a vehicle, would you abuse a car, drive until it breaks down, and then slap a for sale sign on it along the side of the road? Of course not, but too many people adopt this same philosophy when it comes time to sell their answering service.

If you don’t care about selling your answering service for a good price, here is what you should do:

Don’t Maintain Equipment, Staffing, or Marketing

Don’t worry about tomorrow, it will all work out—you hope. Instead of planning, let your equipment age and don’t maintain it, allow staff to atrophy and keep underperforming employees on the payroll, and ignore all marketing because you don’t see the point of promotion anyway.

Let Small Problems Become Big Issues

Instead of resolving a small customer service error, ignore it and maybe it will go away. Or it could fester into a lawsuit that will cost dearly.

Give Away Service

You argue that the incremental cost to answer one phone call is zero. Therefore you can surely give free answering service to family, friends, and nonprofits without consequence. Yeah, right. Where else does that work?


The old joke is “We lose money on every sale, but we’ll make up for it in volume.” Some answering services actually think this way. But no matter how many unprofitable clients you add, the result is still unprofitability.

Allow Payroll to Bloat

So what if you’re overstaffed a bit? You’ll provide better service, right? Maybe, but likely not. Overscheduled shifts lead to bored staff who tend to goof off. That’s never good. Just having one extra agent per shift will cost about 100k per year. Do the math if you don’t believe me.

Let the New Owner Worry About It

A deferred problem is a time bomb waiting to go off. Each one makes your answering service less attractive. Too many make it unsalable.

Ride it Out as Long as You Can

Some owners are passive, sucking out as much money as they can with no regard to the future. It makes about as much sense as driving a car without any oil in the engine. Your days are numbered.

You may laugh at these six foolish steps, yet each one of them has occurred. The seller has let his or her business languish but still expects to sell it for top dollar. No way, not going to happen.

Whatever you are selling, including your answering service, take care of it and work to provide a can’t-say-no package to a potential buyer. That is how to sell fast and for top dollar.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706 to arrange a private consultation about buying or selling an answering service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.