The phone is so retro, I know. But here’s how to do it.

If we’re in, we answer on the third ring. Which means it rings once, then twice, then on the third ring we pick up.

(This is the rule. It is proven and tested. Do not argue.)

This shows we’re working. It takes three rings to stop our potter’s wheel, wipe our hands on the apron, pick up the phone. We shut off the lathe, take off the safety glasses, pick up the phone.  We’re deep in flow at the keyboard. It takes a few seconds to float back to the surface, and pick up the phone.

We do not pounce. (We are not desperate.  We are working, after all. We are glad you called, but we do not snatch up the phone like a car salesman or lovesick school-child.)

On the third ring. No sooner, no later.  We are pros here.

And we answer with distinction, with our names. Years ago, I began answering “Hello, Walt Kania here.”  Clients would invariably respond, “Hello Walt Kania there.”  It was a shtick. It stuck. They still say that to this day. Don’t use this, of course. Find your own.

You might try, “This is, indeed, Mordecai Morton.”  Or perhaps, “I am Abigail Flitch.” But use your actual name to avoid confusion. On second thought, don’t over-cute this.

On the first call, we listen more than we talk. (Because what do we know, yet?) We say, “Hmm. Tell me more. Interesting. Please, go on.”

We do not go into our spiel just yet. In fact, not ever. Listen first.

When you’re not there, set your voice mail to answer on the fourth ring. No more. Ten rings is an abomination. Like you’re closed for the season.

Four rings, max. So if you are asleep on the couch, or you have a mouthful of chips, you are covered.

Then call back within the hour.  (After all, you are working, even if you were actually only walking the dog.)

Or, once in a while, set your alarm and call back at 3:24 am to leave a voice mail.

You are, after all, really in demand. You are working here.

If you see a client’s name on the Caller ID, you still wait three rings.

You pick up on the third ring.

You are overjoyed to hear from them. (Even if they owe you money, even if they are calling to beat you up.)

You are overjoyed to hear from them. Their call is the high point of the day.

“Yo, George!”

We are pros here.