In this age of social media and emails, the phone call is still one of the best forms of business communication. You and your counterpart are talking directly, and the impact is immediate. However, perhaps because we spend less time face-to-face with business contacts than past generations, business phone calls end up being mediocre at best.
Before you pick up the phone to connect with a client or customer; a few minutes of preparation can make the difference between a successful call and a wasted effort. Check out these 12 tips for making extremely effective calls.
Consider why you are making the call
Why are you picking up the phone? Are you trying to make a sale? Are you following up on an earlier meeting? Are you providing crucial information? No matter what your purpose is, it is important to identify it beforehand so that you deliver confidence, and do not end up digressing while on the phone.
Lay out where you want to go with your call
Make a list of bullet points. This could include the central questions you would like to ask, important dates for following up or for other events, or possibly issues that you need clarification on from a previous conversation. If you have these in place, you won’t have to call back a few minutes later with that topic you forgot to mention.
Research ahead of time
For first time calls, take a few minutes to Google research and review LinkedIn profile of the person you are about to call. You should know the company that person works for, that company’s primary market, and the position and department where your conversational partner works. If you take the time to note points in common (did you go to the same college? Did you major in the same field?), you will have bridges to conversation to serve as a sort of icebreaker.
Make your work space conducive to effective conversation
If you work in an open plan office, let your neighbors know that you’re about to make an important call, so they will not chat right next to you. If there is a lot of ambient noise around you, step into a conference room or at least find a quieter area in the office before making the call.
Keep your words concise
The attention span of our species is decreasing with each passing year. You want to get to your point quickly in the conversation. If you don’t, your counterpart could think that you are wasting his or her time. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid brief pleasantries, but it does mean you should respect his or her time.
Be direct – but be courteous
Asking questions such as “How are you?” or make brief statements as “I hope your summer is going well!” will show that you have a degree of empath. That doesn’t mean you should share lengthy stories about your beach trip, but after those pleasantries, get into your main points.
Find out if your message was understood
Every now and then, confirm with your counterpart if they have questions about the topic being discussed. This sort of feedback will verify if your message is getting across.
Silence can be golden
A pause in the conversation can be a good thing. Is your call designed to involve some sort of negotiation? Then allow some brief pauses to let the other person know that you are willing to hold your position and wait for feedback that shows the other person is willing to move toward you. Silence also shows that you are willing to wait and listen for the other person, which shows that you value that person’s input – and time.
Even if you are not on voice chat, if you smile, you tend to speak more clearly. Make sure that your phone is in position for you to speak and be heard clearly. Remember that the other person can’t see your facial expressions or other nonverbal gestures, so make sure to be careful with your words and enunciate clearly.
Resist the temptation to put people on hold
Things happen in offices, so you may need to put your counterpart on hold. Ask for permission first, though. Do you need to transfer that person to another department? Again, ask if it is OK, and then tell them why you are transferring them and the person’s name and title that they will talk to next.
Don’t try to talk your way out of confusion
There will be times when you do not know the answer to a question. That is part of being human. So admit it, and inform them that you’ll get the information and contact them with an answer to the question.
Enjoy your time on the phone
This might seem counterintuitive (after all, this is work), but if you are prepared for business calls, you will enjoy them. Following the tips in this article will help you prepare for each encounter, and when you are prepared, you will enjoy them more.