I recently wrote a blog post called For Public Speaking (and Business) Success, Pick Up the Phone.
The idea was that, no matter how good your social media skills, there comes a moment when you just can’t beat hearing someone’s voice, in real time.
When that need strikes, you should pick up the phone. But what do you do once you’ve dialed the other person’s number?
Here are some phone tips for the telephonically challenged (and all the rest of us!):
If You’re Using a Cell Phone, Use It With Care
First, be aware of the great divide between cell phone and land line reception.
If you’re calling someone over 40, I strongly recommend that you use a land line, because people over 40 have this strange attachment to good sound quality.
But if you must place your call using a cell phone,
- Be in a place where the quality of your call is good, and background noise is at a minimum,
- Carefully hold your phone so that your voice is being picked up by the internal mike, and
- Slow down so that it’s easier for the other person to hear you.
Follow Basic Telephone Etiquette
When the other person picks up the phone, you should always go through these steps, in this order.
- Unless they pick up the phone with “Hey, Jesse!” always introduce yourself by name. (“Ivan? This is Jesse.”) Don’t assume that they know who you are, and don’t jump in without greeting them.
- Once you’ve introduced yourself, ask if now is a good time to talk.If they say no, don’t take that personally; just arrange to call them back later. If they say that they’ve “just got a minute,” respect that and keep your conversation short.
- Even in a short exchange, though, don’t forget the ritual small talk. A question or two about how they’re doing will smooth the way for whatever comes next—and be sure to listen to their answers, so that you can follow up next time!
- After that opening exchange, state what you’re calling about clearly. If you want something, tell them what it is. (“I called to ask if you’d be willing to write a blurb for my new book on public speaking.”) If your call is more general, tell them that. (“It’s been so long since we talked, I just wanted to catch up with you.”)
- Then follow the same kind of back-and-forth that you’d use in a face-to-face conversation: Make sure the other person gets to speak, but don’t leave them holding the conversational ball. And, most importantly,
- If you’re doing business by phone, summarize what you’ve agreed to at the end of the conversation, or immediately after via email. (If there’ve been any misunderstandings about who’s going to do what, you want to catch them now.)
Notice If The Other Person’s Situation Changes
When you’re talking to someone on the phone, their situation can change abruptly. And, unlike with an email that can be put aside, the two of you will have to ride that wave.
People appreciate it when you show sensitivity to their needs, so along with the phone tips above, keep your ears open for things that might indicate a change of plans;
- If you’re calling during the business day, and you hear another phone ring on their end, ask them if they need to answer it.
- If you’re calling them at home and you hear kids yelling, or a dog barking, or someone else coming into the room, ask them if they need to go.
- If your phone call has to be interrupted, ask if the other person would like you to call them right back, or would prefer to pick up the conversation at some convenient future time.
Whatever they want to do, agree! Don’t try to keep someone on the phone if their kids are fighting or their office fire alarm has gone off.
Treat them with the same consideration you’d show during an in-person meeting.
Don’t Forget Your Attitude of GratitudeAs busy as most people are today, their willingness to talk to you by phone is a real compliment. So let them know you appreciate it, by saying, “Thanks for taking the time to talk,” or “It’s been great to speak with you.”
You don’t need to send a personal note, as you would for a job interview. But if any business has been done, send a follow-up email that states (again!) what was decided, and how much you appreciate their time.
Good Phone is a Way to Stand Out
As crazy as things are, and as busy as people are these days, nothing stands out like competence and courtesy. If you can deliver both, you will come across as a rare and invaluable person.
So all of these phone tips really boil down to one thing:
Learn how to communicate courteously by phone!
The people you’re talking to will be grateful.
Image by longleanna/Pixabay