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Seven ways to improve your business telephone skills
In this article - the second in a series produced especially for Cleanzine readers, Catherine Emerson of Nseventeen, discusses six ways you can ensure you get the best from your business phone calls. Nseventeen is a consultancy that specialises in qualified and researched business appointment setting.
Despite the rise of email, the telephone is still one of the most important business communication tools and many of us use it throughout our working day. But just because we use it every day, it doesn't mean we're making the most of the conversations we're having. Here are seven tips to help you get the best results from your phone calls.
1. Plan your call:
Before picking up the phone take a moment to get all the background information you need in front of you in a readable format. You can then use these notes as prompts. Planning will also help you to be clear about why you're calling and what you need to achieve.
2. Call / answer at the right time:
If you've arranged to call someone at 10.00, make sure you call them at 10.00 on the dot (or if something unexpected crops up, let the person know, you'll be calling a bit late or need to reschedule.)
If you're expecting a call at 10.00, make sure you're ready for it or reschedule if you need to. If you receive an unexpected call and are not in a position to be able to take it professionally, let it go to voicemail. In addition, take care to answer the phone appropriately. The first thing you say and how you say it will set the tone for the remaining conversation.
3. Get the go-ahead:
At the beginning of the call, ask about the amount of time the person you are talking to has to spare, and discuss what you both want to get out of the call. Doing this shows respect and understanding for the person's schedule and ensures they will be giving you their full attention. If now isn't a good time, make arrangements to call again at a time that is more convenient.
4. Use the name of the person you're talking to:
Ensure you've got their name right and then use it naturally during the conversation.
Take care to use the name they give you. For example, if they introduce themselves as Stephen, do not change it to Steve when you are talking them, no matter how many Steves you know!
5. Speak slowly and ask questions:
On the phone you don't have the added understanding that body language and facial expressions bring. 'Seeking first to understand and then to be understood' is therefore an excellent motto on the phone.
It makes it easier to share information if you slow down your speech and speak warmly and precisely. Also, asking for permission, such as saying: "Would it be OK with you, if I asked you..." can build empathy and shows consideration.
6. Give yourself time:
If you are unsure about something or you're feeling pressured to give a definitive answer, it's acceptable to say something like: "OK. Thank you. May I just take a moment to think about what you said and call you back in say, 10 minutes?"
Building in this 'decision-making time' shows that you are in control and taking the conversation seriously.
7. Wrapping up:
Be mindful of the point where you need to wrap things up.
Take time here to check that you both agree what has just been achieved (and also if required) the next stage actions.
Remember also to say: "Thank you for your time today, I really appreciate it."
Good telephone skills help support business development.
Nseventeen's small team of business experts uses all these approaches and more to generate leads and set appointments on behalf of our clients, so we know they work.
T: 01242 210639
23rd January 2014