With the rise of on-line social media and texting as means of communication, there seems to be a breakdown in the awareness of proper and effective use of telephone skills in the business environment. After witnessing and experiencing a number of breaches, I thought I’d offer some observations that may offer some insight in this area.
• Smile into your conversation. You’ve probably heard that you should smile when you answer the phone. I’d suggest starting pleasant then smiling with great enthusiasm after you find out who it is or how you can be of service to them. A gushing “hello” followed by continued gushing can sound insincere. But who do you know who doesn’t want to believe that their call brings delight to the listener.
• Translate your excitement into sound. Studies have revealed that people lose 30 percent of their energy level when talking on the phone because they don’t have the face-to-face interaction. So exaggerate your enthusiasm so that your listener knows you’re interested in serving him or her.
• Speak your listener’s name. Although it may be quite contrived to repeat a person’s name a number of times when you’re together, it’s different over the phone. Saying a person’s name by phone is like verbal eye contact when you can’t look them in the eye. Just as good eye contact can help maintain attention in person, speaking the caller’s name keeps his/her attention when numerous interruptions can draw the caller away on the other end of the line.
• Always make friends with anyone who may be the gatekeeper for the person you may be trying to reach. Anyone who has the power to watch your VIP’s back probably has the influence to allow you through. Or not.
• Every time you call someone, always, always, always ask if it’s an acceptable time to talk. People are inclined to answer their phone in all kinds of circumstances. They may have chosen to answer, but they may not choose to give you their attention. If you need their focus, ask for the best time to follow up. It’s your responsibility to set the best environment to communicate your message. Respecting someone’s time is one of the best means of getting more of it.
• Make your voice-mail message professional. It can be creative and fun. Just make sure it represents what you want your clients to visualize about you. A client told me about an artist she found through the Web whose work rather impressed her. When she called, she slammed into a wall of heavy rock and a message laced with “hey dude’s.” Great work. Bad impression. No assignment.
In a business environment in which the smallest of details can have an impact on whether a project gets assigned to you — or not — make sure all of your telephone skills are as sharply focused as your photographs are.