Here are a few ideas to help you when it comes to picking up the phone.
- Admit there is a problem. From management to the self employed I’ve heard a ton of excuses why email is better; We need the paper trail” “It’s company policy” “It helps to keep people in the loop”… While all of these can be true, the true power of email has been heavily diluted since everyone adds you to their database, copies you into the clipping of a paper clip and no one wants to get sued for getting it wrong. Therefore, email is not always the most powerful solution. Think about it – it can slow down replies, answers, courses of action and even results. One client that started picking up the phone more said in a follow up session that not only were people shocked to hear from their boss, they also felt like they had been listened to. As this client pointed out “When had I ever suggested I was not here for my team?” However, email can be impersonal and picking up the phone changed that.
- Have a plan. Don’t just pick up the phone and wing it. From arranging meetings, to closing sales, from follow up to chasing up, plan the result you want. In doing this you are able to structure what points you need to raise.
- Get permission. With the greatest plan in the world if you don’t have permission to talk, you will be off the phone before you can boil a kettle. Find a way that feels natural to you however start the conversation in a way that makes it clear you wish to discuss x and will only need 1 minute. That if I don’t get the opportunity now I will call back at 2pm tomorrow, so is now a good time or shall I call back then? A question that reinforces (nicely) that this person is not getting out of this phone call, you will polite, courteous, to the point and respectful of time. Never start a conversation on the phone with “Is now a good time or are you busy?” (Do you know anyone on the planet (apart from my dog!) that is not busy! You just gave them the perfect excuse to get off the phone!
- Keep it succinct. Are you lacking in work to do? (If so pop around to any office, including mine and I will give you a job!) the point is because everyone is so busy you need to be straight talking. Not only do people like honesty they also appreciate someone that doesn’t waste precious time, so don’t add in too much general chat.
- Be led. The key to a successful phone call is to be led by the other person. To listen to the vocal clues, they are giving you and using them powerfully. Do they sound stressed, desperate to get you off the phone? Not going to be ideal to bog them down in detail then is it? Far better to succinctly spell out what is needed even if that is a time to meet to answer 3 questions that you need. You are likely to have heard of mirroring this is the skill in which you match their tonality, speed and choice of words between visual, verbal or kinaesthetic, i.e.;
- “I see what you are saying.”
“I hear what you say about x that sounds good to me.”
“I feel that the key points are this, would that be right?”
These all allow the other person to feel listened to. And if you struggle to hear these vocal clues, get in touch I’d be happy to share some more ideas for you.
- Lead. (“Make up your mind Mandie, am I being led or leading!” I hear you say) Being led means you make that person feel respected, however you also need to remember that you have a plan and as such you need to take the lead in the conversation. If you not sure what that is like listen to a radio interviewer guide someone into answering a question in full and then leading them into a closed answer. Politicians for instance are awesome at not answer what is asked of them and concentrating on their own agenda regardless. What does that do for the interview? It annoys the viewer/listener and the interviewer! So, it is important to know your agenda but be respectful of the other parties.
- Do as you say you will. This is so easy but so often neglected. If you say you are going to take one minute, take one minute. If you say you just need one question answering don’t start discussing last nights match or the meeting come up on Friday. Ultimately phone conversations can be very powerful if you learn to read people. And as such people will look forward to your number coming up if they know you are going to make life easier for them. Deal with things succinctly, efficiently and quickly and not take up too much time. So, do as you say you will. If you are going to follow up with an email that “Doesn’t need replying to, purely for confirmation of what’s been discussed, to save time for your team.” Then do it.
The whole point of the phone is that it can be used to get impressive results fast.
To build rapport and connections easier than via email where tonality can get misheard or misread.
It is to make yours and those that you work with lives easier, happier and more successful, so you can see the fear of picking up the phone is one we all need to get over, or it can have a costly impact on success.
If you would like more support, there’s a whole chapter in Fight the fear that looks at this fear and a number of other chapters that look at why the fear exists in the first place!