Wired magazine reported in 2002, “The ITU estimates that there were more than 1 billion telephone landlines in 2001.” And cell phone usage is on the rise as well. Once a rich man’s gadget, even those who are unable to pay their rent from month to month have cell phones today as well as children of all ages. By the middle of 2005, the total number of cell phone subscribers and landline users had reached 2.4 billion. Hard to imagine what it is today.
So it is pretty safe to say that a lot of us are on the phone or will be real soon. Consequently, it is not crazy to suggest that essential phone skills are an important part of how we communicate.
Often, the impression you make on the telephone is the first impression you give. Imagine that you and a potential buyer play “telephone tag” back and forth three or four times before actually connecting. By this time you both have likely formed some sort of impression of one another.
Here are some essential telephone skills to remember when you are using your phone in a sales environment:
- Speak the Native Tongue. If you live in an English world, it is important to understand and speak English if you want to work in sales. Without good English, you will frustrate and continually test your customers and colleagues. Learn the native tongue of those with whom you are doing business. It is polite, and it is a basic foundation for success.
- Don’t Waste Time. Prepare what you are going to say before you call. Be ready to leave a voicemail or talk to the person you are intending to reach. Write down or mentally prepare what you have to say.
- Repeat Your Details Twice. Say your name and phone number at least twice when you are leaving a message. Spell your name if it is a tricky name, and leave your number slowly. Don’t assume that someone has previously recorded your personal details. It is good practice to leave your name and number once at the beginning of the message and once at the end. This way the recipient does not have to listen to your entire message again simply to catch your name and number.
- Remember Business Hours. Try to remember to make business calls during business hours. You want to avoid catching your client with their family at the dinner table.
- Remember Names. As soon as you know the name of the person you are speaking with or going to speak with, write it down. If you don’t know the spelling, request it. Now use the name throughout the conversation. This will help you commit the name to memory and the person you are speaking with will appreciate it.
- Check Your Messages. If you are leaving messages and not checking messages that have been left for you, you will irritate those with whom you are trying to connect. It is smart to check your messages at least two to three times a day. In many cases it will be best to check your message several times a day. A client or a customer may have a deadline or a decision hinging on your response. Also, learn to check your messages remotely. This comes in handy if your cell phone dies or you are out of a service area. You need to be able to access your voicemail from anywhere, anytime.
- Don’t Leave Their Ears Ringing. When you set up your voicemail, make sure your caller doesn’t have to wait for more than two to three rings before your voicemail message begins. If you do not know how to set up these details, phone your telephone company for assistance.
- Speak with Your Best Voice. Try to speak with utmost eloquence. Sit up straight, clear your throat, blow your nose and concentrate on the thoughts you are are going to deliver. Record yourself sometime, and make a habit of speaking in your most pleasant tone.
- Start with a Great Greeting. Start off with a confident and pleasant greeting. Say your name and make sure you know what period of the day you and the person you are calling are in—morning, afternoon, or evening. If you are a receiving a call, start again with a pleasant greeting, state who you are and where your caller has reached. Then ask how you can be of service. When you take the time to state these facts, it saves the caller from having to ask you all the questions themselves.
- Slow Down. Whether you are leaving a voicemail or having a conversation, slow down. It is natural to rush, so make a mental note to reduce your speed just a little.
The phone is used so often it is easy to forget the simple things that can make you a class act. Be aware that the listener cannot see your body language which coveys a major part of your intent. They hear only your words and tone of voice. Be mindful of your essential phone communication behaviors. Remember, it is the little things that can convey so much in effective communication.