I believe that the British instinct for business phone calls is to enjoy these elements:
- No eye contact
And to feel distinctly uncomfortable about these ones:
- Making rapport
- Tackling the important stuff like asking for business
However, phone calls can be productive and enjoyable. Here’s how to achieve both:
- Before you even start, work out WHY you’re having the call and write down the key elements of what you want to cover. Consider all the questions you need to ask. Use them properly and it’ll make the whole thing flow much more easily.
- Try smiling and starting the call with an easy, conversational energy; I do this every time and I swear it lightens the whole thing and makes it feel fun, even if it’s someone I’ve never spoken to before. Try a little non-business reference (what you did at the weekend, or what the weather is like where you are and how much you love or hate it), it gives them permission to do the same and actually enjoy the call without the pressure of having to be perfect and business-like. This does not mean that the call will be casual and unprofessional, far from it; if you’re enjoying the call then you may have made a good connection, which is vital to the success of the exchange.
- Check how long they have for the call, and be aware of the limit. You may have scheduled a meeting in their calendar, so note how long was allocated.
- Note the important info (especially their name if you don’t already know it), and refer back to it to show you’ve been listening (well, writing things down).
- Be aware of any cues from them that they would like to draw the conversation to a close.
- Conclude with the relevant actions for each of you.
- Finish by smiling again and being upbeat. Saying their name when you say goodbye, as is referring to the non-business thing they mentioned at the start (if they did).
- Follow up with an email describing the key points to make sure you’re on the same page, and if you enjoyed speaking to them, then say so.
Wouldn’t it be great to be the person who people look forward to speaking to on the phone? It’s easy; just be a real person and try to remember the important details, by writing them down if necessary.