In the Web age, it can seem like phone calls are obsolete! But business is still done over the phone, and sometimes I think people have lost their sense of professionalism (maybe a result of too many emails or text messages?).
Here are some tips I try to use whenever I make a business call – are you using good phone manners?
Have some respect
- Begin by introducing yourself. Be clear about who you are and why you’re calling.
- Don’t assume someone can drop everything to speak with you – ask them if it’s a good time before continuing.
- Know what you’re going to say (it helps to have notes in front of you to jog your memory).
- Ask for the right person, if you know who that is.
Get through Front Desk
- If you aren’t sure who the right person is (or don’t have their extension), be polite to the administrative assistant who answers the phone.
- Show empathy, get to the point, ask them for help, and tell them why you’re calling and who you’re trying to reach.
- If you are having trouble getting through, don’t get defensive or aggressive – this person is just doing their job, which involves fielding calls. If they are an obstacle for you, it might be that you’re not communicating effectively enough.
Seek an appointment
- Always try to line up a face-to-face meeting regarding new business. That means keep your call short – don’t go into too much detail over the phone. Stress the importance of taking more time in person.
Leave a message
- Call twice before leaving a voicemail – maybe you will catch them the second time around!
- Keep it short – 15-20 seconds should be enough for a brief message (who you are, what your company is, why you’re calling, and where you can be reached).
- Reference a person, if you can. Sometimes I have to leave a message for someone I haven’t met yet, so I always try to reference a person we mutually know (“I’ve spoken with your assistant Jackie” or “Bob introduced us at the last Chamber event”).
- There’s no harm in trying again if you don’t get a response from your phone call or message. Call back!
- Share some ideas or ask their opinion (yes/no questions are better – it keeps the conversation to-the-point).
The next time you pick up a phone, whether it’s your cell or in your office, think about what you say and how you say it. People can be more critical than you think (especially when it comes to how you present yourself and your business), and it’s always important to put your best foot (or phone voice) forward.