Just as grammatical errors work against you in professional
documents, the way you handle yourself both in phone
conversations and on voicemail leaves an impression on people.
Stand-up comedians like to make fun of the telephone tag that
goes on in the working world. But like Tai Chi or oil painting,
phone calling is a fine art in which each move dictates the
next. Consider this: to land a meeting with a prospective
client or employer takes an average of eight follow-up phone
calls (including calls to secretaries, voice mail, etc.).
Knowing how to use the phone effectively can help you beat that
average! Just as grammatical errors work against you in
professional documents, the way you handle yourself both in
phone conversations and on voicemail leaves an impression on
people. Here are some style tips to help you make the most of
each phone call:
Be Persistent and Stay In Control
Most people are hesitant to make follow-up phone calls
because they don't want to pester their colleagues. However,
persistence can prove you're serious about a position or
diligent in your work. Tags such as "I'm sure you must be
very busy" let you leave messages without being irritating.
The most important thing to remember about follow-up calls is
that it's better to do the calling than to wait for calls. If
you leave two or three messages asking someone to call you
back and they don't, you aren't necessarily stuck. Whether or
not you're leaving messages with a secretary or voicemail,
keep the ball in your court. Phrases like "I'll be in and out
a lot so I'll have to call him later" give you the leeway to
call back until you reach the person you're after.
A Script for All Occasions
If you have even a mild phone phobia, you may have already
tried scripting your conversations. It helps to know what
you're going to say before you start talking-whether that
means writing out a full script and actually practicing it,
or simply jotting some notes down on an index card. The
following suggestions might sound ridiculous at first, but
they really can make a difference in how you sound on the
Call your phone answering machine so that you can listen to
your voice and practice your pitch.
Call a friend before you make your business call. This will
give you a chance to warm up over the phone. Make all your
business calls at once. You may find that, after the first
few, you get on a roll and the calls become easier.
Take advantage of the portability of your phone. Stand up
or pace the room while you're talking if that will make you
feel more animated.
Be ready for rejection. If you're told "there are no jobs
here now" or "we're not interested in collaborating with
another company right now," you should be able to pull a
few tricks out of your hat that might still get you a
It's a Two-way Street
You have to be able to catch someone's attention. At the very
beginning of your conversation, establish that you already have
a relationship, however distant, with the person on the other
end. For example, if you're calling a web company you could
mention something specific that you like about their site.
Remember that the conversation could become a monologue unless
you can throw out a few open-ended questions to get the other
person talking. If you let the other person talk about herself,
you might even leave a more positive impression.