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Home  > Article

Phone Mania

By Michelle Sullivan

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.

 
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 other end:

  • 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 meeting.

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.






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