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Powerful Listening is a Phone Call Away

April 10, 2011
Mary Jane Copps

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This past week I finished reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, and had a light bulb moment regarding the telephone and why it is such a powerful communication tool.

(Actually, to be perfectly accurate, I finished listening to Blink. With the arrival of Spring I’m back to walking to work most mornings and, with my iPod in my pocket, it is a great way to work through my endless reading list.)

Blink is excellent; the audio is done by Malcolm himself, so you can clearly hear his passion for this subject.The book is about rapid cognition, the kind of thinking that takes place in the blink of an eye – the kind of thinking that we should learn to recognize. Does rapid cognition always deliver the right information? Absolutely not and the delight of Malcolm’s book is the real-life stories he includes to illustrate both the incredible insights and the disastrous circumstances rapid cognition can create.

In the last chapter, Malcolm talks about screened auditions. The examples he uses relate specifically to symphony orchestras – how the number of women who play in symphony orchestras increased dramatically once auditions were done from behind a screen.

It becomes all and only about the music, what happens in the moment that the hiring committee hears the music. There are no other distractions – not what the person is wearing, or how they hold their instrument, or the colour of their hair, or their sex. There is only the music they create.

This is exactly what happens on the telephone. Whether you are talking to your best friend, or an existing client, or someone you’ve never met, there are only the words and the passion with which you infuse them. The telephone allows us to truly listen to what is being said, to hear clearly, without distraction.

Now, in today’s world, I know we allow distractions. We click to open and sort email, we shuffle paper, we try to get one more thing off our to-do list while we talk on the phone. And this diminishes its power. In its pure form, if you use it without distraction, the telephone is our best listening tool. It not only creates the perfect way to listen to clients, but it allows your clients to listen to you more effectively as well.

And this is why cold calling does work – will always work. Because in that phone call there are no other distractions – just the sound of your passionate voice and the words describing your product or service. When the description is well-honed, this phone call allows your potential client to make a clear, concise decision for themselves based on the information they’ve heard.

I’m reminded, somewhat embarrassingly, of something that happened when I owned my former company, Media Link, in Toronto. One of our clients was in economic development in Newfoundland. We had an amazing telephone relationship. We really enjoyed talking to each other and working together.

One fall morning this client arrived at our office. It was a holiday Monday in Ontario I believe, because only myself and my business partner were in the office that day, and I was dressed very casually, black leggings and a long red sweatshirt that I loved (this was the early 90’s!).He was in Toronto for a conference and had decided to take a chance that we might be around.

It became one of the most awkward moments of my life, because when my partner called and I stepped out of my office to greet this man, the look on his face was one of complete devastation. Somehow in his mind he had created a very firm picture of what I looked like, who I would be physically, and the real me did not even come close!

As I think back on this now I feel so badly for him. He never really recovered and our visit together was incredibly uncomfortable. We lost our lovely, fun relationship completely.Once there were other distractions, he could no longer hear me.

If you get the chance to read Blink, you’ll find out about similar experiences. Our eyes can deliver information that gets in the way of our listening. They can deliver distractions that allow us to miss opportunities.

Thanks to those of you that are contacting me with ideas and suggestions – I really appreciate it. And tune in next week for the beginning of another “series” on designing great cold calls.

Enjoy this arrival of Spring and your phonework!

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