It’s possible for any of us to hang up at the end of a phone call and realize we allowed the conversation to get totally off track and we’ve ended up without the information we need. Reluctantly, we call back … or send a quick email.
How can you stay on topic, no matter how much a phone conversation wanders?
To make sure you always get the information you need on every phone call, even if the conversation occasionally veers off track, visualize the entire call as a road trip. You want to get to your destination (gather the necessary information or get the needed approvals) but you’re prepared to devote some time to other topics and ideas. After all, phone calls are an important part of building and maintaining relationships.
Map It Out
Think back to the last time you took a road trip to a new destination. In all likelihood you looked at a map beforehand. Or perhaps you put your full trust in your GPS. What you didn’t do was simply get in the car, turn the key, and hope you’d get to where you were going.
The same holds true for phone calls, especially with people you don’t speak with often. Whether you do it as a diagram, a list of words, or in point form, create a map or outline for the conversation – something that you can look at quickly whenever you feel the call is getting off track. This is not about scripting or reading long sentences of instructions. It’s about that quick look at a map or GPS so you can keep moving toward your destination.
Points of Interest
For me, one of the delightful things about road trips is doing a bit of research and choosing a few sites to check out along the way. Several years ago, on one of my many trips between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, I stopped at the Masstown Market. That bit of curiosity has turned into absolute loyalty on every trip. I stop for coffee, local produce, the very best seafood pie and, in the summer, the most delicious fish & chips I’ve ever tasted.
Phone conversations can have similar “points of interest”, topics or ideas you want to include when time allows. Put these on your “map” as well. Perhaps you’ve shared family information in the past (children, elderly parents, etc.) or maybe you’ve discussed sports activities, a book they’re writing, travel. It is important to ask for updates on these things as they are all part of building and growing relationship.
The very best part of a road trip is the “find”, the side road you’ve never taken before, the tiny antique store you’ve never explored or, as we discovered on a trip in Newfoundland a few years ago, an insectarium. I mean, how can you not stop when you find a butterfly pavilion?
Know that you can’t plan out all the details of a conversation. At its very core, a conversation is an impromptu activity and you need to be prepared to learn something new or talk about an idea or subject with which you are not familiar. When this occurs, become your best active listener, jot down key words while the other person is speaking and keep a record in your CRM of what is shared. The phrase, “Let me think about that for a bit and get back to you,” is helpful if you are asked to offer advice or make a decision, and you need more time.
Phone conversations are vital to the growth and strength of your business. By mapping them out, you can eliminate some of the stress or anxiety often associated with this activity, get the information you need and … relax and enjoy the experience.