David shared with me a phone story. He gave a business associate a referral. This is something we all do from time to time. We’ll say something like “My friend Jane Doe might find that interesting. Give her a call and let her know you were talking to me.”
The business associate placed the call, got voicemail, and left a message without ever mentioning the referral. David found this quite surprising.
I wasn’t surprised. I believe this type of phone behaviour is more and more common. Why?
Because the majority of business people spend less time on the phone than they did five years ago. And a lot less time than they did 10 years ago. Unless your job involves phone sales or customer phone support, you’ve replaced a lot of phone conversations with email. So, when you do need to pick up the phone, you are unprepared.
I know that might sound preposterous. I can hear you saying “Mary Jane, are you really trying to say that I don’t know how to talk on the phone?!”
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I know everyone can talk on the phone. I also know that not everyone knows how , that many of you have forgotten much of the skill set.
Talking on the phone, especially for business purposes, and even more so to a total stranger, does contain an element of “performance”. You have to be prepared. Otherwise nerves may get the best of you or you’ll simply forget something important.
For example, in my own world, talking on the phone is something I am doing practically every day, sometimes for hours at a time. It’s the same with workshops or presentations on phone skills. I’m delivering those several times a week. I need very little preparation time for these tasks. But this past week I gave a 30-minute talk on my life as an entrepreneur, distilling all my stories down to seven “lessons”. Not only did it take a long time to choose the seven lessons and decide how to present them, I had to rehearse. I stood in my living room and gave the talk, out loud, several times prior to the event. If I hadn’t done that, I know I would have forgotten something and that my nerves would have impacted my “performance”.
Being prepared does not take away from our being genuine, it simply means that we have given thought to what we want to say and how we want to say it.
So, if you are spending less and less time on the telephone and are suddenly faced with important calls to make, take a few moments to prepare. Make some notes, in point form or otherwise, and keep them nearby to help you remember what you want to say and how you want to say it. Even sit in your office and rehearse a bit. Will this feel silly? Yes, probably. Will it improve your telephone communication? Yes, definitely.
Enjoy your phonework everyone!