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What are you really good at – and why?

December 4, 2011
Mary Jane Copps

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Imagine that you are at the theatre, sitting in the audience, waiting for a play to start. Suddenly the director is standing beside you, telling you that, because one of the actors hasn’t arrived, you have been chosen to be in the play.

“Here are your lines,” she says. “Break a leg!”

How well would you do on the stage? What are the things that would impact your performance?

It goes without saying that all of us would be incredibly nervous in this situation (some of us would, of course, firmly refuse to participate, but I’m going to ignore that possibiity as it will ruin my metaphor!).

Being nervous, acting with the script in your hand, not knowing the background of the play or anything about the other actors, being unfamiliar with stage directions – all of these things would have an impact on your performance.

But you might just muddle through and at the end of the night some people might come up and shake your hand and say “good effort”.

“Whew,” you’d think. “Can’t believe I pulled that off!”

Now, imagine that you’re at a concert, sitting in the audience waiting for the music to start. Suddenly the stage manager is standing beside you, telling you that, because an orchestra or band member hasn’t arrived, you have been chosen to play the violin. She hands you the instrument and beckons you to follow her backstage.

How well would you do in this scenario? Many of us would be complete and total failures.

In both these situations an improved outcome would be available if you had time to practice. And allowing yourself to practice is what will also make you fabulous on the phone.

Bur for many of the people I teach, coach and work with this is the hardest thing to embrace. (Which I do understand. My parents paid for piano lessons for me for many years and the amount of practicing I did was – dismal!)

Because most of us talk on the phone on a regular basis, we think we shouldn’t have to practice. In my world, this past Saturday contained Iong conversations with both my sister and a dear in Ottawa as well as with my oldest step-daughter in Grand Cayman. I’m sure you have similar phone conversations from time to time, as well as the daily connections with spouses and parents and friends. These interactions on the phone give us the expectation that we can pick it up at work and impress clients and prospects.

Hmmm – so because you can read, you should be able to get up on stage and be part of a play? Because you listen to music at home, maybe play an instrument or sing, you should be able to join an orchestra or band?

Now take a moment to think about some of the things in life you do really, really well: baking, golfing, sailing, knitting, driving, woodworking, cooking, writing … . I guarantee that whatever you are thinking about in this moment, you are good at it because you practiced. So … if it is a priority in your business life to become more effective on the telephone, well … you must practice.

The word “practice” first showed up in the early 15th century and regardless of its appearance in Old French or Middle Latin, Late Latin or Greek, it means “to perform repeatedly to acquire skill”. Exactly!

Beginning in the 1560’s the word practicing was used to reference “experts” and those involved in “professions”.

And when I look back on my own career, beginning way back in my early 20s when, at university, I got a part-time job filing MLS listings in binders and answering the phone at a real estate office on the Danforth in Toronto, I have been practicing phone communication ever since.

Today, when I accept a new project on behalf of a client, where I will be picking up the phone and calling prospects to make something happen, I have to practice. Certainly my 25 years on the phone means I’m fast, my practice time is shorter than it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago – even one year ago. But if I want to deliver a professional, polished, interesting pitch to prospects on the phone – I have to practice.

And so, unfortunately, do you. I would love to be able to tell you otherwise. I continue to look for a method of making phone communication easier for everyone. If and when I find it, I’ll be sure to let you know. But in the meantime, those of you that want to use the telephone as a tool to expand your client base and increase the loyalty of your customers – you must practice!

I encourage you to spend a day with me and learn more about practice and other elements of successful phone communication. There are 6 spots left in my Halifax workshop on January 24. The details and registration form are here: Ring Ring – I Am Cold Calling

It would be great to have you there!

And one last thought:

If people knew how hard I worked to gain my master, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful. Michelangelo

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