Creating a Great Impression, Miscommunication & Getting Answers

young man talking on the phone

Whether it’s part of your work in sales or customer service, or phone conversations are part of your job search strategy, you want to continually practice the skills for creating a great impression.

You also want to know ways to deal with a wide variety of communication hazards, such as loud background noise or being able to hear a soft talker.

And finally, there are the skills necessary for handling questions when you don’t have the answer.

What are the options for communicating clearly in the above scenarios? How will they improve your overall conversation skills?

Q1: How do I create a great first impression on the phone?

Everything we do on a phone call leaves an impression on the other person. (This is also true in a face-to-face conversation although these may also include what we’re wearing or if we have spinach between our teeth!)

Here are my recommended skills to use when speaking on the phone to someone for the first time:

  1. Speak at a moderate pace (not too fast and not too slow) and enunciate all of your words.
  2. Clearly state your name and help them with the pronunciation if you are aware that people often struggle with it.
  3. Make sure you have their name, can say it correctly and use it during the conversation.
  4. Follow the advice of the Greek philosopher Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Listening is the ultimate sign of respect. 
  5. Ask lots of open-ended questions to demonstrate your interest in the other person, the project they are working on, or the job they have available. Displaying our curiosity and genuine interest is how we begin to build both trust and relationships.

Q2: What can I do when I’m having difficulty hearing or understanding the other person?

Phone calls are often impacted by background noise. The noise could happen at either end of the call and affect each person’s ability to hear. The best thing to do in this situation is to say something about it as quickly as possible.

For example, if you know it’s a possibility that your dog could start barking, you can say, toward the beginning of the call, “Know that my dog Rufus barks at any movement on the street so you may hear him in the background during our conversation.” If Rufus does decide to join the conversation, it won’t be a surprise and it will have much less impact on everyone’s ability to hear.

If the noise is at the other end (let’s say your caller is on a construction site), you can say, “Sounds like you are very close to the bulldozer,” or “Sounds like you’re in the midst of digging the foundation.” This alerts the other person to the impact of the noise on the conversation. In most cases, they will move to a better location or call you back.

It is always perfectly acceptable to let the other person know you are having difficulty hearing them. Struggling to hear a soft talker won’t allow you to create a valuable conversation. You must say something like, “I’m really having trouble hearing you. Is it possible for you to speak a little louder?”  

And if it’s an unfamiliar accent that is the challenge, once again, it is important to speak up. Check out this post for  ideas and scripting:

Strategies for Difficult Conversations – Part IV

Q3: What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question?

Any of us, no matter how long we’ve done our jobs or how well we know our industry, can suddenly be asked a question we can’t answer. It happens – every day. No one has all the answers.

If this occurs in your sales or customer service role, the best thing to do is say, “That is a great question. It’s not one I’ve been asked before and, at the moment, I don’t have the answer. But I’ll find out and I’ll get back to you today.” 

If it occurs during a job interview, the response is similar. You say, “Oh, I’ve never been asked that question before. Give me a moment to gather my thoughts.” Or perhaps: “Oh, that question is new to me. Can we come back to it in a few moments?” In other words, request some time to think and compose your response.

There are also valuable tips for these situations in this previous post:

Coaching Tips for Phone Phobia

That’s it for this episode of Summer School. Hope you are enjoying some relaxation. Don’t hesitate to send me a question you’d like me to answer. 


Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.