Silence on the Phone Doesn’t Have To Be Awkward

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them.”  Debussy

In a workshop this past week Melissa of House of Auto Details wanted to know more about dealing with silence on the phone. It can be a challenge for many of us, yet it is an essential part of many conversations.

Here are four reasons for silence during a phone conversation and how you can handle each one:

The Silence of Service

Silence often occurs on the phone during customer service calls. Our focus becomes divided between conversation and recording information. We can start to feel awkward, as if we are ignoring the customer. The best way to handle this is to share with the customer what we are doing; create a picture in their mind’s eye that explains the silence. For example: “I’m looking for your information on my computer right now. This will only take a minute.” Or “I’m entering this information into your file so we have it for future reference.” When a customer understands the silence,  the expectation of continual conversation will disappear.

The Silence of Thought

When we are involved in sales calls or longer conversations on the phone, silence can occur because the other person is thinking. We want to respect this and allow them the time they need. While we can’t see that they are thinking, when we are fully engaged in the phone call, we can rely on our instinct. This type of silence usually occurs after we’ve asked a question, or as part of a discussion involving multiple opinions or options. Simply relax into the moments of quiet … and perhaps do a bit of thinking yourself!

The Silence of Attention and Learning

For many of us, taking notes during a phone call is essential. For me this occurs when I’m speaking with clients about possible projects. I’ll write down key points as reference to help me create a proposal or perhaps an email summary. It also happens on calls with individuals I’m coaching; they are taking notes as I speak.  We can rely on our instinct to alert us of this note-taking silence, but speaking about it is also valid. A simple “I’m taking notes while we’re talking” is all that’s needed.

The Silence of  Distraction

This is quite common … and rude. I hate to admit it but I’ve done it myself. The phone rings. I answer it. I begin a conversation with someone … and continue reading or answering email. Shame on me! Again, instinct is powerful and it will always inform the other person that we are distracted. When this happens, we need to find a gentle way to regain the other person’s attention, such as “Sounds like I’ve caught you at a busy time” or “Do you want to call me back at a better time?” I believe it is important not to take the other person’s distraction personally. After all, we’re all guilty of this occasionally.

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
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  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
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  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

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