Quick tips to sharpen your phone skills

by Vivian Luo

Talking on the phone – whether you like it or not, is an inevitable task when it comes to running a business. Whether you’re speaking with suppliers or customers, having great phone skills will help you maximise the opportunity within each call. 

You don’t need to have the gift of the gab to master the phone. But you can easily improve your phone skills if you keep the following few points front of mind.

Designers happily working as a team

Smile

How many times have you heard about this before? Your smile will most definitely come across over the phone. Smiling can also give you a positive frame of mind which will help you drive positive outcomes. And think about when you’ve spoken with someone on the phone who sounded not so happy, did it leave a bad impression on you? So before you pick up the phone to dial or receive the call, take a moment to put a smile on your face.

Ask if it’s a good time

Phone calls are not very constructive if either party is distracted. So if you’re making the call, ask the other person if it’s a good time for them to talk. Sometimes, out of courtesy, the other person may not immediately say it’s a bad time for them unless you specifically ask. So ask the question straight up, especially if you’re calling their mobile or you can tell their landline is being diverted to a mobile. If you need to call them again the future, ask them what time they’d like to receive calls, make a note and try to call during those times. It’ll save you a lot of time not having to ‘chase’ the person. Conversely, if you’re on the receiving end of the call, always let the other person know if it’s not a good time to speak.

Listen

Listening is more important than talking when it comes to phone calls. Even if you’re the one initiating the call, it’s the responses from the other person that’ll help you determine where the opportunity lies, whether it is to negotiate a cheaper rate with a supplier or to upsell an extra product to the customer. Pay close attention to the hints that the other person is sending about their needs and motivation, and determine if you can offer to meet them. Avoid distractions on your end, e.g. looking at emails while speaking on the phone, to help you listen better. If you’re calling someone for the first time, pay close attention to the name of the receptionist/business partner/spouse answering the call and try to establish some rapport. These people may not be the decision maker, but they are definitely influencers to the decision maker.

Take notes and then repeat them back

This one ties right back to listening. Without a lot of visual cues, as well as added background noise, messages can be easily misinterpreted over the phone. So pick up the pen and note down the most important points, then repeat those back to ensure that both parties are in the same page. Most importantly, it shows the other person that you’re listening to what they’re saying. If you’re on the receiving end of a potentially lengthy phone call and are not in the position to take notes, arrange to call the person back.

Closing

If you’ve reached an agreement/conclusion at the end of the call, make sure you close the call with a confirmation of that agreement and conclusion. E.g. “Let’s lock in this new price – can you please follow up with the invoice today?” Even if an agreement is not reached, make sure you close the call clearly stating the next steps. E.g. “I will see you next Tuesday at your office to review the sample, 10 o’clock ok?”

 is the Marketing Manager at Hotfrog. Vivian writes about small business marketing from her experience as an advertising account manager for thousands of small businesses across metropolitan and regional Australia. The soon-to-be mother of two enjoys sharing great food and films with family and friends.

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