Have A Phone Presence (written October, 2007)

After speaking with literally thousands upon thousands of you good people – especially ones just starting out in this wonderful industry of ours – I must say better than 99% of you need to develop a better phone presence. Here are the steps you can take to be better on the phone.  Let’s face it – you can sell products, get a job, find a bargain, get a loan, get a lower interest rate on your credit card balance or do almost everything over the phone. It’s not just a matter of luck or having the right person on the other end of the line. What does count is the way you approach the telephone and the way you present yourself. These simple, easy to use and follow steps will help you start to use the phone to get you what you want!

Step #1. Prepare for the call. Get comfortable. That means using a phone you’re comfortable with. If you have difficulty hearing or if the other person has a hard time hearing you, you’ll be at a disadvantage. Use the best phone in the house for the calls where you have something to gain (or something to lose). Being prepared means having a pencil and paper ready. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you talk on the phone. For one thing it forces you to focus on the facts rather than on the person or the tone of his or her voice. If the matter is a complicated one or has to do with numbers, writing things down can clarify the situation. It’s also a good idea to have something for future reference including the name of the person you spoke with.

Step #2. Identify yourself and state the problem, simply and calmly. How many times do I get a call and the person on the other end assumes I know who they are and what they are calling about – like it is right at the tip of my fingers. Before you call, make up your mind to behave like a rational, adult human being, who is intent on solving the problem or getting your questions properly answered. Often we get on the phone because we are angry and indignant. Perhaps the product we ordered hasn’t arrived or somebody has overcharged us or we just don’t know what to ask because we didn’t read the company’s brochure. This doesn’t give us or give anyone the right to throw a tantrum. Nor does having to wait or go to several other departments before finding the right person. Whatever you do, always stay calm and always keep your emotions in check. It benefits no one when you get angry! When you’ve pressed all the right buttons or waited on hold and you finally have the right person on the line, be ready to identify yourself, then launch into something like, “Hi, My name is “so and so” and the reason I am calling is because…..” Very simple. Here’s where your notes come in handy. In some instances, especially if making a sales call, it can help to write down everything you plan to say and rehearse it a few times. Just to be sure that you don’t sound like a robot. If it is a call to a company, make sure you write your questions down so none of them go unanswered and jot down the answers when you get them.

Step #3. Listen carefully. When the other person begins to talk, be ready to listen without interrupting. In my experience, way too many of you like to interrupt me when I start talking. When you ask a person a question, stop and then listen. You’ll find you may be getting far more information than you want or need. Whatever you do, don’t phase out and miss something. Make notes as the person talks. When there’s something you don’t understand, take advantage of any breaks to repeat what you thought you heard or to get the person to clarify a point or two.

Step #4. Establish rapport. If you can establish rapport early in the conversation, try to do so. Sometimes it helps to ask simply, “How are you?” Get the person’s name if you don’t already have it and use it. It’s usually wise to ask before calling someone by their first name. Then address the person by name as the conversation continues. When you’ve been taking notes, you can refer to them. This lets the listener know that you care about the situation.

Step #5. Ask questions to clarify things. Keep asking questions – not the same question over and over – until the problem or your concern is neatly spelled out and you understand it. Say the interest rate on your credit card has taken a leap into the stratosphere. First find out why this was the case. Find out too, what other rates or types of accounts this company also offers. They may make you an offer you’ll want to take advantage of.

Step #6. Go for the solution. If the other person is the one with the complaint, ask politely, “What would you like to see done?” Then try to tailor your solution to what the person wants. If you’re the one who is complaining, offer what you believe would be a fair solution. Say something politely like, “I’d like my money back,” or “I’d like to have the item replaced,” or “I’d really like to have that late charge removed.” You may not get exactly what you want, but you’ll get something. Go for the stars – politely – then compromise for the solution.

Step #7. Confirm and follow through. If you’re agreeing to a solution the other person has suggested, repeat it word for word and make sure you understand what’s to be done, when and if any cost is involved. It’s also important that you both have each other’s names and a way to get in touch. If a written confirmation is in order, write it up and send it out. Do what you’ve said you’ll do. If it’s possible, take whatever action is necessary right away. Alert anybody else who is involved in the solution. Send out the check or the refund. See that the problem is handled and get on with the next phone call. Just handle one phone challenge successfully at a time. You’ll do just as well if not better on the next one.

Follow these ideas to develop and improve on your phone presence. You’ll achieve so much more this way. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you on the phone soon!

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.