More than ever, telephone mastery is the key to success. In my work, the phone is my number one tool to close deals, network, conduct deep research and build relationships. It’s a magic medium that allows me to connect deeply without the time-space requirements of face to face meetings.
A phone call is much higher touch than an email exchange. You can hear someone’s intentions in their tone of voice, unlike reading one of his or her emails. The interactivity of a phone call allows for adjustments, explanations, retraction and exploration. While this might make common sense, in reality, it’s not a common practice in the digital age.
Over the last decade, many of us moved our conversations from the phone to the Inbox, thinking we would be much more efficient and less interruptive. Generation Y doesn’t like to make or receive calls, instead preferring a text. The idea of voice exchange to many feels like 1999.
As a result, many of us conduct our phone calls on-the-go, usually over our smart phone. We call people in our car, while we wait on our next flight, when we eat and whenever we can squeeze it in. We likely think that the quality of our work isn’t suffering, but in fact, it is.
Our calls are often garbled, as reception varies when we are on the move. We are constantly distracted by traffic, people interacting with us, our computers and anything that crosses our periphery during the call. At best, we are giving 50% of our attention to the call. If you’ve been on the other end of one of these mobile calls, you know exactly what I mean.
While calls on the go might work for simple transactional work, it’s no way to make friends and influence people. Your mobile phone work gives very low ROA (Return On Attention), which will cause you to lose access to them in real-time. And real-time is the new face-time in business.
If you are going to schedule a phone call with someone of any length, consider the following appraoch:
* Schedule calls for no more than 30 minutes. Send information prior to the call, so the entire conversation is about reaching a decision, understanding a situation or charting a plan of action.
* Conduct the call on a landline or via a super dependable connection. If you are Skyping, make sure you have an ethernet connection.
* Conduct the call in a closed door environment with no distracting noises or window scenery.
* Create a written outline for your call so you can begin it with your computer screen OFF. Never do any computer work during the call unless you are looking something up by request or looking at a website for the purpose of the conversation.
* If the call is part of a project or a sale, get permission to record it so you can capture all of its value. Send the audio file out to Rev for inexpensive transcription. You’d be surprised how much gold you’ll find in the transcripts. For your conversational partner, it’s pretty impressive when they receive an edited transcript from the call. Really values their time (and content) highly! (PS – Rev only charges $1 per recorded minute, no minimum.)
* Send an email after the call, highlighting what was agreed upon and next steps.
The keys then to a great call are preparation, focus and followup. If you adopt this practice, you’ll find that your phone is your best weapon to acquire new business, delight customers and gain valuable insights. You’ll leave the thumb warrior smart phone crowd in the dust.