Do you shudder when someone asks you to make a call?
Do you avoid picking up the phone to call a client?
Are you tired of hiding behind an email and want live, clear communication?
The moment arrives when you must place that phone call. “What if I intrude upon their time? What if I embarrass myself and feel foolish?!”
If your circumstances resemble mine, you likely did not grow up in a densely populated environment and harbor similar concerns. I grew up in a rural area. I was homeschooled throughout my formative years. I had few opportunities to become proficient in social etiquette. So, after college and in a job that requires me to work with clients, I find telephone conversations challenging and unsettling. Thankfully, I gradually conquered these obstacles and now invite you to join me as I outline the straightforward, five-step process I use to prepare for phone calls without fear.
1. Write down your key talking points.
What do you want to know or want the client to know or do when the call is finished? You’re just creating a meeting agenda. By writing out your desired outcomes on paper, you give yourself a framework for a successful call and make it easier to have a smooth flow in your conversation.
2. Rehearse your goals and get to know them.
Imagine yourself as the client. What information do they need to prepare for and participate in the project? Consider questions they might ask. There is nothing shameful in fear. You got this! Have a conversation with yourself. Anticipate the potential queries they may pose. Being caught off guard is particularly challenging when feeling anxious. Prepare all you can, but if you don’t know, say so, and say you will follow up afterwards. Just be sure to do so. One more thing, starting out, avoid calls that require more than your written agenda. But, if necessary, now is the time to gather and mark up the extra references that you will need to make the call smooth and effective.
3. Take a moment to compose yourself.
Take a deep breath. Tell yourself, “I’ve got this. I’m prepared.”
I rarely make a call of this kind without the ominous feeling that I am about to make a fool of myself. Inhaling deeply and summoning your courage can alleviate this unease.
4. Just make the call.
Though I have gotten better over the years, there comes a point when I’m on the phone and have dialed my client’s number, checked it twice (Santa checks stuff twice, after all), and the foreboding feeling tempts me to hang up. Ignore it. You’re prepared. You’re ready.
Just do it.
Most of the time all goes well, sometimes it does not. At least it is over. You can try again next time.
5. Follow– up.
A quick follow-up email can make even a mediocre call shine. It shows that you care about what you discussed and that you listened. Don’t wait. Take the time to keep the trust flowing. Good relationships take investment, and a follow-up email will strengthen yours. Invest in making the response clear and effective.
Finally, a couple of thoughts that may help:
- Practice “No” oriented questions. Former hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, suggests using “Is now a bad time to talk?” to allow the other person an easy exit from the conversation. (Negotiation Training: The Top 4 ‘No-Oriented’ Questions (blackswanltd.com). I will often introduce myself and the general topic first in a short sentence, before I ask for their time. They can gauge their needs before committing to a conversation. With this question, getting a follow-up time is often easy.
- Expect the unexpected. Don’t get thrown off by the “How are you?” I would have my script and work up the gumption to make the call and get thrown off by this friendly question. Expect it and script your answer if helpful.
- It is scary to call someone. But understand that the person you are calling wants a kind exchange of helpful information also. Rarely do you get the person that wants to be mean. You are allied for a common good. Use that to your mutual advantage.
- As you get more comfortable making calls, take on harder situations. Growth in your job and as a person takes time. Don’t force yourself to get in over your head, but don’t let fear paralyze you either. Remember: Courage!
Calls of any kind can be hard. Whether cold calling or following up, introducing yourself, or seeking information, the call still has to be made. To build your courage: make a list, rehearse your goals, breathe, then make the call. Successful calls build confidence. You got this!