I have loved the phone since I was a kid. Whether for a natter, chat, or deeper conversation, the phone/mobile was and still is, a wonderful business tool.
At nine years old, my parents were keen to teach me how to answer the phone professionally as they received many business calls at home. I loved doing so and would race to answer pretending I was all so grown up.
I was in awe of how my parents could easily engage with and influence others via the phone. Mums had a real gift of cheeky repartee and changing her voice and tonal skills. It was innocent business theatre and I admired their adaptability across all levels, from global CEOs to local representatives. And a phone that rang needed to be answered swiftly. Letting a phone ring out for ages (or worse, not answering) was a recipe for lost opportunities or risking a perception of apathy.
The learning continued at 14 years old during holidays when Mum took me into her office to learn the switchboard. I disconnected many callers but was ever so apologetic when they called back. So, it was natural to start my career in telephone sales and decades later the ethos of how to use a phone well is still as relevant, albeit not as revered.
So why this trip down memory lane? Well, I’m not convinced, despite all the amazing technologies (Zoom, Hangouts, Apps, Facetime etc) that one-on-one conversations (that are not face to face) are hitting the mark and are avoided too often. I observe many small businesses have lost the desire, skills and passion of pure play one-on-one phone calls. And that stymies potential.
I don’t diminish the value of technology for webinars, group’s, bigger conversations, seminars, learning etc. They are outstanding and critical. But we can do better at a time when deeper listening is so important.
- People often drop their guard when on a pure voice call. With that relaxed lens you can get behind the façades. It’s particularly valuable in initial hiring and prospect calls.
- Listening to the listening – the unsaid is so important. Those pregnant pauses, intonations, gulps of pushback, racing breaths etc are really telling and will save you time and angst. People say no thanks in many ways albeit under the guise of a maybe or other flip off.
- Flexibility – it’s easy and quick to pick up the phone and call. We need to stop the excuses.
- Fun – people can have a lot more fun without the fear of the visual. And let’s be honest with all the work at home at present, it will be damn cumbersome to always be visually wonderful and groomed. So, let yourself and others off the hook for one-on-one calls.
- Distraction – you can be distracted with a visual and hence eyes dart all over the backdrop. Popping on an earpiece enables better note taking and attention.
A few tips
- Smile – whatever type of call you make or receive a smile will change the whole energy and results of a call (even the volatile ones).
- Enthusiasm & Research – how you start as the caller or receiver sets the stage and demonstrates your personal brand. Make sure when calling someone you have researched them.
- Website phone numbers – make sure you include a phone number on your website. Over 25 per cent of people prefer to call than other contact points. A contact number builds trust, too.
Pick up the phone more often, don’t be shy and relax. Even try a few new accents for fun!
Sue Parker, Founder, DARE Group Australia
DARE Group Australia is a valued content partner of Inside Small Business