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Call a stranger part one: the phone isn’t dead
Effective communication is essential for the consistent growth of your business. Whether you’re connecting with prospects, clients, investors or suppliers, you want to use every medium available to build these relationships. This includes making phone calls.
You might discover that your phone skills are a little rusty, or that you’re intimidated, nervous or even fearful of having a phone conversation. Today almost everyone is experiencing these same reactions. You can overcome this hesitation and develop the necessary skills to use phone calls as a powerful tool for business growth.
In this four-part series you’ll learn how to leave professional messages that get returned, dissolve defensiveness when calling people you don’t know and inspire amazing conversations. But first, let’s look at all your communication choices to discover when and why you should dial.
Text and email
We’ve been sending text messages to each other since the introduction of the telegram in 1838. In the 1960s, military and research hubs focused on sharing data between computers. By transmitting symbols and numbers (code) between specific locations, information began to move around the world with tremendous efficiency. In the late 1980’s, systems were created and made available to business—and eventually to our homes—leading to today’s speedy delivery of messages and information.
Information is shared quickly, allowing you to speak with a prospect, customer or investor and deliver details to them within seconds. Any number of individuals can receive the same information at the same time. The written format allows you to edit, refine and proofread your words, giving you the ability to create professional, specific and custom information. Photos and videos are easily shared increasing your ability to have an impact on your audience.
The number of emails sent and received daily is currently estimated to be 269 billion, and it continues to grow. When you combine this with the interference of spam filters, you have to consider that your message can go astray—buried in a busy inbox or trapped in a spam folder.
In addition, while text communication is ideal for sharing information, it can’t transmit nuance or tone of voice. It was never intended to express emotion. This can—and does—create miscommunication, which can be difficult to unravel. (Think about your own experiences of sending messages that have been misinterpreted—or receiving one you misunderstood.)
Finally, text communication doesn’t allow you to respond in real time—to ask questions or supply additional information in the moment. This can be vitally important when wanting to close a deal, book a meeting or demo, or strengthen a relationship.
Text communication should be limited to sharing detailed information and confirming specifics such as meeting times, agreed upon tasks, or summaries of phone conversations and meetings. Whenever you read an email and think “Hmmmm, I wonder what they mean by that?”, pick up the phone and avoid the possibility of miscommunication.
For most people, this is the ideal form of communication. Being in the same room with someone allows you to work with tone of voice, body language, and share written information.
Your ability to inspire conversation and avoid miscommunication is enhanced when you’re with someone. You can see and hear when they have a question, are hesitating, are interested or even when they get distracted. This allows you to adjust your language, slow down or speed up the discussion, pause for questions and even ask better questions based on shared reactions. When to move to the “next step” is often more obvious when you are in a face-to-face meeting.
When your clients and prospects are located across town, across the country, or around the world, face-to-face meetings are time consuming and can be extremely expensive. They also contain a multitude of distractions that can inhibit conversation. It’s easy to admire an office’s view, what someone is wearing, the food and beverages being served—to name only a few things—and miss what’s being said or its intent. If meetings are not well organized or lack focus, they can become tedious, tiring and unproductive.
This combines many of the benefits of both in-person meetings and phone calls, allowing you to work with both body language and tone of voice to create powerful conversations.
Numerous platforms are available that allow for easy, and inexpensive, access to video conferencing. By eliminating the need to travel—even across town—this form of communication is incredibly efficient.
Technology can be an impediment to creating great conversations. Sometimes your audience will be uncomfortable using your chosen platform and struggle to join you or connect their audio/visual. There are many places where the bandwidth necessary for video conferencing is not available. Connectivity can also falter, creating interruptions and miscommunication.
Widespread use of the telephone came into use due to the efforts of well-known entrepreneur Alexander Graham Bell, who placed the first phone call in 1892. Today the existence of both landlines and cellphones means that almost everyone, everywhere, is reachable by phone.
Phone calls allow you to create conversation in real time. When you employ strong listening skills, you can “hear” when someone has a question, is hesitating, is getting interested or excited about working with you, is struggling with budgets … and more. And when you ask open-ended questions, you can expand your knowledge, uncover new opportunities and build relationships. Focused phone conversations are both inexpensive and efficient. Unlike text/email communication, emotions can be shared and clearly understood.
It’s difficult to reach people on the phone, the need to leave messages creates frustration and complicated phone systems often make it impossible to connect with the right person. Also, because we’re seldom talking on the phone, it can be intimidating, awkward or completely frightening to dial a number and begin a conversation. Talking on the phone has a lot in common with public speaking; specific skills are required as well as a lot of practice. (This series is going to provide you with skills—the practice will be up to you.)
All of these methods of communication are equally important. To grow your business, you want to develop strong skills for each of them, and you want to combine them for even greater efficiency. For example, you can use email or text to book a phone call, or follow up a phone call or in-person meeting with an email summary.
Every thriving business puts effort into communicating effectively with prospects, clients, investors, suppliers, etc. The above comparisons will help you decide when a phone call is your best, most powerful choice. And check out part two of this series to learn how to leave messages that get returned and increase your ability to book appointments and/or demos.
Mary Jane embraced her alter ego “The Phone Lady” in 2006 and has worked with over 400 clients, training over 10,000 individuals how to communicate more effectively on the telephone. She’s been a business resource for The Wall Street Journal, The Globe & Mail, CTV, Global, CBC and even a very silly skit on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.