Every phone call is an opportunity. If you engage and fascinate your listener, you’ll earn a new advocate. But if you fumble, you’ll weaken their impression of your value. You need to earn their attention, and you need to do it immediately– otherwise, they’ll start scrolling through emails faster than you can say “um.”
Before your next call with a current customer, key prospect, or potential employer, go through this quick checklist to make sure you’re adding value from the start.
1. Avoid awkward pauses by planning the flow. When you feel confidently at ease, your voice is stronger. Your voice literally sounds stronger, and pulls in your listener. But if there’s an awkward pause and you freeze, your brain gets a blast of stress hormone, and your listener momentarily disengages (whether they consciously realize it or not).
2. Identify your #1 goal for the call. Before the call begins, figure out the single most important thing to communicate (or learn). If the person hangs up from the call remembering only one thing… what do you want that one thing to be? This is critical because otherwise, the call can be aimless, which leaves the person with a lukewarm impression of you.
(Note: If you do not have a goal… consider if you should really do the call. If the conversation lacks focus and structure, you risk coming across as a waste of time.)
3. Have insightful questions ready. These should not be lame questions, where you’re asking questions just to ask. No. You should have smart, incisive questions that demonstrate your critical thinking– and more importantly, that give you strong insight to better help him solve problems. Challenge gently with a sincere interest to learn more. When you ask great questions, your listener is encouraged to think of themselves new ways. That fascinates them.
4. Understand how others see you. Every time you communicate, you create a certain impression. How do others perceive you? How is your personality most likely to add distinct value? Your goal is to stand out and be remembered for your unique advantage, even over the phone.
5. Search their company’s latest challenges and triumphs. Have they recently suffered a company-wide setback? Have they been praised with an award? This will affect how they could potentially work with you. Besides, you’ll look unprepared if you don’t know it.
6. Gauge how they’re most likely to connect with their own network. Get to know them by their personal or company Facebook page. If they have a Twitter feed, take a look: Do they post about their kids’ sporting events, or do they share corporate white papers? Social media offers valuable insight into their priorities and communication style. Find common connections on LinkedIn, and see who you both know. If the meeting is critical, and if you feel comfortable doing so, you might want to ask a mutual contact or two if they have any suggestions for creating the successful possible outcome on the call. All these little bits of abstract trivia can help give texture and clarity to the type of person they are, and how you can most quickly build a connection.
7. Overcome objections. Are there any obstacles that you can subtly overcome, in order to have a maximally successful call? Make a quick list of the 2 or 3 potential issues that might be on your listener’s mind, and think through how you can gracefully and skillfully overcome these obstacles during the discussion.
8. Keep all your notes from conversations in one place. Keep one document for each person or group, putting notes about all your conversations in there. That allows you to make sure each consecutive conversation builds upon the previous one, so you’re moving the ball forward with every contact.
9. Figure out… Business first? Or common ground first? People with a primary Passion trigger want to establish common ground before digging into the business at hand. People with a primary Mystique trigger don’t care for a “warm-up.” Unlike the Passion personality, who wants to connect before business, the Mystique personality connects through business.
10. Look at their photo while you speak. Keep a photo of their face on screen while talking to them. This will make your voice sound more authentic and human, because you’re focusing on that person. (This isn’t just feel-good stuff; it’s an neurological fact that that when you look at the human face, your voice sounds more appealing.)
So, let’s review:
Every call is an opportunity for you to build rapport. With a little prep work and intuition, you can do this far more easily and effectively.
Understand how your personality adds value, so that you can give more of this in every interaction.
Finally, remember: The simplest way to connect with someone is to figure out how they connect with their own connections– so that you can determine the best way to connect with them.