Chances are excellent that within the next hour, you’ll be picking up the phone to make or take a call. And when you do, one of two things will happen (beyond the swapping of business-related information, of course):
1. You’ll leave a first impression, or
2. You’ll reinforce someone’s impression of you.
Critical points, both! And yet, millions of us answer the phone each day sounding harried, disengaged, deflated or uninterested. Why? Habit, mostly. With a ubiquitous tool like the telephone, it’s easy to forget that every opportunity to communicate either strengthens or weakens work relationships than can make or break your professional success.
With that in mind, why not motivate yourself to take a different track- one where you pursue excellence and focus on advancing your career?
- Assess you phone skills. Without purposefully changing your tone or behavior, spend a day observing how you work with the phone. What’s your relationship to this critical workplace tool? How would you rate your performance? Idea: Ask a trusted colleague or mentor to pay attention as able and to gauge this over a period of time, sharing feedback that may help you improve.
- Speak with enthusiasm. Address the person on the other end of the line with a smile on your face and happiness in your voice. I know people who’ve intentionally installed small mirrors near their phones so they can watch how they look when they speak. Trust me: Listeners can always tell when you’re smiling. (Plus, the extra effort to be friendly from the start often quells conflicts over the phone sooner and even more effectively.)
- Enunciate your words. Speak clearly and crisply (though not in a stuffy voice, of course). Although phones are the next best thing to face-to-face conversation, it’s important to respect the limitations of this imperfect technology- one where static and other problems can easily cause miscommunication when basic language skills falter.
- Make every call count. Be efficient by taking notes as you speak, starting with the person’s name and number. Or, if you’re making the call, know in advance the main points you plan to cover. Studies show preparation and attentiveness can pare down your calling time by 40%. That’s something every professional you communicate with by phone can and will appreciate.
Final thought: When’s the last time you listened to your own voice mail message? Make a habit of checking it every so often. Call yourself as a client would. Do you sound friendly? Welcoming? If you’re placed on hold for any reason, is the music or message functioning properly?
Make a decision today to put your best voice forward- and choose to advance your career though even better telephone skills! Good luck!