How to hone your telephone skills

In this day and age, new methods of communication are popping up all the time. More and more people use the internet, email, social media… but one old favourite just doesn’t go away. You’re hard put to find an adult in the western world these days who doesn’t have access to a phone and use it on a regular basis. Try as the competition might, the telephone won’t be giving up its share of the communications market any time soon.

Whether you’re trying to find something out, get your message across, or sell an idea, product or event, many work hours are spent on the phone for jobs in all sectors.  Hearing a voice on the phone is very often the first communication a customer has with a company, so effective phone communications skills are essential. For this reason, companies should pay just as much attention to the way in which their employees speak on the phone as they would to their website, product or customers. In short, the impression given over the phone is a vital component of the brand – don’t neglect it!

But talking on the phone is easy, why should you think about making any changes?

I spoke in a blog recently about the importance of body language, appearance and the way you speak in first impressions. First impressions are made over the phone just like they are in person, but two of these three most important factors are of course removed from the equation – meaning that the way that you speak becomes absolutely crucial. First meeting someone over the phone, you must use your voice, tonality and choice of words to build a rapport with your contact. So how exactly can you convey your professionalism and reliability through your voice alone? And what might you currently be doing to hinder your efforts?

Remember that a phone call, unlike many other modern methods of communication, is in real time. You can’t edit and rearrange your call as you go along, like you could with an email. This means that preparation is important. Know what you are aiming to find out, sell or communicate and how you are going to do it before you start dialling. If you are making it up as you go along, this will come across. Spontaneity may make you sound hesitant, underprepared and unprofessional and although occasional “ums” and other utterances that give us time to think are natural, try to keep them to a minimum. Just as you would proof-read an email or blog before clicking send, prepare so that you are ready for your conversation before you deliver it. Start off with a clear thoroughly and thorough introduction so that your addressee knows which name to match to your voice from the outset, following on with a clear message.

Last week, I called an international phone company to sort out a problem with a contract. It was an urgent issue and I hoped that a competent, attentive worker would address me from the other end of the line. Unfortunately, that was not the reality. The lady who answered the phone seemed rushed, impatient and disinterested. As she brightly said goodbye and wished me a good day however, I wondered if she had any idea of the impression she had left on me. A lot of the problems that I had with the aforementioned phone call can come across completely subconsciously. Take a deep breath before answering the phone. You want to sound energised, enthusiastic and interested so that your addressee knows you are taking them seriously. Deep breathing will also help you to pace your speech; there’s nothing worse than rushing or mumbling (or both!) making you seem nervous and difficult to understand. Pay attention to how you speak. It can be easy to concentrate on the other person (they are the one that you want something from, after all!) and to forget about your own speech. A good exercise if you feel you are guilty of this is to record a conversation you have – after getting the permission of the other person, of course!  Think about the pace of your speech, the clarity of your message and your tonality. If you have a strong regional accent, you may want to tone this down so that you are as clear as possible on the phone. It has been proven that we are subconsciously more likely to sympathise with those with accents closer to our own, so this may help you build up a rapport over the phone.

The flip side of listening to your own speech is of course listening to the speech of the other person. You owe them your full attention, so put everything else down before picking up the phone. If you don’t, your distraction will probably come across, whether or not you realise it. Now the next point may seem obvious, but listen to what they tell you! It can be tempting to concentrate on what you’re going to say next, but if you rush into your response, it may seem that you lack interest in what the other person is saying. Pausing before responding will show that you care and are taking them seriously.

All in all, the best advice to follow if you want to come across well on the phone is to be prepared and on the ball. Be aware of all the little aspects of speech that may add to the overall impression you give. This way, you will be able to use your voice and word choice actively to create a good rapport over the phone – one which might well develop into a good business rapport for the future!

Good Luck!

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Put a stop to those job seeking bad habits

 

If you’re one of the many job seekers out there who’s been out of work for a while, you’ll know exactly how easy it is to settle into an unproductive routine. Perhaps you’ve been working for 10 or 20 years in a “full on” corporate environment and now find yourself in a world without all that hassle. And who doesn’t enjoy a little break after the stresses of professional life? You began a period of some much-needed time off which, after a few weeks, evolved into a period of optimistic and enthusiastic job hunting. But now it feels like that was years ago.  You can’t remember how many applications you’ve sent off, how many interviews you’ve been to, you’ve lost sight of where you are going and you’ve settled into a routine of bad habits.

At the moment you’re lost. But what’s important to remember is that losing your way does not mean the journey is over. Most job seekers go through a rut at one point or another. The key is to break the trend and to put a stop to those classic job seeking bad habits. So here’s my list of habits which you have to avoid (or stop doing!):

1)      You’ve lost sight of your objectives

It’s understandable that after you’ve been applying for specific jobs for a long time you start to care less about the type of job you’re applying for. While you should be more flexible with certain aspects of your job search, it is essential that you do not lose sight of your career goals. So if you currently find yourself applying for anything and everything you come across then stop now. The process of sending your CV off to every available job is ultimately a pointless one. Make sure that you are actually interested in (and capable of doing) the jobs that you apply to, as well as tailoring each CV you send off to the specific job description.

2)      You’ve settled in to the comfort of the post-job funk

As I’ve said, everybody enjoys a little time off but you cannot settle into a completely unproductive routine. Give your day some structure. Sure, take the weekend off, but carry out each weekday as if it was a workday. Get up at a reasonable hour, set yourself some goals and complete those goals. Just sitting at a desk, applying for a couple of jobs and making a few casual phone calls is not enough to secure yourself your next job, and if you’re telling yourself it is then you’re lying. Persistence is key and of course, after time, it gets harder but you cannot give up or become lazy. Remember, looking for work is a job in itself so don’t let yourself think otherwise.

3)      You’ve lost your positivity

Negativity is the natural reaction to failure. I’m not going to pretend the job search is an easy task, but maintaining a positive outlook and an optimistic approach is the only way to keep going and finally land a job. It may be a long road but it’s not one without a destination. You cannot let yourself get down and you have to keep motivated because negativity will come across in your application. A hiring manager will be able to tell if you’re not enthusiastic and if you’re not then why should he be? Keep your family and friends close, do things you enjoy and keep happy. Remember what you’re working for.

4)      You’re stuck using the same old moves

Whilst it is important to make sure all your applications are different, it is also essential that you do not use the same job seeking tactics over and over. If you’ve tried something that doesn’t seem to be working then try it in a different way or try something completely different. Take a risk, step out of your comfort zone, do whatever you can to get yourself that job. Fear of failure is a powerful barrier for job seekers but “the only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

5)      You’ve stopped following up

If you have been job seeking for a while then the chances are you’ve applied to quite a number of jobs. It is undoubtedly difficult to keep on top of everything you’re doing but you have to do so in order to get a job. If you forget to follow up then all you’re doing is harming your chances. So make sure to organize this information, perhaps in a word document or excel spreadsheet, and that way you’ll always know what you’re doing.

So there’s a few of the bad habits which you cannot afford to let yourself fall in to as a job seeker. Remember, keep motivated, keep organized and keep focused, you will find yourself a job eventually.