Whether you’re a small business owner trying to find new work, a sales representative closing a deal, or a customer service officer solving a problem, talking to customers on the phone can be incredibly stressful.
Gone are the facial expressions that can clue you in to what your client is thinking. There’s no chance to use friendly body language to help them warm up to you and what you want from them.
Instead, you’re left with an impersonal voice on the other end of the line that you have to find some way to connect with.
But it’s still possible to make a connection with your clients, even by phone. If you’re wondering how, try these eight tips. They’ll make phone conversations less stressful for you and more satisfying for your clients.
1. Plan out what you’ll say beforehand
One of the most stressful things about a business phone call is wondering what to say or worrying that you’ll forget what you need to talk about.
To avoid this, make notes before hand, including bullet points that you want to be sure to cover. Make them as detailed as you need and check them off during the phone call. That way, you’ll know you’ve covered everything.
If you’re very anxious, write out a small script that you can use each time you make a call. You don’t need to follow it exactly -- in fact, it will probably sound weird if you do! -- but just having it there will help you feel more confident about what to say.
2. Do your research
You’ll make a better impression if you clearly know who you’re talking to and what they need from you. Before you pick up the phone, spend some time learning about the client you’re planning to call.
Know your clients’ names, job titles, and as many details as you can about their businesses -- including what they might need from you. This will help you approach the conversation from a position of knowledge and information, which will make you sound more confident and professional.
3. Start with a simple question to break the ice
Diving right into business matters can seem cold and impersonal -- not the impression you want to give, even with a business call!
Instead, start the conversation with a simple question, such as "How’s the weather where you are?" Everyone always has something to say about the weather, and asking about it will give you a moment to connect with your client on a personal level.
Once that connection is established, you can move onto the main point of your call, and your customer will feel more relaxed and talkative.
4. Smile as you talk
Our body language affects our voice, so use the body language you want to project, even if no one can see it. If you smile when you’re talking, your voice will sound more relaxed and pleasant. Customers on the other end of the phone will pick up on that vibe, even if they can’t see the smile that started it.
5. Let the client talk and explain themselves
If you start a conversation assuming you know what the other person is going to say, or if you do all the talking and don’t let your clients get a word in, all you will do is annoy them.
Instead, let the client do more of the talking. Listen closely to whatever problems or concerns your customers may have. You may find that the issue is completely different from what you expected, or a new solution might arise halfway through the conversation.
Even if your response cannot change, people tend to feel better if they know they have been listened to. Give your clients that satisfaction, and they will feel better about the conversation overall.
6. Never interrupt
Unless your building is on fire and you have to evacuate, do not interrupt your customers when they’re talking.
Interrupting clients is a sure way to irritate them and make them uninterested in working with you. Even if they’re saying something you know is wrong or inaccurate, wait until they are done to explain the correct information.
If you do accidentally interrupt a customer, apologize and invite them to continue. Good manners will always make a good impression.
7. Affirm what the client says and feels
Sometimes, customers just want to feel like someone understands them. Other times, they need to feel like they’ve made a connection before they commit to a new business deal or partnership.
In either case, affirming what your clients say and feel will make them react more positively to any suggestion you make. A simple, "I’m sure," "Absolutely," or "I know exactly what you mean," delivered sincerely, will create an instant connection and make you seem more relatable and trustworthy.
8. Stay positive and professional
No matter what happens or is said, never respond angrily or rudely. It can be hard to maintain a professional tone when a client gets irate, and it’s incredibly tempting to tell others exactly when and why they are wrong about your business.
Don’t do it. Stay positive, friendly, and professional throughout every business phone call. Sometimes this will help a client calm down and agree to a solution. But even if it doesn’t, at least you won’t have damaged your professional reputation by yelling back.
Do you find phone calls stressful?
How do you handle them professionally? Share your ideas in the comments!