If you’re in a high-volume industry, such as sales, 500 calls might not sound terribly impressive. But for most of us in North America — unlike our counterparts in China and South America — phone calls are a dying breed. Americans, for example, spend six minutes per day on voice calls compared to 26 minutes for text messages. Millennials, as a rule, are more likely to text than call.
So why did I make 500 personal calls rather than rely solely on emails or even texting apps like Line or WhatsApp? Because hearing someone’s voice and having a real time conversation is a better way to make a personal connection.
I’m not suggesting you switch to an all-call communication style. But I did have several revelations that might encourage you to pick up the phone rather than peck at your keypad.
Making cold calls or even warm calls can be hard. We have plenty of ways to avoid speaking one-on-one thanks to technology! But you will need those interpersonal skills when you’re in a crisis situation.
Avoiding direct communication is a luxury for when times are good. I noticed that people in countries where civil and economic unrest is common were the most likely to respond well to phone calls — they’ve had to learn to communicate effectively, and personally, to thrive.
Prep before your call. If you’re calling people in another city, region, or country, do a little research beforehand. Has there been a recent major weather event? A national holiday? A great sports victory? Arm yourself with a few key icebreaking facts.
Know what they’re up to. I looked up key performance indicators and reviewed websites and social media pages before placing my calls. You can do the same before making a business call: Was there a recent change, acquisition, or investment? Note it and mention it in the conversation. Your listener will appreciate the effort.
Introduce yourself. Always state your name at the top of the call to avoid confusion and unnecessary back-and-forth.
Be courteous. I always ask, “Is now a good time?” before entering into conversation, even if I’ve pre-arranged the call. Life can get in the way of the best-laid plans, and you want to make sure that you have the call recipient’s full attention. If the answer is “no,” make immediate plans for a follow-up call.
Listen. I mean really listen. Remember, you’re in a conversation, not just ticking a box. Hear what the person on the other line is saying and acknowledge it. Give them the space and grace to express themselves. You will discover new insights and opportunities – I guarantee.
Remember: It’s not about you. A lot of people avoid making the calls they know they ought to; or, at minimum, procrastinate and then beat themselves up when they don’t follow through. Often, people have decided they will be rejected before they even pick up the phone! That can make it very difficult to want to make one phone call, let alone five or 10.
If you call someone to ask for — a favor, a sale, a new project — it’s not about you. It’s about what you’re asking for. The person on the other end of the line isn’t saying you’re a bad person; he or she just isn’t interested at this time in what you are calling about. Avoid take it personally.
Phone calls might be uncomfortable at first if you’re unused to making them or if you’re out of practice. But once you master them, you’ll discover a well of confidence that will carry over into your personal life. That’s a pretty great tradeoff for pushing through the barriers and simply picking up the phone.
Do you have a fear of calling? Have you conquered it? Let me know in the comments section.