13 Essential Telephone Skills You Haven’t Mastered Yet
To make an effective business or sales call you need much more than just a basic set of telephone skills.
In fact, making business over the phone requires you to master a handful of qualities which later on – when put in use – will help you turn every call into a closed deal.
To help you acquire all of the essential telephone skills that you’ll need to carry out successful business calls we’ve created a list of 13 most important telephone skills.
Read, master, and use them to take your phone calls to the next level!
- Positive Tone
- Answering business calls
- Putting callers on hold
- Preparation & research
- Controlling the conversation
- Leaving them satisfied
- Mastering the body language
- Adjusting your voice
- Providing top quality
- Handling tough questions
- Providing ongoing feedback
- Sincerity over excuses
- Being a professional
Despite being one of the most obvious, it is also one of the most (if not the most!) important telephone skills.
Projecting a positive tone over the phone and making the caller feel the emotions that the tone of your voice conveys is what can take you from 0 to 1.
Focus on such emotions as positiveness, happiness, and optimism.
Besides the tone of your voice, it is important that the pace you’re speaking in is appropriate. There is no golden rule but the best practice is to speak at a pace of 130 to 150 words per minute. The goal is to sound clear so you won’t have to repeat anything you say. This will result in the comfort of your recipient and him clearly understanding your message.
You should also control the pitch of your voice. Here, the balance is the answer.
That’s because both sounding too high and too low have bad connotations. You don’t want to sound childish but, at the same time, you don’t want to sound harsh.
It’s important you sound natural, project a positive tone, and speak at a balanced pace.
Answering business calls
I bet you know how important the first impression is. Obviously, it is even more important when you meet someone face-to-face but it works the same over the phone.
The way you answer a business call will define how well (or bad!) the rest of the talk will go.
Taking all of the above into account, you should strive to make your greetings as sharp as possible.
The best way to achieve it is to use a three-part greeting. Such a greeting contains the welcoming words, company name, and your name. Including all of the three helps your caller identify that he’s making the right call to the right person that he intended to call.
It’s important that the first words you say are pleasant and set the tone for the rest of the call. Let it be simple “Good morning” said in a cheerful tone. It can still make a lot of difference.
Follow that simple framework to properly answer each of the calls!
Putting callers on hold
As a caller, there’s nothing more annoying than being put on hold without being informed about it.
Also, sometimes a caller might not be able to wait on hold, in such case putting him on hold may result in a lost contact.
That’s why you should always inform the caller of the need of him being put on hold, as well as, ask him whether it is okay if you do so. If it happens that the caller can’t wait any longer, offer other options such as a callback or a call transfer.
The most important aspect of acting right is making sure that you don’t chance the caller’s comfort. Making him aware of the situation should be the #1 goal.
On top of that, remember to thank your caller for waiting on hold.
You can probably recall how frustrating it is to wait until the person over the phone comes back and that annoying wait-time-song stops playing. A simple thank you can change everything and make the tone of the call come back to the right state from before the hold.
As you’re probably thinking right now, that’s not some groundbreaking telephone technique.
And you’re right!
In fact, no phone skill is a visionary-recently-discovered-mind-bending revelation. The thing is, most people skim through the basics just to find out – later on – that they lack expertise in the most important phone skills. That’s why we go over all of them!
Preparation & research
It’s hard to stress how big of a game-changer being prepared can be.
Most of the time people are just too lazy to do their own research. Yet, if you decide to belong to the other tribe, you have to put work prior to the call and take the toll of your actions during and after the call.
Whenever you are calling someone for the first time or calling someone back who has left the voicemail make sure to gather as much information on that person as you can. It will make you look professional, as well as, help you identify the other person’s needs and therefore faster and easier close the call.
This also works the other way around.
If someone is calling you, make sure you gather all of the key information on the caller during the call. It will save you time making research on your own, as well as, will help you quickly identify the profile of the caller.
Controlling the conversation
Sales talks can be very tricky.
On one side, you want them to be as casual as they can be, while on the other, you want to quickly close the sale. It’s hard to balance a sales talk and not to sound too casual and not too salesy.
To properly control the conversation you need to first set the goal for the call. If it is making a sale, you have to make sure every part of the call takes you one step closer to making that sale.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t exchange a few details about something more personal such as hobbies or recent events. What it means, is that you should never let the call drift away from its main purpose.
Mastering this phone skill will help you close the call in a much quicker way with a lot less effort!
Leaving them satisfied
Remember how important the first impression is, right?
Just a few paragraphs before we were talking about how you should answer each of the calls. Now, we’re going to focus on how to properly finish each of the calls.
Making a positive last impression is as important telephone skill as making a good first impression.
The last words you say is exactly what the other person over the phone will remember. Thus, even if the major part of the call went well, everything can go to waste if you fail at that last phase.
To properly finish the call you can summarise what you’ve achieved during the call or what you’ll do next after you finish the call. This will give your caller a certainty of the fact that his or her time didn’t go to waste.
Secondly, use phrases such as:
- “We appreciate your business”
- “Thanks for calling”
- “I’ll call back as soon as possible”
Combining two of the above will help you master one of the most important telephone communication skills out there!
Mastering the body language
Yes, that’s right!
It might seem counterintuitive as most of the people know that body language matters the most during face-to-face meetings. Yet, if properly using body language is one of the vital telephone skills then you should master it as well.
That’s because, the way we stand, move, and gesture impacts the way we talk. Even when we don’t see the converser!
The best practice is to either sit with your back straight in the chair or stand up and lead a phone call as it would be a normal conversation. This will help you create a more natural environment and get the optimal results.
One thing you want to avoid at all costs is laying deep in your chair. It often happens when we sit in one place for a longer period of time. It can result in your voice sounding bored and saggy, which you surely would like to avoid.
Adjusting your voice
If you scroll to the beginning of our list you’ll notice how important the tone, pitch, and pace of your voice are.
The other thing is the vocal variety that you provide. It helps you properly lead the call and ensure that you achieve the pre-planned outcome of a conversation.
If you keep talking at the exact same pace, with the exact same emotion your recipient will quickly get bored. Thus, you should provide a vocal variety using pauses, questions, and changes of volume you speak at.
Remember, everything you do should invite the other person over the phone to participate in the call. This way every conversation will sound more natural and will be much easier to close.
Make sure you make the most out of your voice. After all, it is the only thing you can use during a phone call.
Handling tough questions
Now, that’s one serious phone skill.
Sooner or later (probably sooner) you’ll get a call from an unhappy caller. Whether it’s a customer who got a wrong order delivered or a lead who’s dissatisfied with the way he got treated on your customer service line, you’ll have to deal with tough questions and awkward calls.
The best way to tackle such a caller is to realize what’s the outcome that you can offer and work your way towards it.
What you need to remember about, is to keep your own cool. Never let yourself get triggered, even if the customer gets annoying. Surely, it’s not like you want to let the caller trash you. There must be a firm boundary. If your converser passes the boundary, say you’re allowed to end the call right away.
In conclusion, you have to master acting cool during tough calls.
If a caller strikes you with an uncomfortable question, provide as much feedback as you can and work towards the goal that will satisfy both you and your caller.
Providing top quality
Another essential telephone skill is being able to provide the best quality possible.
Mouth noises, echo, background noises. All of that can affect how the call goes. Of course, in a bad way.
There are a few ways you can prevent all of the above from happening and therefore provide the quality your recipients need and expect.
One of such is simply finding a free room. While it may sound obvious not everyone has an opportunity to work in a place where he or she can find a separate space just for them. Yet, if you’re the lucky one, make sure you make use of it.
If you’re, as most of us, the mortal who shares his workspace with other coworkers then the best choice will be to use proper call center headsets. Such features as a noise-canceling microphone and HD sound-quality will make your calls crisp and professional.
To help business owners provide the best quality, we’ve create a list of Top 12 call center headsets that are currently out on the market.
Here’s the short summary, but if you jump to the article you’ll find a full list with price, features, pros, and cons of each of the headsets:
- Mpow 071
- Sennheiser SC60
- Jabra UC Voice 550
- Jabra Evolve 40 Mono
- Sennheiser CC 550 IP
- Jabra Biz 2400 II
- Logitech H800
- Plantronics Voyager Legend Wireless Bluetooth Headset
- Plantronics Voyager Focus UC B825 Headset
- Jabra Pro 930 Mono
- Sennheiser DW Pro 2 ML
- Sennheiser OfficeRunner
Providing ongoing feedback
Sometimes even though there are two people participating in a call, you may feel like you’re having a monologue.
Certainly, you wouldn’t like your converser to feel this way.
The easiest way to prevent such a scenario from taking place is to give constant feedback whenever you can. It gives the caller a confirmation that you understood what he or she said and that you’ll take an action upon those words.
The other advantage of such approach is that the conversation will seem more lively and both parties will actually participate in the call.
This will lead to the faster solution of the case which then will make the caller more satisfied. And obviously, both of these are your objectives!
Sincerity over excuses
Oftentimes, when people get struck with an uncomfortable question or an issue that they’re responsible for, they go for excuses and try to quickly turn around the topic of the conversation.
Hopefully, you’re not the practitioner of this “skill”!
What you should do and what is one of the most valued (by callers) phone skills is the sincerity.
This means that instead of falling into the funnel of excuses you give the true answer right away and start working towards the resolution.
As you’ve probably experienced throughout your career it’s much better to start working towards the outcome or resolution as soon as it’s possible in place of prevaricating. Thus, make a sincerity one of the telephone skills you use and focus on providing valuable answers and getting right into what’s on the caller’s mind.
Being a professional
Above all, you have to be a professional or at least act like one.
You can treat this phone skill as a summary of all the other telephone skills. Being a professional and taking and placing a call like one, requires you to master each of the other phone skills.
The reason why is quite straightforward. When you have a request and want to get an issue quickly resolved, the next thing you do is ask the professional. And what I mean by the professional is the person fully eligible to resolve the issue.
Whenever you get a call with a query that needs to be quickly resolved you have to act like a professional even if you can’t fully help the converser.
The same goes for placing the calls. If at one moment you feel stuck and realize that the conversation won’t progress any further it’s best to act like a professional and offer the best outcome possible for a given moment.
Building your telephone skills equipment!
We’ve come to an end!
Now you know all the 13 most valuable telephone skills. Our part is done and it’s your turn to learn these skills and actually use them in your daily work activities.
Remember that each of these telephone skills is equally important. In fact, if you only get to know a few of them but intentionally lack the expertise in others, it won’t do any favor for you.
Instead, do your best at mastering each of these 13 telephone skills. It might take you a longer period of time but the return will be greater as well. And that’s what you should strive for.
I highly recommend you bookmark this page as you never know when it’s time to brush up on that telephone skills as – you’ve probably heard before – practice makes perfect.
Also, we’ll appreciate if you share the article (taking into account you liked it!) and spread the word with other colleagues whose jobs rely on calling – you’ll get a few karma points if you do that!
Let’s make everyone’s phone calls better!