Phone Mastery: Part Two of How Leaders Respond Timely

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Leaders must be able to make effective phone calls. It always surprises me how poor some people’s phone skills are, but it shouldn’t. No one really teaches people how to effectively use a phone. Without practice making calls, how can a person improve? This post will help you master your phone and better manage your time. The calls I am referring to in this post are business calls not personal. Business calls need to be short and effective. Like my email inbox I want to keep my voicemail inbox at zero and return calls to an absolute minimum.

Answering: I always answer, “Hi, this is Kelly Croy.” It eliminates the other person asking if Kelly is available and me acknowledging I am Kelly and all of that nonsense, plus they immediately introduce themselves and state their purpose. I then thank them for calling, ask a couple of probing questions, tell them I am short of time, and will get back to them via email if that is acceptable to them. This eliminates future calls and frees up time. (This is also why I have multiple email addresses. You graduate to my personal email over time.)

Journal: I do not write notes on scrap piece of paper, on the back of napkins, or type them on the comptuter.(Rude typing noises is a big turn-off.) If this number or message is important enough to be written down it goes in my journal. Everything goes in the journal. Get and use a journal.

Keep it short: Track the time you are on your phone. This can be done with a watch, a timer, and most cell phones have elapsed time of call on the phone. Set goals at the start of the call. Let the person on the other end know that you have somewhere to be, someone else to talk with, or something else to do.

Twenty-Four-Hour Rule: If someone calls you and leaves a voicemail connect with them within twenty-four hours. It should be by phone if necessary, but if it is something that can be accomplished in an email, apologize for not being able to return the call in person, and stress you wanted them to have the information to them as quickly as possible.

Magic Hour: Make all of your calls before between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM this is the magic hour of making effective use of your call. If you cannot at that time, the second best window is 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Mondays and Fridays are not the best days to call, however, stick to the twenty-four hour rule, and any contact is better than none. Make that call.

Closing the Call: Give them an action and a due date. I always end the call with whom is doing what when. For example, “John, it was great talking with you. I have a meeting in five minutes and I need to review some notes. I look forward to receiving your proposal by email before Wednesday of this week. I have noted it on my calendar. Thank you. Make your day great.” End of call.

Speaker Phone or Headset: Using a speaker phone or headset is extremely useful because it frees you up to do other things. (Like getting your inbox to zero.)

Voicemail: Use it. Let calls go to voicemail. Your voicemail system allows you to spend time with the people you love or get your work done. You listen to the messages all at once and write them down in your journal collecting the numbers. Return the calls you need to within 24 hours. There are occasions where this should not happen, especially if you have arranged a time for someone to call you. Obviously emergency calls and personal calls from family are the exception. My iPhone allows me to rewind and forward the message to any spot easily with the touch of a finger, and to choose the message I want to play first. These are great, great features. I can rewind to a phone number, or skip to the most important message first. Nice. I always let messages at home go to voicemail so I can be with my family. I listen to them, find out what is needed, record it in my journal and plan my action response.

Your Voice: Don’t underestimate the importance of your phone voice. I am a speaker and people want to hear that I can communicate powerfully, effectively, and clearly. They also want to know what I sound like, and how I handle impromptu situations. The same will be true of any leader. Strive for clarity and energy when you speak. Make people excited to talk with you.

Video conference: Skype, FaceTime, iChat and other video conferencing software are becoming more predominate. Give this thought. I recommend a headset at certain times. Give thought to your background and what you are wearing. Have a backup plan, like a cell phone number in case the technology fails.

If you feel your phone skills are lacking practice making business inquires, practice. It would be helpful to have someone evaluate your phone skills. Be a leader in all of your correspondence. Have the courage to pick up the phone and make things happen. Leaders respond timely.

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Kelly Croy is a chalk artist and professional speaker.

He has entertained and amazed audiences across the nation including corporations, schools, churches, conferences, and anywhere people come together to be entertained and inspired.

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