Afraid to make “that” phone call? Part 1

Afriad phone call

Everyone has a smartphone. We e-mail, text, and use a ton of applications on them. We even use them for personal phone calls. But how often do you make a business phone call? Here is a statement of fact: You will limit your upward advancement if you do not master the art of a live phone call. Here are a few observations for you;


  • The majority of business people under 40 tend to make a limited number of business phone calls
  • The majority of business people under 30 are often outright fearful of making a business phone call
  • The basic skills of a business phone call are being lost
  • If you learn to make effective business phone calls you will have a competitive advantage
  • E-mail is NOT an effective substitute for a business phone call when the call is required

Why this topic?

A well-rounded tool kit of basic business skills, necessary to develop business acumen, must include the appropriate and comfortable use of the phone. Effective communication requires the right tool at the right time. The value of hearing the tone of a voice, the cadence of the words, and the placement of silence are all cues to what the speaker is thinking and feeling. You cannot capture this in an e-mail or text. Good phone skills are also foundational to developing good presentation skills, table stakes for the boardroom.

The value of good business language skills

  • It will separate you from the pack
  • Executives will see value in your meeting presence
  • It will enable you to communicate what you mean
  • It will give you messaging opportunities;
    • Presentations
    • Meeting or project leadership
    • Crafting communication
  • It will improve your clarity of thinking

This would be of immense value to your career aspirations. Executives place high value on clear and concise communication. They look for these attributes in team members.

Business versus personal communication

There is blurring of business and personal lives.  This is new since the early 2000’s and is mostly good.  However, there is a time and place for business communication to be business. All too often I hear people start a conversation with an informal “how are you” and head into a personal story about their weekend or lives. While this is not all bad, a lengthy call introduction with a personal story is not a good behaviour. The majority of people use personal stories as a buffer against their nervousness. Given this high risk to adjust for nervousness by telling a story you are better off to simply avoid it all together. Peer to peer conversations can differ in formality from peer to manager or executive.

Business communication should look something like this;

  • A layer of respect and formality appropriate to the business structure
  • Mainly focused on business conversations versus personal life conversations
  • Generally, have an objective or goal in mind
  • Appropriate use of the English language
  • Provide clarity of purpose / issue / goal in succinct terms
  • Should have limited to no ambiguity

You should use the phone when;

  • You need to build a relationship, particularly a new one
  • You are managing a crisis
  • You are delivering hard news
  • You need to apologize
  • You need an extra effort from a staff member
  • You feel like you want to hide behind email
  • You need to hold someone accountable

While there are a number of key uses for the phone, this short list will give a sense of when and why to use the phone.

In Part 2 of this topic I will talk about;

The role of e-mail and text. The phone’s role in relationships and networking. Lastly, old school phone skills and the role of voice mail.

How do you feel about your phone skills? What are your observations about your peer groups phone skills?

David Reimer

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