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Your telephone is a very productive tool for business communication. However, few people know HOW to use it effectively. For a majority of business people the telephone usually is a huge waste of time.

To make your phone calls work for you, decide what the mission of the call is to be. Understand your goal, your acceptable results, and the tactics you will employ to persuade the other person. Most often your goal is to have the other person take an action or for you to gather specific information.

If your goal was to have a specific action taken such as to organize a meeting, you must give specific directions to other persons to reach your goal. If your goal is to gather information, you must ask specific questions and it is usually best to do that in a conversation rather than a point by point specific question. In the instance that you need information in a specific manner, you may want to get their e-mail address and use that platform for your information mining.

There are situations where one phone call may have multiple goals, try to be as efficient  as possible to achieve these goals in as short amount of time as you can.

Before making a call, make a plan by writing down all your goals for the phone call. Keep relevant information, such as email addresses, phone numbers, a calendar and all relevant documentation at hand. One of the biggest distractions and a huge waste of time during a call is searching for a file, an email and phone numbers from your computer during the call, worse you may be perceived as unprofessional and that will lead to failure. Emulate a Boy Scout “Be Prepared”.

For a call to be considered a successful call, it always starts with certain information at the beginning of the call such as your name, your affiliation or title  and the reason for the call. If you are quick and clear, you will get permission, stated or implied, to continue. In some instances you may take a few seconds or minutes for social conversation to act as an warming period and acquire a feel for how fast to proceed in your discussion. Be wary of too much “chit-chat”, it can eat up time and your prospect may perceive it to be a waste of their time. In my opinion and experience, 30-45 seconds is adequate before continuing into a business conversation. Try to limit your social conversation to a recent event, or a comment about their organization, never talk politics or religion.

Professionalism dictates that you get to the point of the discussion as soon as you can comfortably make the transition from social conversation to business. Once you are ready to talk business, stick to your plan during the conversation. Always avoid steering or being steered to side issues, you have a finite amount of time and you must always be wary of the value of their time and yours.

By always using written goals you keep on track and provide consistency and professionalism to your calls. If you follow your plan you can effectively and consistently evaluate your performance after each call.

If it is impossible to achieve a specific goal during that call, schedule the follow-up call immediately.

Once your goals are reached immediately bring the call to  an end. Always schedule the next event before the end of the call and ALWAYS review the issues agreed between the two parties, this will insure both sides have not misunderstood their follow-up tasks and it indicates that it is time to say good bye. A follow up email or note mailed to the caller is appropriate.

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