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Do phone calls make you nervous?

Merril Diniz
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March 02, 2007

Recently, in the course of a very hectic, demanding day at work, I received a phone call.

The voice at the other end enquired meekly, "Who are you?"

"Who are you?" I shot back, loudly, and irritably.

This voice seemed to lack confidence and there was a lot of fumbling and stuttering before this person could find the right words to express himself. Post a sixty second bout of extreme irritation, I felt sorry for the chap. So, instead of slamming the phone (like most folks in the real world), I asked him three questions:

"Where are you calling from?"

"Who would you like to speak to?"

"What is the purpose of your call?"

He gave me the answers and I directed him to the right departement and person, so he could get his work done. Now, if only he had the good sense to plan what he was going to say, he would have felt more confident. And he could have saved himself the embarrassment, and me the time. If it was a sales call, I am sure that his stuttering would not translate to selling anything except maybe, his own inadequacy.

Phone etiquette seems to be the need of the hour for working professionals today. And I don't mean whose job profile primarily comprises tele-marketing be it selling credit cars, home loans, etc. I'm referring to situations, where you need to network, or get information or cultivate a brand new contact. Now, telephone etiquette isn't rocket science. However, being clumsy about it, could make you come across as unprofessional. Here's how to prepare, before dialling those digits.

~ Initiating a phone call

Identify yourself correctly. This means: mention your full name, company and your job profile. But, no soliliquays, please. Keep it short. Next, ask if this is a good time to speak to the person or if they would prefer to call you later. If so, what is a good time? If the person asks you to call back later, make sure you return the call at the right time. Punctuality is a mark of professionalism. If the person does have time for you first-time round, quickly explain your purpose and how you would like to take things forward. In other words, be ready with a plan of action.

~ Cold calls 

Sometimes, you may not know the name of the person you need to speak too. In this case, ascertain which department you wish to be connected to once you reach the operator/receptionist. Also, prepare for phones being slammed in your face, even if your mission is not to hard-sell a product. When you're put through, quickly introduce yourself to whoever picks up the phone and ask who is in charge of so-and-so. If the person is not in, find out what is a good time to call and ask for the extension number. Other members of the department are not likely to entertain you for long spells (sometimes even short spells), especially if it's a big company.

~ Calling for a specific person?

Is this person very busy or very important? Accordingly choose the time. Later in evening post 4 pm is when most people have completely most of their tasks for the day.

~ Pen and paper

Keep these at hand. Or at least a Word document open, in which you can type out any info. Last week a Public Relations executive called me and asked me for my e-mail id because she wanted to update her database. I was about to spell it out, when she said, " Hold on, just a sec," (as if I was her best friend waiting to chat), while she fished (wasted 60 seconds of my life) looking for a pen and paper. "What an airhead!" I fumed, silently.

~ Phone calls make you nervous?

They still make me nervous!

I feel very conscious that people might be listening in, when I initiate a call to a new contact for the first time. One way to make it easier is to write down on a piece of paper, what you need to speak about -- word for word -- if it makes it easier. Having all the information written down, neatly, before you, helps. Sometimes to build confidence I initiate a call to someone I already know, and then tackle a call to a new person. The former helps to dissipate some of that nervous energy.

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