Much of this blog series will focus on the ultimate productivity tool: the telephone. Few devices allow one to efficiently build a relationship. For those who are skeptical of this method and demand that it is “all about the face-to-face meetings,” I say, “Give me a call.”
You already use the phone daily, but do you use it well? Enhanced telephone skills help everyone. Whether speaking with family, friends, booking a flight, disputing a bill, ordering a pizza…learning to build rapport within minutes allows you to both deliver and receive a much better experience.
When speaking with a client on the phone, it is important to sound happy, even when you may not be. You must sound deeply interested in what the other person is saying. The more engaged you are, the more this radiates through the phone line. When engaged, you’re more likely to control the flow of the conversation, which is important for efficiency. Digressing onto tangents about politics, the latest bank profits or the Illuminati is not moving the conversation forward. This is moving it sideways.
Count on the individual at the other end of the line being engaged, as this call is potentially about the largest transaction of their life. They will know if you’re paying attention. Although they may not physically see you glancing at text messages or email, scrolling through Facebook or Googling travel destinations, they will know. Those who are engaged sense when others are not.
Get up and walk around the office while on the phone. We all spend far too much time sitting behind a desk. Aside from the health benefits of simply standing and stretching regularly, walking and talking helps limit distractions (i.e., the computer) and maintains focus on the conversation at hand. I use over-the-ear Bose Bluetooth headphones with an excellent microphone built in for all calls. This gives me mobility, and keeps my hands free to type an application, or just wave my arms around expressively as I stand alone in my office.
Control the Flow
Every now and then I do get verbally steamrolled by a client. They need to talk themselves out. Eventually it will be my turn, in the meantime I listen and take notes until they wear themselves out. Again, if not taking notes, it’s better to walk around to prevent yourself from tuning out because just when you think the monologue will never end, the client asks, “What do you think?” And you won’t know what to think if you don’t know what was said.
Few lapses in professional etiquette are more embarrassing than not having a response to a topic that a client has just unloaded 5,000 words on, especially if you’re talking to this person for the first time. First impressions matter over the phone just as much as in person.
If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it 1,000 times:
Do you answer calls on the first ring? If the call goes to voicemail is your message professional, assuring the caller that messages will remain confidential? Do you say you’ll call back promptly? I never place a client on hold, they have my undivided attention.
Updating your voicemail message every morning creates a good impression. “Good day, it’s August 5th, this is the confidential voicemail of Dustan Woodhouse, please leave a message. I am in the office today and will return your call as quickly as possible. Thank you.” Of course, that message can backfire if you’re not actually in the office all day. You also risk sounding sloppy if you fail to update that message early each morning (or perhaps just before bed). If you miss a day though, you are effectively telling callers you’re in the office August 5th, but now it’s the 6th and they will be left to wonder whether you’re working today. They may assume you have taken the day off and call another Broker. Whoops.
There are simple ways to make a good impression. Remember your manners, always saying, “May I?” “Please,” and “Thank you.” Don’t reserve the niceties for clients. Be courteous to secretaries and other gatekeepers because they may relay the impression you made on them to their bosses, chances are that they too have a mortgage to discuss. The simplest path here is to just be polite at all times to all people. You cannot go wrong with this approach to life. It is like overdressing your personal demeanor. Being a man of few words and many explosions might work for the Hollywood action hero, but not so much for an aspiring Broker.
Start practicing active listening now.