Telephone Conversation: A Guide to American Etiquette and Sales

telephone conversationTelephone conversations can be difficult. Even in our native languages it is hard to navigate not being able to see a person’s emotions and reactions during conversation. With some scientists claiming that 80% of communication is non-verbal, telephone conversation becomes an important skill because we are limited to hearing a person’s tone and words without seeing their physical reactions like the emotions on their face to what we are saying or their interest in our product as they look it over. However, we still expect to connect well with the person on the other end of the line even if we can’t see them. In business this is especially important as we need to communicate well with the people we are working with and the clients we have in order to maintain the relationships that will lead to success and sales.

Telephone conversation is a great tool both professionally and personally. The first step is getting a firm grasp on the English language. There are many ways that American’s express themselves using phrases that don’t translate word-for-word with the same meaning. Knowing these phrases and styles of communication will help you have successful telephone conversations. Take time to understand English idioms and expressions used in business so you can have a successful telephone conversation with a business colleague, potential client or customer.

Basic Business Etiquette for the Telephone

The basics of most American phone conversations are the same whether you are calling for business or to speak to someone you have a personal relationship with. Here are a few tips for handling any phone conversation in an appropriate way.

  1. Always start with a pleasant greeting. Saying, “Hello, my name is (your name) and I am calling from (name of business). How are you today?” Is a pleasant way to start the conversation and helps the person you are speaking with by sharing who you are and what business you are associated with. It also opens the door for positive conversation as you take a moment to enquire about them.
  1. Always be courteous and calm on the phone. Everyone prefers a kind and courteous phone conversation, in any language! It is helpful if you are smiling on the other end of the line. The smile comes across in your tone and the person you are speaking with will be able to hear it in your voice. Since telephone conversations are limited to the words and tone that you use and do not include any visual forms of communication it is important to get the wording and tone correct for your conversation.
  1. If you need to place the person on hold, be sure to communicate that with them and then wait for their response. For example, say, “May I place you on hold for a moment?” and allow them to agree before doing so. Always use the hold button your phone instead of covering the mouthpiece with your hand as it is much more professional. Also, if it happens that your caller is on hold for more than a few minutes, it is important to check in with them. Nobody likes feeling as if they have been forgotten on the line. Simply pick up the line and say something like, “Thank you for waiting, it should only be a few more minutes.” This way your caller is assured they are being taken care of even when they are not speaking to you.
  1. At the end of a business call it is customary to enquire if there is anything else you can do for the person you are speaking with. Simply asking, “Do you have any other questions?” or, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” if it is appropriate is a nice way to show that you have engaged with the person on the phone and are interested in their satisfaction.

Tips for Successful Telephone Conversations

In addition to the above, there are some small things you can do that will help a phone conversation be successful. These tips go beyond basic business etiquette for telephone conversations and will help you be professional and thorough in your conversations. Employ these tips as needed in your conversations.

  1. Practicing basic phone conversation with a friend can help you feel more confident on the phone when you are speaking in English to an American client or co-worker. Find a friend or co-worker that will run through potential conversations with you until you feel more confident that you can speak and respond in English to the needs of the person you would be speaking with on the phone. It is helpful to practice without being able to see each other so you can listen to the words and tone of the conversation and not use the visual communications to determine your response as they will not be available in your business telephone calls.
  1. Ask questions if you need to get clarity and repeat important information that you receive during any phone call back to the person you are speaking with. If you don’t understand what a person is communicating, or need them to spell important information so you are sure to get it right, don’t be afraid of asking. Even native English speakers ask for spellings and repetitions in order to verify information. This is very common when receiving names, addresses, telephone or account numbers that are vital to your conversation moving forward. When you believe you have received the information, repeat it back to the person so they know you have recorded it correctly. This will bring both of you confidence in your conversation and understanding each other. It also gives the person you are talking to the opportunity to correct information if needed.
  1. It is more important in English telephone etiquette to communicate accurately with the person you are speaking with than to make them feel that you are able to do something that you are not. American’s are much more receptive to honesty. You can learn how to master a more difficult conversation if you are uncomfortable with this fact. In any telephone conversation be sure to speak honestly and clearly to the person on the other end of the phone call. This will save you and your business from unhappy customers or further calls and questions.

Moving from Basic Etiquette to Successful Sales Calls

Once you have mastered the basics of English telephone etiquette and feel comfortable with client and customer conversations, you can learn how to become a successful sales expert and watch your professional career take off! Telephone sales calls are important because they give you the opportunity to connect one-on-one with someone which can increase your success, without being limited to a specific geographic location or having to travel.

One of the most challenging forms of telephone sales is called cold calling. This is type of calling has nothing to do with actual temperature. Rather, cold calling is a telephone conversation where the person on the other end of the call is not expecting to hear from you. That changes the dynamic of the conversation as you have to get the person to stay on the phone with you and hear what you have to say. You are building the connection with the client up from nothing.

Cold calling can include goals like setting up a follow-up appointment or phone call, getting a business owner to agree to receive your products on trial, or achieving an actual sale of a product or service that you are offering. No matter what the final goal, the call starts with you making a connection to the person you have dialed.

Successful cold calls go through a set structure that your company may have already researched and decided on.  It is possible that you may even be given a script to work off of that will help walk you through the conversation from start to finish.  Successful cold calling is a skill that can be learned with practice and some help from professional sales trainers and business experts. From the preparation stages that begin even before you start the call to active listening and finally make a sale, you can be a successful cold caller.

Become a Master Cold Caller

When you start out, successful cold calling may include following a pre-written script provided by your employer and having a set form that you use to walk a client through a sale. This type of sales career is a great place to start and a chance for you to practice your telephone conversations. However, cold calling can be much more than that and as you move forward in your professional career you may find that you need to be able to speak with customers and clients without a script. By understanding what makes a successful telephone call and how your attitude contributes to conversation, you can become a master cold caller that can get the most important person you need to reach on the phone to hear what you have to say!