For those of you that have worked in the Financial Services business for several years, making calls on a daily basis is probably familiar territory. For the more experienced advisor, years and years of doing so has taught you how to be effective on the phone. However, for the younger generation of advisors, it usually means a few things; stress, anxiety and either you love or hate the phone.
With an estimated 300 million cell phones in the United States, it seems reasonable to think we are able to have clear and concise conversations with one another.
However, with the advent of text and instant messaging and email, I believe the ability to verbally communicate over the phone has slowly devolved. If you have worked with the younger generation or have a teenager at home, then I am sure you can agree. The idea of actually having a verbal conversation over the phone almost seems foreign.
For a newer advisor, being effective on the phone will most probably be a big factor in their success. Having a method and guideline to give them will go a long way in doing so. Regardless of whether you are making calls to set appointments or just want to verbally communicate more effectively over the phone, use the following as a template to help you improve your effectiveness on the phone.
· Why are you Calling?
Yes, it should be obvious why you are making the call, but to be effective you need to have the answer to this question. Is it to just talk and catch up? Are you trying to set up an appointment? Do you need to touch base concerning a previous conversation; a follow up? There are many different reasons, but I put this out there so you can formulate a game plan for your call. A call to catch up will include knowledge you are aware of, and therefore you are asking particular questions. A call to set an appointment will have a different dialogue to convince someone to set a commitment. It will also need to be brief in nature and to the point. Remember, the idea is to not have the appointment over the phone, it’s to set a time and date. As opposed to a follow up call that may sound repetitive, but necessary to refresh the conversation. By identifying the purpose of the call, you will begin the first step of mitigating the usual anxiety and fear associated with making calls to clients and prospects.
· Know what you want to say.
This is a crucial part of being effective and keeping the conversation on track. When making calls to set appointments, we often write scripts for new advisors to get good at making calls. This isn’t always everyone’s first choice, but it can be effective as it will control what needs to be said and avoids the things that don’t. Personally, I preferred a sticky note with bullet points and key words and phrases to use. This helped me stay on track and sound less “canned” in my conversation and more natural. Find something that helps keep you on track,so you are saying what you want to say the way you want it said.
· Know how you want to say it.(Jargon/Slang/Controversial)
This one should be equally apparent as the first two bullets. Pay attention to the words you are using. I have received many phone calls where a person is using words that are apparently foreign to them and sometimes inappropriate as to the purpose of the phone call in the first place. In this sense, you really need to know your audience. Ask yourself, do my words have “sharp edges”? Will they confuse or irritate the person I am speaking with? Will they understand the “industry” words I am using? As mentioned, knowing what you want to say should help determine how you want to say it and perhaps what not to say.
· Tempo, Cadence, Clarity. (Don’t machine gun the call)
Pay attention to the speed and clarity of your words. There may be some degree of anxiety or adrenaline when making a call. Because of this, callers may rush through their words, causing their speech to be too fast, unclear and misunderstood. We used the term “don’t machine gun the call” to describe these instances. When I made calls, I always visualized a metronome used by a musician to stay on the correct pace of a song. Much the same as my bullet points to keep me on track with what I needed to say, visualizing the metronome helped calm my mind and remember to speak at a certain pace, pitch and cadence.
· Tone, Pitch and Volume.
Always consider your tone, pitch and volume before making your phone call. Will you be in a crowded area with a lot of background noise? In a quiet room or office? Also think about the person on the receiving end of the call. Do they have difficulty hearing or understanding words over the phone? Is my voice deep and low or high and squeaky? Am I creating excitement or having to diffuse an issue? These scenarios will all have an influence on your call and the way you need to present yourself to your caller.
· Voice Mail or Message. (To leave or not leave one)
And lastly, the voicemail, to leave one or not. In the world of everyone’s “busy”, so to speak, I believe leaving a good message is equally as important as the dialogue we have spoken about. A good message will likely get you a return phone call and a bad one probably won’t.
In the era of “Robo” calls, leaving a message lets the person you are calling know you are a real person and that your call to them is important. When leaving the message, the rules spoken about earlier still apply. Try to be brief, to the point and most importantly speak clearly to be easily understood. Remember, the idea is to get a call back from your message. If your message is too long, it probably needs to be spoken about as opposed to a long drawn out message. Too many things get left out or put in without proper explanation and understanding.
For messages that are more business in nature or to someone you don’t know personally, follow these few guidelines. Be sure to say your name and number slowly and be deliberate in your speech, spelling out your last name if needed. Remember, you want the person to understand what you are saying and you also want to give them time to write your name and number down. Repeat them both for a second time. The person will typically not get everything said on the first run.
So, there you have it, a brief look at what it takes to make successful calls. Not one single component will make you good on the phone but rather a collective of each part will improve your effectiveness. One feeds into the other and so on. Having a game plan and being prepared for every call will go a long way to helping anyone trying to be more effective and confident on the phone.
And most importantly, nothing beats repetition and practice!
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