Management Information

Telephone Techniques: Boost Your Productivity With Effective Phoning

One of the things that most impacts people's productivity is not being able to focus on completing one task at a time - we are so overloaded with tasks and interruptions that it requires great discipline to avoid spending the entire day responding to other people's agendas. Telephone calls, both making and receiving them, are one of the greatest disruptions to the flow of the day and to our ability to concentrate on the task at hand. And the use of mobile phones, while a great asset to our business and personal lives, requires a whole new set of communication skills as well as business and social etiquette. By managing how and when we make and receive calls we can not only make better use of our time but make a better impression on the person at the other end of the line, too.

Outgoing Calls

Make a time. Allocate a specific time or times to make your outgoing calls, including return calls to people who have left messages for you. This way you won't disrupt yourself mid-task to make a call you just remembered you need to make - simply make a note of it and call during the allocated times. You'll also be better able to focus on the conversation and the needs of the person you are calling when you are focused on the call, rather than trying to fit it in while you're concentrating on something else.

Think before you speak. Think about the call before you make it - know the reasons why you are calling and what you want to come out of the conversation. Also, think about the timing from the point of view of the person you are calling - consider whether you are calling them at a time when you know they'll be trying to get out the door, or when they're likely to be busiest in their own business, and schedule your calls at appropriate times.

Clear your desk. Clear everything from your desk that does not relate to the person you are calling to avoid becoming distracted or tempted to do two things at once. Make sure you have any previous correspondence or materials that you'll need to refer to on hand.

Identify yourself. Unless you are absolutely certain that the person answering your call will know who you are and where you are from, identify yourself clearly at the beginning of the conversation. If you are contacting the person for the first time it can also be useful to give them a context - it will save both of you any embarrassment and allow the person you are calling to focus on what it is you are saying, rather than wondering who you are, for example: "Good morning Simone, this is Neen James from Neen James Communications calling; you might recall we met at Jennifer's book launch last week?"

When you say 'this is' before stating your name it alerts your caller that you are about to say your name which makes it easier for them to take note, especially if they don't know you. Take the time to enunciate clearly - there's nothing worse than when someone speaks too quickly or mumbles and you have to ask again, 'Sorry, who's speaking?'

Is this a good time? Another essential phone call opener is to enquire whether you are calling at a convenient time. Many people will answer the phone at even the most inconvenient times, which usually results in their feeling annoyed at you! So ask: "Good morning Simone, this is Neen James from Neen James Communications calling; you might recall we met at Jennifer's book launch last week? I thought I'd give you a call to further discuss that project we were talking about - is now a convenient time for you?"

Leave a detailed message. If you don't get through to the person you are calling, leave a detailed message - whether by voicemail or with the person who does answer the phone. Make sure you include the time and date you called, a brief mention of what you are calling about and how and when they can contact you. If you are going to be difficult to catch or have scheduled some time during which you won't be taking phone calls yourself, by leaving a contact time you can avoid a frustrating game of 'phone tag'.

Incoming Calls

Answer? Decide whether to answer the call or to let it go through to voicemail. This is not about avoiding people but about ensuring that you don't answer a call (if you don't have to) when you know you're not able to give your full attention to the caller. If you're in the middle of something and you don't wish to be interrupted, it's more polite to allow the caller to leave you a message and make a return call when the timing is better.

Introduce yourself. Answer the call by introducing yourself clearly: "Good morning, Neen James Communicaitons, this is Neen James speaking", this identifies you and your business to your caller.

Pay attention. If you've decided to answer the call, and then decided to carry on with the conversation rather than asking to return the call at a more convenient time - do your caller the courtesy of paying attention. Disinterest or lack of attention can very easily be heard in your voice - as can the typing that you continue to do while making all the right 'aha' sounds and the shuffling of paper at your desk. Stop what you are doing and pay attention, or tell the caller you'll call back later if it's not a convenient time.

Relax. Speak as though the caller is sitting across the table from you and speak in your usual face-to-face conversational style, rather than in a special 'telephone voice'.

Smile. It is a proven fact that a smile can be 'heard' on the other end of the phone. Your callers will appreciate your friendly approach.

Stand up. Especially if it's an important call or one you are nervous about, stand up. When you do, it allows more air to circulate through your lungs, your voice will sound more relaxed and maintain an even tone which can also give you an 'air of authority'.

Keep it short. You'd be surprised how much time is wasted on the phone. There's nothing wrong with politely managing the conversation, get straight to the point, for example: "Hi Bob, what can I do for you today?"

Thanks for calling. Always end by thanking your caller for calling.

Mobile calls

Leave a message. Provide message bank for your callers. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to contact someone who does not have the courtesy to provide the facility to leave a message when they are unavailable. In your recorded message let callers know when they can expect to hear from you, for example: "Please leave a message and I will return your call within 24 hours". Taylor make your messages according to your travel plans or holidays to notify callers when you will be returning.

If you call a mobile phone are diverted to message bank - leave a message. The person you are trying to reach may only be available to check their messages and return calls at a certain time, if you don't leave a message they won't be able to call or SMS you and you'll become frustrated at not being able to contact them.

Clear your messages. Clear your message bank regularly and make return calls or send SMSs to people who have left messages for you within an appropriate period of time.

Turn if off. There must be a lot of people who don't realise that mobile phones have 'off' buttons! Switching off your mobile at certain times is a demonstration of courtesy and respect for the people you are with or the place you are in. In meetings and seminars, at meals, in church, at the theatre, movies or other public places - turn it off. Your callers will be able to leave you a message and you can return the call at a more appropriate time.

Do it in the lift. Get into the habit of turning your phone to silent mode or switching off your phone in the lift on your way to a meeting, and switching it back on to check your messages in the lift on the way out of the meeting. This simple ritual will save you the embarrassment of your phone ringing during an important meeting. If you are expecting a call that you absolutely must take, explain that you are waiting for the call and may need to be excused when it comes through. Switch your phone to silent and discretely exit the room to take the call when it comes.

Keep it short. Many people are uncomfortable with lengthy mobile phone conversations for a number of reasons - health, privacy and cost among them - so keep it short and to the point.

Can you talk right now? If you are making the call, acknowledge that the person you are calling could be with other people, on the bus, train or driving, or somewhere where they can't hear you properly or speak loudly - always ask: "Can you talk right now?" before launching into your conversation.

Consider the time. Be considerate about time and, unless there is good reason, don't contact people on their mobile number outside of business hours.

Who else is there? If you answer a call while you're in your car, let the caller know you're driving. If you are on speakerphone and there's a passenger with you, let your caller know who's with you to avoid any embarrassing situations and ensure confidentiality.

First things first. Always be professional and considerate. If you decide to take calls when you are with other people, excuse yourself and leave the room but remember the people you are with may feel less important than your caller. Use message bank, silent mode or just switch it off until you are available again.

Hang up and lock up. We've all heard horror stories of mobile phones not properly hung up or keypads not locked and the last number called being accidentally dialed - the person inadvertently called is privy to your conversation without you being aware that they are on the line. Ensure your phone is hung up properly and use the keypad lock facility to avoid potential disasters!

Neen is a Global Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy - and where they focus their attention - Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice, sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Find out more at

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