In an age where communicating over the internet is so common, engaging with people in a real-world environment can make us feel vulnerable – even if it is done over the phone. It doesn’t matter if your daily work allows you the freedom to avoid these types of interactions as standard; the chances are that you’ll need to physically speak with someone important at some point. Because of this, improving your communication skills can be essential to you and your business, whether you’re a consultant, freelancer, or in almost any other kind of position. Nathan from Foundr gives us some tips on improving your communication skills:
How to overcome telephobia
While holding a conversation digitally can be effective, taking your business to the next level is likely to involve a more personal approach. A few tips that could help you to feel more comfortable when talking on the phone include:
1: Have all the information you need at hand
Being prepared can be a good way to boost your confidence when talking over the phone. Simply taking the time to write down questions you’ll need to ask or anticipating what the client might want to find out could help you to pre-empt worthwhile answers.
It can often help to take a look at their website(s) before the call, too. In most cases, this can help you to get an idea of what work needs to be done, what sort of price you may want to charge and more. This can help you to create an agenda before the call, so that you can focus and guide the conversation.
Before you make the call, make sure that you’ll be able to talk to your potential client without any distractions, too. Often, it’s a good idea to find somewhere quiet and comfortable.
2: Have the consultative mindset
It may be a good idea to remind yourself that you are aiming to provide a service – you are not trying to sell your skills to someone who isn’t interested. What this means is that your needs are as important as the clients’ – and in many cases, they simply want you to offer advice or do something that they can’t. If the project isn’t a good fit, or if you aren’t happy with anything involved, it is well within your capabilities to walk away.
3: How to break the ice
In some cases you can forgo small talk and simply get on with the consultation, but if you want to improve your communication skills, you should try to hold a conversation with your client. While each person is different, there are a few types of personalities that you’re likely to come across – and adapting your communication style to suit can often be a wise idea.
Mirroring the general tone of the call can be especially helpful; for example, when talking to those who want a collaborative and strong working relationship, showing that you care about their success is often a good idea. Some may see the consultation more like a job interview and may want to ask you a lot of questions, whilst others may want a more empathetic approach and expect to be asked about personal goals and other information about their project.
4: Listen to the client
For a successful call, it can help to really listen to what the client has to say, rather than worrying about what you have to interject. This can help you to focus on the task in question and to get a better understanding of the client’s needs, as well as how you might be able to help. Anything that you feel needs to be said or asked can be jotted down and brought up at the end.
Once they have described their problem to you, it can often help to repeat it in your own words to ensure that you have all of the correct information.
5: The close
Now you can move forward with what you will need to complete the project, to see if the client wants to hire your services. In general, just ask them what they think and see if they want to hire you from there.