May 18, 2011

We often ignore the basic elements we use in both our personal and business communications.

In truth there’s not a lot of difference in the two.

In both, you want to engage people naturally. Talking with a business associate should be not much different from talking with a friend.

Talking with a friend employs many of the same techniques we use in business communications — respectful and tactful interaction.

There are some areas of intimacy that should not be transgressed. Revealing too much of your personal business in a business transaction is generally thought to be not good advice. Use common sense here.

We’ve all heard the so-called “7%-38%-55% rule”: that communication is comprised of 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% content of words.

That’s mostly true except when…

  • your words, body language, and tone contradict each other
  • you’re on the telephone
  • you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t speak your own language

If your words, body language, and tone disagree, body language and tone will tell your story.

If you’re on the phone and there is no way to “see” your body language, your tone and word choice are going to be critical. I tell my phone sourcing students that attitude and stance are what they need most of when calling for information.

Cross-cultural communication is an area that is gaining study as our borders haze into one another. Language training is becoming commonplace these days in businesses that seek to do business globally. Grasping what we as humans have in common and how that commonality can unite us seems to form the basis for this type of communication.

Intercultural and international understanding is an area in which I hope someone more knowledgeable than me will write an article on here on ERE.

Because I am a phone sourcer I’m going to concentrate today on what communication techniques work best for me in my phone sourcing activities.

Your mileage may differ (but I don’t think by much).

In both personal and business communications, the most important thing is to keep your tone and pitch at “normal” levels.

Because you’re working (mostly) without visual “body language” — the largest component in most communications — your tone and pitch on the telephone are hypercritical.

If you speak too fast you’ll sound nervous.

Too slow — bored (and boring). Your listener may tune you out.

Too high — that nervous thing again.

Too low — your confidence could appear limited.

Strive to keep your tone and pitch at normal levels.

It’s not hard if you relax and lose the fear of calling that many in business have today.

This means to speak at a moderate pace and in a normal tone of voice.

You must take both your surroundings and the surrounding of the person you’re calling into account.

If you’re calling into a company, chances are the first person you’re going to meet up with is the Gatekeeper.

These ladies eat milquetoast with coffee all day long.

If your aim is to talk to someone who can give your company business, there’s no excuse (nor has there ever been one) not to do a little research on the front end on who you might want to talk to.

Sure, situations arise where there is nothing to be found (online) about a particular company, but the example that follows will work in most situations:

“Hello, Amanda. This is Maureen Sharib. Can you please transfer me to Finance?”

(About half the time they will transfer you to someone in Finance — if you’ve sounded confident and knowledgeable. At this point it’s your job to jump in and ask who you’re being transferred to — but sometimes you need more …)

“Who do you want to talk to in Finance?”

“I see that Sheila Watkins is your CFO — is Sheila available?”

“Ms. Watkin’s calls are taken by Delilah Atkins — would you like to talk with her?”

“Absolutely, Amanda. That would be great. Can you tell me, before you transfer me, what Ms. Atkins extension is?”

“Sure, it’s 468; hold one minute!”

I immediately gained a small level of familiarity with the Gatekeeper when I repeated her name back at her (because she told me her name; if she does not tell you her name, skip this part.)

I told her who I was; I removed the mystery so she didn’t have to ask/wonder.

I told her immediately how she could help me.

I had information on backup (the CFO’s name) in case I needed it. This is one of my “tricks.” I spool out a little information at a time. I offer it in bits and pieces only on an “as needed” basis. By using this technique you’ll get an immediate “feel” for how security conscious the company is.

I mirrored her company culture. When I heard her refer to Sheila Watkins as Ms. Watkins I moved to the use of the more formal title in my approach.

I pressed her for a little more information. This is usually possible (unless she sounds impossibly harried) and gives me the beginning of an understanding of the company’s phone tree in the instance where I’m rewarded with an extension or a direct dial.

This is where body language in communication comes into play (over the phone).

By visualizing what’s going on at the other end of the phone many times you can “imagine” the body language of the other party.

You can hear what’s going on in a Gatekeeper’s background if you’re “listening” for it.

You can “imagine” her physical reaction to stress.

You can “hear” stress in a person’s voice and you can act on those cues.

In the example above I was crisp and to the point.

My words were said in a moderate and confident tone of voice.

My voice was naturally animated when it needed to be and my words were enunciated.

My voice was calm and relaxed.

In every instance, I sound sincere.

She didn’t have to struggle to hear/keep up with/understand what I was asking for.

I told her the truth every step along the way so she (usually) immediately “trusts” me.

Hearing a ringing telephone in the background I could “visualize” some of what was going on in her environment and a little of her “body language” — at least enough to gain a modicum of cooperation from her.

I know this may seem farfetched to some of you, but other phones sourcers, I’m sure, will back me up here.

Here’s another one of my tricks and this is where the “attitude” in phone sourcing comes in.

I expect nothing.

There are many times I get rebuffed.

I take that as part of the potion.

By not being expectant I don’t get freaked out when I do get rebuffed.

That freak-out doesn’t carry over into my next calls.

I just move on to the next call with no frenzy.

I take nothing personally.

I have a “next” mentality.

On an “appearance” note, the words you use will create an impression of you even though it’s only the telephone.

Your vocabulary must be correct: we’re often judged by the words we use and the kind of grammar we speak.

Don’t ever use words you don’t know the meaning of. You’ll come across as strange and out of context.

Likewise, use small words that are easy to pronounce.

Nobody ever complains because you made something easy to understand.

(I saw that statement on Twitter recently.)

Pronunciation is something we could all practice, daily.

In business (and in our personal communications) we have to connect with people from all walks of life.

Communication is the lifeblood of your existence.

Make it easy for others to understand you.

If you do this, you’ll suddenly start understanding more yourself.

Next week we’ll talk about how to use both low and high technology appropriately in our communications. Again, it’s going to be from a phone sourcer’s perspective.  I hope you’ll join the discussion from your perspective!

Part III. Part II. Part I. Intro.

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