Phone calls are super-scary, right? Talking to another live person real-time? Yikes!
That’s what I first thought when we added phone calls into the mix here at Reliable.
But after 3 months of regular phone calls (yes, even “terrifying” ones to smooth over a rough patch in a project!), I’ve been totally blown away by the awesomeness of talking to our clients.
I’ve also been blown away by how FAST phone calls heal conflicts!
So someone who admittedly doesn’t like phone calls (AKA me!), is here telling you now that it’s a huge untapped resource and you’ve absolutely got to try it more often with your own clients and prospects.
Insane, I know! But just hear me out…
(And at the end, I share how just a bit of pro-activity and one app literally changed my entire attitude toward calls…and how it can liberate you, too.)
First: Clients aren’t as scary as they seem – and here’s why…
Your clients want to work with you. They showed up, and they paid you money to do what you do best.
So don’t be afraid of them! (They’re a little nervous, too!)
They want to be here, and they want you for the job. Remember that before you go into a call.
To resolve a conflict, you either need 100+ emails, or a single phone call.
We all make mistakes, misunderstand something, or just drop the ball from time to time.
At this point, it’s tempting to avoid contact with that client like the plague and just throw up your hands and assume “That’s it! I’ve lost that client.”
Or, even worse, the inevitable series of longer and longer emails starts as you each argue your sides.
First it’s just a paragraph or two.
Then it’s 4-5 paragraphs.
They just keep getting longer and longer as you each become more entrenched in your foxholes and why you’re right and they’re wrong.
When conflict arises, it feels counter-intuitive to get on the phone. It’s the last thing in the entire world you want to do.
But – here’s where it gets crazy – this is EXACTLY what you should do. In fact, as soon as you feel even a HINT of friction, offer a phone call.
As scary as those calls were, I stuck with ‘em. And guess what? I’ve discovered three shocking truths:
1. Clients are human!
People are a lot gentler and more forgiving over the phone than they are behind a keyboard.
Someone who, seconds prior, was downright rude via email can be the kindest, most gentlest person in the world on the phone. Typing has a way of amplifying anger. Talking has a way of diffusing it.
I’ve expected an angry tirade quite a few times, and only once has that actually happened. Our clients are super-awesome; they’re just looking to resolve the issue quickly and fairly.
(And yours are, too.)
2. It’s really easy to misinterpret tone and intent of an email.
Particularly when you’re assuming a client is upset.
Most of the time, I’ve read extra negativity into the email that they never intended.
As soon as we got on the phone, I realized it was all in my head.
Then – for all future emails – I could “hear” it in their voice, and realized they were being nice all along.
3. When projects go south, phone calls work 100% of the time.
Yes…you read that correctly.
Every time I’ve had one of these calls to get things back on track after a miscommunication or mistake, we’ve retained the client, finished out the project, and continue to have an amazing relationship. (Even with the angry caller I mentioned above!)
Before we started implementing calls, it was a different story.
Of course, phone calls only work if you’re able to conquer those nerves and have a natural conversation instead of reading from a script!
Below are some of my favorite tips for doing just that.
Tips for phone call success
Smile when you say “Hey!”
(Yes, even when you’re scared.)
People can hear the smile in your voice, and those first words you utter set the tone for the entire call.
Think about the last time you called a company and it sounded like you interrupted their busy day. You automatically felt like canceling your business and calling someone else, right?
So be friendly!
⁃Is it Friday? Say Happy Friday!
⁃Is it Monday? Ask about their weekend.
⁃Was / Is there a holiday? Learn more about their plans.
Be yourself, and make your only goal to help your client out.
Sounds obvious, right? But actually care about your client, both who they are as a person and what they’re trying to accomplish. You’ll never be at a loss for words – and your client will feel the love.
Listen (way) more than you speak.
When we get nervous, we can’t stop talking, and we feel the need to fill every nanosecond of time with sound.
Say hi, chit chat, and ask how you can help. Then be quiet and listen.
Break bad news in an email first.
This gives your client time to digest your email, shake their fists in the air, and then become a rational human being again who now has a problem to solve…and needs your help to do it.
(ALWAYS offer a phone call with bad news…the worse the news, the more important the call.)
Have their project / email thread open. Have any relevant notes handy, too. This way you can quickly reference every aspect of their project.
It makes you sound organized and professional…because you are!
Apologize when you’re wrong.
We’re human, too. Reliable makes mistakes. I make mistakes.
And you will, too.
Be willing to apologize…the clients you really want to work with will understand and be surprisingly forgiving (assuming you keep mistakes to a minimum!).
CAVEAT: Don’t apologize for something that’s not your fault. Be sympathetic, but don’t take the blame.
Now for the coolest thing that has changed my life.
(I’m not kidding.)
What’s the scariest part about a phone call?
Answering it, right?
Who could it be? What do they want? Are they upset? What if I don’t have an answer for them? What if they want to discuss something scary like pricing? OMG OMG OMG…phew! It went to voicemail.
That’s seriously happened to me.
And here’s how I’ve reduced this scenario to a bare minimum: asking for phone calls and using the scheduling app, Calendly.
That’s right, we’re extremely proactive in asking to set up a call with our clients – both new and current.
In fact, here’s the actual script I use (you probably recognize it!):
This way, I have a schedule of calls. I can set aside time instead of being interrupted, and vice versa for our clients.
I know who I’m calling when, and what we’re talking about. I also know exactly where their project is, can speak intelligently about it, and have this incredible amount of confidence – and often excitement! – the same way I would about catching up with an old friend.
So I only receive maybe 2-3 unplanned phone calls per week! Everything else is 100% scheduled.
(Calendly is a super-simple, super-awesome scheduling app that allows you to set your available hours and with a few clicks, skip that often painful time zone email exchange of what time it is there relative to what time it is here, and which 10am did you mean? Yours or mine?)
PS – I’m not getting any benefit / payment for saying that…it’s just true! And I wouldn’t be nearly as effective at my job without it.
If you stress about unexpected calls like I do…you’ve got to try this!
So to recap:
Get on the phone! 🙂
Your fears are almost always unreasonable. People are so much friendlier, interesting, and fun to talk to than you think they are, even when they have reason not to be!
Be yourself, create a system that instills confidence, and rock those calls!