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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs

Phone Etiquette for Web Startups

Are you scared to death of speaking to potential customers on the phone? Don’t be. Although it’s common for Internet entrepreneurs to avoid placing calls in favor of email, you can follow a few basic tips to interact with customers in a medium you aren’t used to.

Here are some things you should consider when you start a conversation. These quick tips will help you communicate politely and effectively:

  1. Train your voice. In order to get your point across, you are going to have to speak clearly and articulately. It is easy for the pitch of your voice to get a little too high and sound irritated when you actually want to be friendly and engaging. This can lead to tension and misunderstandings, so make a conscious effort to control your vocal cords.
  2. Always identify yourself. It is professional courtesy to start a conversation with some variation of “Hello Mr. Smith, this is John Adams from ABC Enterprises. How are you today?” You want to establish a personal connection and make sure the person isn’t left hanging wondering who you are.
  3. Know who you are speaking to in advance. One of the most frustrating things for anyone is answering the phone and hearing someone ask to speak with the vice president or head of R&D. This is a clear sign that you are cold-calling them, because if they did their research they would address them by name. Know the name of the person you are speaking to and know the number you are calling. When they answer the phone, introduce yourself and make it clear you know who you need to speak with.
  4. Avoid confrontation with customers and go the extra mile. Bad employees are used to responding to requests outside of their job description with “that’s not my job.” This is unprofessional and shows an unwillingness to follow through. Instead, assure them that you will personally look into whatever they need and pass the information along to the responsible party.
  5. Check to make sure now is a good time. If you’re calling someone without having an established meeting time, check to make sure they’re in a position to talk before continuing the conversation. If you catch them at a bad time, you may not have their full attention and they’ll probably find you a little irritating.
  6. Ask for permission before placing someone on speaker phone. Some callers feel that being placed on speaker is annoying or invasive to their privacy. Don’t announce that you are going to place them on speaker without getting their permission first.
  7. Keep your personal life a mile from your professional life. Everyone has rough patches in their personal life, but allowing those problems to color your professional conversations is a sure recipe for failure. The client still needs their work completed and they don’t give a dead rat about your problems. Be transparent, apologetic and assure them you are taking care of everything that needs to be done.

Even if you are good at handling conversations, you are going to have to be on your toes to show professionalism consistently. The key is to anticipate what your customers’ needs are, and then shape the conversation around meeting those needs in a respectful and effective way.