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CHAPTER 40

The Power of Charm on the Telephone

Many of us spend vast amounts of time on the telephone. With the advent of cell phones, more people are chattering away in any and every place you can imagine. The development of telephone charm can dramatically increase your effectiveness in dealing with other people. Try these simple techniques.

Step 1: The First Impression

You know the old saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Often that first impression isn't created face-to-face but on the telephone.

Many sales professionals and businesspeople never actually meet their customers in person; they do business solely on the phone. They are successful with this technique because they develop telephone personalities that come across charmingly and persuasively.

A Common Experience

True story: A customer called up an appliance company and a woman's voice answered abruptly, "K and B." The caller said, "I beg your pardon," and she again said "K and B" in the same grim, totally charmless manner. The caller paused and then asked gently, "Why didn't you say good morning?"

There was silence. Then the caller said, "You have such a nice speaking voice, I would love to have heard you say good morning." Still silence. "Could you say it now?" Another silence and then, finally, "Good morning."

The effect was striking. By now her voice and manner were totally friendly; there was, in fact, a smile in her voice. The customer responded by saying, "That was terrific -- thank you." The customer's impression of the receptionist, and the company she represented, changed radically from her first "K and B" to her last "Good morning."

What a little thing to do, to smile, and what a difference it makes. Don't forget, a smile can be heard and felt in your voice on the phone. The listener might not smile, but you must!

Step 2: Looking for Clues to How Someone Speaks and Listens

The beginning of a telephone conversation gives you a great opportunity to discover how the person on the other end of the line communicates. You will soon discover whether their conversation is dominated either by what the person thinks about things or how he or she feels about things. Psychologists call them cues, systematic cues and heuristic cues, respectively. We call them clues.

The words people choose and the way they sound as they speak are clues to what is important to them at that time. When you talk and listen to other people, be prepared to synchronize with whatever communication mode they are using and respond with more of the same.

Details versus Emotions

For example: When someone seems particularly interested in discussing the informational details of a topic, you should avoid talking about feelings and emotions. The reverse is also true. If the other person seems to be emotionally involved with the subject you are discussing, avoid talking about practical and logistical things until the person changes course. You don't want to be talking past one another; you want to be on the same wavelength.

Imagine the disconnect there would be if a friend or family member was talking about the beauty of the mountains and how peaceful it is to vacation there (heuristic-based response) and you insist on discussing the geology of the region and the type of crops grown there (systematic-based response). You might as well have just arrived from Mars!

Others talk about feelings and emotions; you talk about facts and figures. The result -- disenchantment! They talk about numbers and logistics; you talk about mood and emotions. The result -- calamity!

Step 3: Giving People What They Want

If you want to be charming, remember this point: It's not about you. Forget about yourself. Oblige the other person. When you are talking to someone on the phone, treat the mouthpiece of the phone as though it is the ear of the person you are talking to. Speak warmly and gently. Caress it with your voice. It will help make what you say sound more intimate, caring, and personal.

Here now are the twenty-two most powerful ideas ever to help you become more charming on the telephone:

1. Encourage the other person to talk. When it's your turn to talk, don't go into a series of mini-monologues. Instead, ask questions and listen closely to the answers. The more you listen, the more charming you sound.

2. Speak clearly, simply, and directly. If the other person uses ordinary language without complicated words, you must do the same. Nothing can create a barrier more rapidly than sounding superior by using ten-dollar words. Keep away from any language that cuts the other person out of the loop.

3. Listen attentively, because it's the only way you can learn. Most people would rather talk than listen, especially on the phone. Resist this tendency, and when the other person wants to talk, focus on listening.

4. Be a patient listener. Although you may be ready with an answer after the first few words they say, allow them to complete their thoughts and air their feelings until it is your turn to speak.

5. Be an active listener. Use vocal and verbal acknowledgments and reassurances such as, "Uh-huh," "Yes, I see," "Mmmm," "Really," "You don't say," "Of course," and the like. These simple remarks let the other person know that you are fully engaged.

6. Interrupt without offending. Interrupting can be read as a negation of what a person is saying and thinking -- it's a small put-down. If you absolutely must interrupt, always take the blame. Say something like, "Forgive me for interrupting, but I didn't want to forget this point."

7. Use short, graphic examples and stories. Dry is deadly. When it's your turn to speak, create a little theater with your comments. It wasn't just "a sunny day," it was "a warm, gladto-be-alive, sunny day." Be colorful and pictorial.

8. Never assume -- never presume. No matter how friendly the conversation is, never stretch the familiarity level above what the other person has set -- especially when it comes to kidding around. If you can't say it to your mother or father, don't say it to someone else.

9. Don't rush. Slow down and use the deeper sounds of your voice. Slower and deeper is much more attractive in speech than faster and higher.

10. Use pauses. When you or the person you are addressing needs time to think, try introducing a pause. Warn the other person by saying, "Take a moment to consider that," or, "Give me a moment to think." When you pause, don't take too long or you'll get a "Hello, are you there?"

11. Don't oversell information. Give people the information they need -- no more. Some people will balk at making decisions or coming to conclusions if they are overwhelmed. Don't tell them what they don't want or need to know. Be alert to the fact that your overenthusiasm could overfill their interest level.

12. Be empathetic to people's moods and concerns. If they're unhappy, be unhappy for them; if they're glad, be glad for them. If you are trying to sell people on a product or an idea, remember that once they see you as a friend who cares about them, they will be more open to changing their minds or opinions.

13. Keep your voice animated and energized. Vary the volume of your voice and the speed of your words. Slow down on the more important comments; soften your more confidential remarks. Speed up with details and unimportant information. Nothing is more boring and demotivating than a flat, monotonous voice. It is more powerful than a sleeping pill.

14. Express your emotions. Your voice and manner should project enthusiasm, concern, excitement, and pleasure. You want to convey the intensity -- even the passion -- of your convictions. But take care not to overdo it, because then you're overselling.

15. Smile into the phone. A smile can be both heard and felt. It changes the shape of your mouth, which affects the tone of your voice. Your voice will sound warmer and friendlier if you smile when you are speaking.

16. Give people what you want from them. If you want them to be excited, you must sound excited. If you want them to be convinced, you must sound convinced. They won't give you what you don't give them.

17. Focus on talking about what is of interest to the other person. Make sure her ideas, opinions, and concerns are always foremost in the conversation.

18. Resist giving advice. This applies on the phone and when speaking with someone in person as well. If a person asks for advice, resist the temptation to respond. Instead ask, "What do you think you should do?"

19. Always ask permission. When they haven't asked for advice, but you know they need it, try saying, "May I make a suggestion?" Always be gentle.

20. Respond to anger or an aggressive manner with gentleness. If you respond in like manner, you may win the emotional battle but you will surely lose the charm war. Remember that a soft answer turns away wrath.

21. Don't stop being charming before you've hung up. Be sure your charm extends into everything you say, including good-byes. Have you ever spoken to someone on the phone who abruptly cuts off the conversation? It makes you wonder if the person meant anything he said, doesn't it?

22. Think of yourself as mentoring your listener. Try to be like the best mentor you can remember -- informed, patient, kind, caring, concerned, warm, supportive, and protective. Strive to be genuinely helpful and friendly.

Your Tools for Charming Others

Resolve today to become an excellent and charming communicator on the phone. First, keep these suggestions on a single piece of paper and have them in front of you whenever you are speaking on the phone. Review them casually as you speak and look for opportunities to apply them.

Second, treat each phone call as an important meeting with a special client. Get rid of all distractions and concentrate single-mindedly on the voice of the other person.

With a little thought and practice, these skills will become invaluable in your social life and priceless in your business and career; in fact, they will do as much to improve the quality of your relationships as anything else you do.

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