This is one of those articles that in theory shouldn't need to be written, but theory and practice are very different things. You'd think having a phone call is pretty easy, but if I had a dime for every one that ended up being a train wreck, I'd be able to personally fund all the companies emailing me myself.
So here are some pointers on how to best manage a professional phone call.
Do not jump right into a product demo.
This one is a huge pet peeve for me. Now don't get me wrong, I understand that as an entrepreneur, you are proud of your baby, your product, and you want to jump right in and show it off. But don't.
Start with some background on you, your company, how and why you started it, what stage you're in, and what the goal of the product is.
Do not start the call demoing the product without providing context first.
Come prepared for the call.
It is pretty offensive when someone comes to a meeting without doing any research on you at all. The same goes for phone calls. The more research you do before a call, the higher the chances of success. Imagine coming into a lawyer's office and asking for medical help. That is about the same thing as jumping on a call and pitching the other person something that is totally irrelevant to what they do. At the end of the day, it is a reflection on you and something that could have easily been avoided.
Breathe and let the other person ask questions.
Another pet peeve: Entrepreneurs who don't stop selling. Don't be that guy. Take a breather between every few sentences and let the other person ask questions. I've literally been on calls with startup founders who would not let me get a single sentence in.
It is a major red flag when an entrepreneur can't stop selling and start listening.
Define the agenda from the get-go.
More on context. Start the call with clear context. What is your goal? How would you define success? What are we hoping to accomplish on this call?
I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Often, I find myself on a call with a founder that assumes certain things about my work and that assumption is way off. By providing that context, and that agenda at the beginning of the call, we can save time.
If you don't provide that context, you end up wasting your time and mine. Start with the goals of the call.
Respect the other person's time.
If the call is set for 30 minutes, don't talk for 35. Be punctual and respectful of the other person's time. Goes without saying, you shouldn't come late to the call, because that's just not nice, and again, it presents a red flag, especially when you're the one who wants something from the other person.
End with an actionable task.
Don't let the call end without a clear next step. Otherwise, the call will end up being a waste of everyone's time. So before you say goodbye, suggest a next step, an action item for you or the person to do.
That action item should obviously be connected to the goal that you defined in the beginning of the call.
In summary, business calls are somewhat of an art and to achieve your business goals, you need to master that art.