Making a great first impression on the phone may seem easier than doing so in person, but that's not necessarily true. With the absence of body language, facial impressions, and physical appearance we are left to identifying subtle nuances of the conversation to tell us more about the person with whom we're speaking.
Today, more than any other time in history, we have abundant opportunity to expand our network and meet people from all corners of the earth. Don't blow it by doing anything less than giving it your all, just because the other person can't see you. They may not see you, but these mistakes in judgment will tell them a lot about you.
1. Remaining on your computer.
Anyone with an ounce of ability to observe can tell if they don't have your full attention. As tempting as it may be to skim through your email or finish up a comment on social, it's obvious and rude. Even a few seconds of mental absenteeism will leave a poor impression and may cause the other person to pull back.
A few minutes prior to a call close your browser and email and give some thought and intention to the upcoming conversation.
2. Being mentally late to the call.
You may pick up the phone on time, but if you have to ask for another few seconds to complete a task you are technically late to the call. This can send any number of messages to the other party leaving them to conclude that you are ill-prepared, unaware of time, or disinterested in the call. If you are someone who others look up to it may also leave the caller with a self-conscious feeling that they are not important to you.
Everyone is important. No matter who you are about to speak with, get your head in the game before picking up the phone.
3. Speaking in a rushed tone.
If you sound frenzied or dive into the conversation with a rushed tone in your voice it sends a signal that you're eager to get the call over with. Even if you self-correct a minute or two into the conversation the caller feels caught off guard and the call can be awkward.
Take a deep breath before accepting or making a call; the only moment that counts is the moment you are in.
4. Calling from a public place.
I recently conducted a job interview for a client and the applicant placed the call from a Starbucks. I ask questions to help ascertain the person's level of emotional intelligence, so the conversation tends to be a little more personal than a traditional job interview. Not only was the background noise distracting but the applicant's responses were clipped and restrained. Guess who did not land that job?
Mobile phones pick up noise in the background which is extremely distracting and annoying. An apology just doesn't hack it, get yourself to a quiet space prior to any phone call.
5. Allowing interruptions.
Employees, children, or pets barging in on your conversation will disrupt the flow and again send signals that the call lacks importance. Since the home office is commonplace now, personal interruptions seem to be a bit more acceptable but they are still unprofessional. Interruptions from coworkers and employees may leave the impression that you don't have healthy boundaries at work. Allowing such disruptions can also leave an impression of self-importance and lack of control of your environment.
Hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your door if necessary. Put some effort into it and get the message across to anyone who may interrupt.
6. Neglecting to smile.
They cannot see your charming smile, but they can hear it in your tone. Even a job interview does not have to be completely serious, so smile a little. It may be at the top of the call as you welcome the individual, or during a charming comment meant to break the ice. No doubt, the voice changes when you smile and your tone will become much more welcoming.
7. Talking over or interrupting them.
It's especially easy for the conversation to overlap when calls are placed from a mobile device. You may not have the bad habit of talking over and interrupting others, but slight delays in the technology make it more likely to happen.
Pause a moment before speaking to make sure the other person's thought is complete. It's not an easy habit to get into but will save you from many awkward moments.
8. Rushing off the phone without wrapping it up.
"Oh my, look at the time!" You may as well say, "You're boring me, and I need to hang up." Allow enough time to discuss next steps and for closing pleasantries. An abrupt ending can put a damper on even the most successful phone conversations. Set a timer if you must and avoid rushing off the phone before proper plans and thanks are in place.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Every conversation deserves your full attention and a little pre-planning. I like to schedule a bumper of just a few minutes on both ends of a phone call. Be fully present for your call, you never know where it may lead.