At a recent digital workshop for MBL on “Pick up the phone: Client service and sales opportunities for professionals in the digital age” delegates asked if videoconferences replaced telephone calls. Does Zoom/Teams replace telephone calls? Telephone skills workshop.
The research finding from Stanford University that people are 34 times more likely to agree to a request when made face-to-face – perhaps because confrontation is more uncomfortable or trust is built more easily – would suggest that you opt for Teams and Zoom over a telephone call if possible.
Generational and sector communication channel preferences
However, we observed that generations and sectors have different preferences for how to communicate. For example, those in the property/real estate sectors prefer telephone calls and younger generations prefer digital methods such as WhatsApp and messaging.
Some people prefer visual communication – so Zoom/Teams is ideal and others prefer auditory communication which is often easier and clearer on the telephone.
To provide the optimum client experience, we recognised the need to be alert to the preferences of the client – and to follow his or her lead (e.g. if they telephone, you should telephone etc). So where these different preferences exist you should not try to force people to use Zoom or Teams.
Zoom/Teams provides an additional communication channel
Rather than replacing existing communications channels, Zoom and Teams provide us with an additional communication option. So we need to know when to suggest using the channel. For example:
- In person meeting – An in person meeting is high commitment as it takes additional time and there is usually a travel cost. There can also be expectations that the interaction will last at least 30 minutes if not an hour. There is also the issue of territory (and control) – your place or mine?
- Hybrid meeting – A hybrid meeting is where some attendees are in a room and some connect digitally. This is a complex interaction to manage as there is a natural tendency to focus on those in the room rather than on the screen. However, it means that participants can choose how they interact and may encourage participation by those who are unable or unwilling to appear in person whether for convenience or accessibility reasons (e.g. someone with mobility issues can participate digitally)
- Zoom/Teams – This is less formal than an in person meeting and easier to arrange (although someone needs to set up and share a link). But there can be tech issues – whether Internet connection, microphone or camera issues or in terms of organisational preferences for one platform or another. Also, with people returning to the office they must be in the right environment or have the right kit to avoid being distracted by or distracting to nearby colleagues. There can be concerns about confidentiality (Who else can hear the interaction? Is it being recorded?). Yet some people prefer Zoom/Teams over telephone calls as they can observe non-verbal communication, can share documents on screen and are hands-free so they can take notes more easily. Again, there is an expectation that the interaction will last at least 15 minutes.
- Telephone call – The downsides of the loss of a visual connection was noted. And – unless scheduled – calls can be seen as intrusive. However, telephone calls can be quick and allow a two way interaction. So they can ultimately be more efficient than a lengthy email exchange. They are also less prone to misunderstanding than written communications such as emails, texts and instant messages. Furthermore, telephone calls are less likely to be hampered by broadband bandwidth or technology challenges. And you can build in some less formal interaction – to build the relationship – at the start and end of a call. Telephone calls were felt to be the most convenient option if a relationship had already been established.
- Emails – Email is great for conveying lots of (technical) information. Emails are not intrusive as they are read at a convenient time. Emails provide a record of the information and interaction. However, they are a one way method of communication and prone to misunderstanding (with regards to tone) and aren’t great for building rapport and relationships. However, they are great for confirming the content of a meeting, teleconference (Zoom or Teams) or telephone call. Although this requires additional work and time.
- Texts, WhatsApp and Instant Messaging – While some people prefer to communicate this way, the exchanges are generally short and informal. And there are often challenges with keeping a note of these interactions in an organisation’s other systems (e.g. client files, CRM systems etc).or sharing them with colleagues
Email isn’t great for developing relationships
Despite all the benefits of email (e.g. non-intrusive, a record of information, ability to forward and share etc) it is not a good medium for building rapport and relationships as it is one-way and subject to misinterpretation. So Zoom/Teams is an excellent substitute for in person meetings.
However, the insights revealed in her book on Digital Body Language show ways in which typed digital communication could be improved.
Key telephone skills
The following were identified as key telephone skills although we didn’t cover all of them:
- Positive attitude and enthusiasm
- Clarity and diction
- Empathy and rapport (video on empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ))
- Non-Verbal Communication (video on NVC)
- Active listening (video on active listening)
- Politeness, respect, gratitude and appreciation
- Research and preparation
- Task and time management
- Persuasion (video on persuasion)
- Engagement and interactive skills
- Technical skills and knowledge
- Attention to detail
- Confidence (video on confidence)
- Curiosity (video on curiosity)
- Responsiveness and responsibility
Key points for delegates
Amongst the most interesting and valuable points from the session from the delegates’ perspective were:
- Relationship issues
- The importance of emotional as opposed to rational factors in decision-making
- The difference between face-to-face and other forms of communication
- The need to identify and adjust to different personality types (video on personality types)
- People are 34 times more likely to agree to a request face-to-face
- Managing inbound calls and enquiries
- Develop a formal enquiry management process and supporting systems
- Different ways to introduce yourself (SHREK and 3x3x3 matrix for introductions)
- Stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered that facts and figures
- We have two ears and one mouth – use in those proportions (ie listen more)
- Let people know you are listening by using audible paraphrases and sounds
- Take care with your choice of words (to convey positive messages)
- Delay the price conversation while you build rapport and learn about client needs
- Making outbound calls
- Targeting methods (Video on Rabbits, Deer and Elephants)
- Plan, prepare and rehearse calls
- How to structure calls
- Use Zoom/Teams more than telephone calls where possible
Thanks to the delegates for their enthusiastic participation and, as always, to Lauren Brown of MBL for her excellent technical co-hosting.
The next MBL Pick up the phone telephone skills course will run on 20th September 2022 Pick Up the Phone! Client Service & Sales Opportunities for Professionals in the Digital Age – Learn Live (mblseminars.com)
Related telephone skills posts
Telephone skills workshop – 11 key points (Kim Tasso)
Enquiry management: Converting more telephone enquiries (kimtasso.com)
better business relationships with telephones (kimtasso.com)
Sales and selling tips: 11 point plan for cold calling – Kim Tasso
Practical sales tips: Reach out and Follow up (kimtasso.com)
During the workshop there were a number of polls and break out sessions. Here are the results as promised to the delegates:
Is your background mostly:
- 11% Business development/selling
- 89% Delivering professional advice to clients (“fee-earner”)
Have you had sales training:
- 56% No and no experience
- 11% No but very experienced
- 22% Yes – informally
- 11% Yes – formally
Which sector do you represent?
- 90% Legal
- 10% Financial services
Which topic is of most interest to you today?
- 50% Building relationships on the telephone
- 40% Responding to telephone enquires (and conversion)
- 10% Using the telephone to reach people proactively (initiate sales relationships)
Building relationships on the telephone
How would you asses your emotional intelligence (EQ)?
- 20% High
- 50% Average
- 30% I have no idea!
Do you think your personality is mostly:
- 56% Dog
- 44% Cat
Responding to telephone enquiries (and conversion)
Are you clear on your message (value proposition) when taking and making calls?
- 10% – Yes – really clear
- 20% Yes – agreed before each call/campaign
- 60% – Sort of – I have an idea what I want to convey
- 10% No – I need to learn what the client needs first
How good is your technical “product” knowledge?
- 56% Good – I have training/experience
- 22% Average – Sometimes I struggle to understand what clients want and our relevant services
- 22% Poor – I am new in the role/there are many services
How well do you know stories that reflect different client challenges and how your firm has solved them?
- 11% I know a really good range of stories
- 56% I know a few stories (we have some case studies)
- 33% I don’t know any stories at all
Using the telephone to reach people proactively
Are your marketing systems integrated with your sales plans and activities?
- 60% Yes, sort of
- 40% No, they are separate
When making outbound calls – what information do you have?
- 33% From marketing – contact details only
- 56% From marketing – indication of their interest
- 44% From marketing – details of their online activity/enquiry
- 11% Information from our (CRM/sales) systems
- 22% Just a list of target names and contact details
- 11% Nothing
When making “cold” calls what is your primary goal?
- 10% Initiate a conversation
- 60% Find out more information
- 10% Get the client to agree to something
- 20% Qualify the prospect/lead
How much time do you spend preparing and researching before making a “cold” call?
- 10% About two hours
- 70% About 10-15 minutes
- 20% No time to prepare or research