10/24/2014 09:41 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Ways to Develop Excellent Phone Skills


"Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life." - Brian Tracy

Do phone skills sound like a thing of the past? Let's face it. We text, we tweet, and we instant message. We use Facebook messenger, FaceTime, and even Facebook posts to keep up with everyone in our lives. We Skype. While rotary phones are a thing of the past (remember those?), having excellent phone skills is an essential skill that will never be outdated. Anyone wanting to build relationships and succeed professionally needs to be eloquent on the phone. While in-person meetings are the top way to build relationships in business, the phone call takes a close second. Here are five ways to polish up on your phone skills.

1. Listen, really listen. When you are on a business call of any type, it will only be as effective as your ability to really focus and listen. Listening means you aren't doing anything else while you are on the call. A conversation should be a no multi-tasking zone. You can't effectively connect with someone else and respond to emails at the same time (or anything else). It's a tip for living mindfully, but it works for excellent phone skills too: Be where you are. Engage in conversation, invest in the other person and strive for deep listening--not only hearing the words exchanged but picking up the emotion and nuances too. Hear what isn't being said. Deep listening means you aren't spending your time listening thinking of what you are going to say next. Listening means you are letting the other person talk. I am always impressed when people remember details from our last conversation.

2. Consider how you come across. Make sure you don't yell or talk too loud on the phone. You also don't want to whisper or sound completely monotone either. (Monotone can come across as disinterest or sleepiness) Be who you are in person on the phone. Don't feel like you have to be slick or 100 percent polished. Just go for authentic and give yourself permission to let your personality show. Also, it's important to make sure the conversation is like a tennis match and each person gets an opportunity to serve, or to speak. Don't dominate by doing all the talking. Sometimes, if we are on a topic we are passionate about, it might be easy to get carried away holding court, but lean toward two-way conversation and not filibuster. Also, just as you do in your business, always think of how you can offer value to the other person. If keep the needs of the other person in your mind, you can't go wrong in how you come across on the phone.

3. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm conveys interest. And if people remember you as enthusiastic, they will likely want to talk with you again. Enthusiasm is the pathway to build and form lasting relationships. If you are upbeat and positive people will want to invest in a conversation with you.

4. Be cognizant and respectful of time and time zones. You don't want to be the person who gets the time zone wrong repeatedly and calls at the wrong time. You also don't want to be the person who ignores a scheduled call time, dialing in 15 minutes later when you finish a work project or an email. When you get a time zone wrong or you call when it's convenient for you, disregarding a scheduled call time, you are sending a giant message that you don't respect the other person's time. I am sure that's not the kind of message or impression you want to make. Be respectful of everyone's time and call when you say you are going to call and stay cognizant of the different time zones. When you are scheduling a call, be sure to do it with the other person's time zone in mind, as that's another way to show your respect. A final way to show respect for another's person time is to keep in mind how valuable each minute of the day is to you. While it's nice to chat and catch up, stay mindful of how busy everyone is and keep to a set call time or follow a call agenda to not stress anyone out with the never-ending phone call.

5. Think of what annoys you and do the opposite. Make a short little list of the top three things that annoy you about other people's phone skills (or lack thereof), and jot them down. Now start doing the opposite starting today.

In our techy text world, do you think people are losing their phone skills? I'd love to hear your thoughts.