Speaking With Conviction…Over the Phone

I have been working with a recent college graduate who is seeking an entry level job in sales and he is finding that many of the positions available are cold calling, telemarketing positions. While I am not certain that sitting behind a desk, on the phone for 80-100 calls a day, is the best fit for this young man, his job search got me thinking… What does it take to properly convey your message and deliver a captivating presentation over the phone?

Even if you’re not a telemarketer, you’re likely giving phone presentations every day. Think about it…we live in a world saturated with technology. Tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Telepresence are common in business, and you probably use them often. Yet, how much thought have you given to using these presentation options effectively?

When you’re using any one of these tools, you are essentially giving a presentation over the phone. You have to deliver your ideas without the benefits of a face-to-face meeting, or you have to speak to an image on a computer screen. When you’re faced with these situations, how can you use your public speaking skills and prevent your message from going down in flames?

Here are a few things to remember when trying to be persuasive over the phone or when videoconferencing:

Vary your vocal emphasis and inflection.

You’re on a conference call and your presentation is on the computer screen via GoToMeeting. You are talking about profit and loss margins, ROI, and, synergy. You’re using as much business jargon as you can to impress your clients. However, you forgot one thing: your shining personality!

Too many speakers deliver bland presentations in live settings, let alone over a conference call. To be compelling and interesting when you’re not physically there, you need to vary your vocal delivery. Using emphasis and inflection on key words helps your audience stay engaged.

Don’t let yourself drone on in order to get through your meeting. Rather, give your audience the opportunity to glean extra meaning from your words with some variety in your intonation and some diversity in the range of your voice.

Pay attention to your clarity and speed.

When speaking to a group in a live public speaking situation you always want to articulate clearly and talk slowly. When speaking to a group over the phone or via your computer, you need to pay extra attention to these points.

I cannot stress this enough. Producing a clear voice and a clean sound from a computer microphone or a speakerphone is difficult. Words will inevitably be lost due to static and choppy internet connections. So open your mouth, raise your volume, enunciate clearly and slow down.

When you speak slowly and articulate clearly, you enable your audience to catch every word, even if there is static or connection choppiness, so they don’t lose the entire meaning of your content. Give your listeners the chance to keep up and they will give you their full attention.

Smile and enjoy yourself!

While your audience may not be able to see you, they certainly know when you are smiling. Whenever you deliver an exciting and emotional presentation, whether in person or over the phone, feel it! Show your emotions through your facial and physical gestures; your audience on the other end of the line will absolutely be able to follow along.   

When you are excited and smiling, your voice naturally changes pitch. It is just as easy to recognize those speakers who enjoy themselves over the phone as it is to recognize those who simply run through the motions. Therefore, enjoy yourself and let your colors shine through. Your virtual audience will thank you for it with their rapt attention.

When you follow these three tips, you’ll be able to give virtual and phone presentations that engage both the hearts and minds of your listeners….and that inspire them to action.

How to Torture a Telemarketer

Listening to my husband on the phone with a telemarketer is like watching a cat play with a mouse. You know the outcome is inevitable, and you can clearly see the mouse dangling limp in the mouth of the satisfied cat. But the process—the swatting back and forth, the jabs, the pokes, the pins to the ground and the final capture—is yet to come. The cat could just pounced on the mouse and kill it in one swift blow. But no. The cat likes to show off, to have fun, to prey. In the same way, when a telemarketer calls, you could act swiftly by closing down the call with such statements as, “It’s not a good time,” “We’re in the middle of dinner,” or “I’m not interested in what you are selling.” Or you could just hang up. In fact, many people do just that when they are irritated by disruptive telemarketers who always manage to call at the most inopportune time. But not my husband. He doesn’t hang up. He is more like the cat. Just as many people enjoy cocktail hour before dinner, we enjoy our little ritual called Torture the Telemarketer.

I can always tell when there’s a telemarketer on the line, as my husband holds the phone in a sort of dangling way and listens intently to the pitch. And while he listens with such interest, they think they have the sale. But this is really just the first swat.

Then he repeats back what he has heard the telemarketer say, but in two seconds rather than a minute, and it sounds something like this, “So, if I understand you correctly, you want me to re-sign up for a service I’ve been extremely dissatisfied with for the last two years. Is that correct?” Dead silence on the other end of the phone. The jab.\

“And because you’re making a ‘special offer’ I should be pleased? Is that right?” I can hear the discomfort across the room and the caller scramble to recover. Does the telemarketer want to continue the call or hang up? Though their instinct may be shouting, “danger” they are well trained and plunge forward on automatic pilot. The poke.

Then my husband delivers the final tortured tutorial.

“Did you ever think of asking me if this was a good time for this call? Did you think of asking for permission to have this conversation? Do you have any idea of what is important to me? Do you know what I want?” The pin to the ground.

Then…the final capture:

“Let me take down your phone number so I can give you a call at home during your dinner and ask you a series of meaningless questions and talk to you at a speed you can hardly understand and try to sell you something you don’t want. What do you think about that? Now, would you like to start over or should we end this call now?”

The telemarketer’s response is always the same: “Have a good evening sir.” Click

And my husband is the only person on the planet who is actually offended when the telemarketer hangs up on him!

While you may think there’s nothing you can learn from a telemarketer, the fact is that they are giving a presentation via phone. So here is some advice for telemarketers (and everyone else for that matter):

  • Before giving your pitch, ask permission. A simple, “Is this a good time to talk?” is courteous way to begin.
  • Ask a few meaningful questions to uncover the customer’s needs and listen carefully to their responses.
  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves, as any selling situation can be stressful.
  • Speak slowly and if reading a script practice until it sounds natural.
  • Take “no” gracefully. Don’t be pushy and keep trying to sell, sell, sell once the person has given you a clear answer.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Although people may be annoyed to get a sales pitch when they didn’t initiate one, in the end they are rejecting your product or service, not you as a person.

Above all else, don’t call our house during dinner…unless, of course, you want to end up like the poor mouse dangling from the mouth of the hungry cat. Meow!