Don’t Forget the Phone

Have you talked to anyone under the age of 21 on a telephone lately?

Well, first of all….you probably haven’t. And it may not be for lack of trying—those who have lived the bulk of their lives in the 21st century just aren’t accustomed to it, and rarely answer calls.

And if you HAVE, you may have found the experience….lacking.

Like with lots of long pauses, and when the pause ends, talking over each other.  Or forgetting to speak in the direction of the phone…..believe it or not, that’s for real. And my favorite, your call-mate is checking their phone for other messages while listening to you chat through the speaker.

Now all this is not because today’s young people aren’t as bright and accommodating as their generational ancestors, but they are simply used to communicating in different ways. And that underscores a very important consideration when hiring from this generational pool: you can’t assume that post-millennials who’ve grown up in the age of Snapchat know how to talk on a phone.

And for a lot of companies, that’s just fine; many industries rely on telephone communication far less than they did even half a decade ago.

But in the field of SALES, the phone remains an extremely effective tool, and smart organizations have worked diligently to continue, and optimize, its use.

All contemporary modes of communication have their best and appropriate situational uses: email, texting, paper, face-to-face, and voice. But there’s little doubt that there are many communication tasks best suited to personal contact, and while an in-person visit may be the most desirable, it simply isn’t always feasible. Phone calls come next.

After all, the function of sales boils down to facilitating the purchase of your goods or services by individuals who may or may not be seeking to acquire them. As such, it is ultimately an inter-personal process. And as in all such processes, a little training can go a long way.

You’ve got the mechanics of voice modulation, and reading the responses (or lack thereof) of your conversational partner. There are timing issues (like how to deal with those awkward silences), as well as overcoming the limitations of bad technology.  And knowing when to shift to the next medium. (“This is a lot of information, can I email it to you?”)

Some of us grow up to be natural talkers, and can navigate these waters effortlessly. But my key point today is that there are far FEWER natural talkers than ever before, and smart organizations know not to assume everyone can use a phone effectively….and consequently make sure those who DO get hired into positions in which telephone communication can be a helpful tool get the advanced training they need.

Because any and all reports of the demise of the business phone call are greatly exaggerated. And phone skills, whether natural or learned, are still a prized commodity.

I hope you can you hear me OK…because I’ve got one more thing to add: