Of all the tools for networking, your telephone is the one you'll use most often. The telephone call is fast, direct, personal and inexpensive. For all of its advantages, however, telephone communications are not without problems.
It is estimated that the average business executive wastes five to seven hours each week playing "phone tag" (not being able to complete calls), taking calls that should have been screened and being involved in unnecessarily long calls. Phone companies' estimates that for every thirty calls you make, fewer than eight are completed on the first try. Knowing both the advantages and disadvantages of telephone communications gives networkers the opportunity to maximize the use of the telephone in their networking endeavors.
Getting Started In Tele-Networking
Before you pick up the phone to make your first telenet-working call, there is some homework to be done. Being prepared to make effective calls plays an important role in the success of the calls you make. Let's look together at some of the preliminary steps to tele-networking.
The Telephone Workstation
The place where you use your telephone, whether at home or at the office or both, should be set up to make the most efficient use of your time. You don't want to be the one to waste five to seven hours a week on your phone.
First, make sure you will be comfortable. Sit in a good chair have and your telephone within easy reach. However, if the call is going to be long or if you are going to make many calls it would be better and more convenient to use your cell phones. This will give you the latitude to move around and get files or other material without having to put the phone down and interrupt the conversation.
At your tele-networking station, which in all probability be your desk be sure to have plenty of pencils, pens, paper and telephone answering slips readily available.
Now you may be saying to yourselves, "Hey this is elementary, who needs to be told?" But how many times have you heard someone say, 'Just a minute...let me find a piece of pa per." You'll also save time if you have all of your reference materials, including phone directories, within easy reach. We're probably all guilty, at one time or another, of not being pre pared.
Preparing For Your Outgoing Calls
Before you start dialing you should prepare for your outgoing calls. Know what you are going to talk about, know what you are going to say and know what results you expect from the call. Do your research before the call. Look up and have handy any background information you may need. It sometimes helps, particularly if your conversation will be lengthy and detailed, to have a short written outline of the points you want to cover.
Take a few minutes to think through what you are going to say. Establish a mental picture of the person you'll be speaking with. Some communications experts suggest that you look at yourself in the mirror. This will give you some idea of what the other person is going to visualize when you call. Do you have a happy face? Do you reflect a happy face - the face of someone who is going to sound friendly on the phone?
Managing Your Outgoing Calls
The beginning of your networking calls will be the process of getting through to the right people. With most calls this shouldn't be a problem. With some calls, however, you'll have to be pleasantly persistent, asking questions until you get the person you want.
When introducing yourself, enunciate clearly, spelling your name if there is any possibility of confusion. We recommend introducing yourself first and then asking for the party you want to reach.
Keep a smile in your voice. Try to convince the person called, with your personality and attitude that you want to be friendly. The chances are that the listener will similarly respond. Outline in more detail who you are and what you want. Don't be afraid to use someone as a reference if it might help you to get through to a hard-to-reach person.
Keep your business networking conversations brief. Many phone conversations are much longer than necessary because of wasted words and thoughts. The recipient of your call probably has a limited interest span that you won't want to exceed.
Control the conversation. Be confident. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid of possible rejection. Convince yourself that if this phone call doesn't work, the next one will.
Managing Your Incoming Calls
Since networking is two-way communication, the incoming call is just as important as the outgoing call. Your phone answering voice should have the same smile and radiate the same enthusiasm as your calling voice. You should project an image of appreciation of the call and interest in the caller. Just as you were ready to take notes during your outgoing calls, you should be equally prepared for note taking during incoming calls. If you are not sure of the correct spelling of names, don't guess, ask the caller to spell them out. Don't rely on your memory for details - write them down.
Follow-Up And Follow-Through
One of the most important elements of tele-networking is doing what you promised to do...and doing it promptly. If you promise to call back at a certain time, don't put it off, keep your promise. If you promise to send something, send it promptly.
Follow up on your networking calls. It may be helpful to make a record in your databank as a memory jogger to show when you last talked to someone. A sales axiom suggests that the best potential for new sales is from existing or old customers. The same holds true for networking. Keep your network active and your network will keep you active.
For tele-networking, a home answering machine is a must. It is your twenty-four hour secretary. To make it work effectively you have to start with a good receiving message that's readily understandable, and you have to give the caller ample time to leave an adequate message.
Next, and of utmost importance, is your follow-through. Be sure to respond to your messages in a timely manner. If it's used correctly, you should experience little resistance to your answering machine.
Even in the business or professional office the answering machine is becoming more accepted. True, nothing beats being connected to a live voice, but there are occasions when the answering machine is better than nothing. Typically, we use an answering machine when we close the office for any reason during work hours. It works wonderfully well for those calls that come in after hours or before opening in the morning.
Your Fax Machine
Your fax offers the best features of both your telephone and a letter. It's quick, inexpensive and allows you to document information in a printed form. Many of the newer models have other helpful features such as automatic dialing, automatic recall for busy numbers and a built-in answering machine. We highly recommend fax equipment for all serious networkers.
Voice mail is a form of computer equipment with the ability to receive and store phone messages for many individuals. The effect is that of having a whole series of answering machines for everyone in a company. More and more businesses are going to voice mail to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Sometimes it's difficult to get used to talking to a voice mail machine, but like the answering machine, you'll soon come to appreciate the voice mailbox when it is properly used.
Your personal computer and laptops has many capabilities related to tele-networking. With reasonably inexpensive software and a modem, you can maintain your databank, automatically dial anybody in it, have an answering function, have a message leaving function and a memory jogger for call backs.
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