Every so often I am reminded of my days in “Corporate America” when I was asked to lead a conference call or participate in one. I usually had a dual thought… “ugh AND I can get work done at the same time”. I think I am not alone in that sentiment. I used to know someone who had some big fancy job at a software company and she felt it was her duty to run from city to city to have conference calls with people in other cities –as if somehow being in another city made her feel like she was being more productive. I would have loved to see the look on the CFO’s face as her expense reports came in! A close friend of mine works from home and has multiple conference calls a day which just sounds exhausting. Another collage uses his conference calls as an excuse to use the speaker button and YELL INTO THE PHONE. The point is that this method of communicating and selling has become commonplace and isn’t going anywhere soon.
To that end I was asked recently to create a workshop and webinar around conference calling etiquette and it was actually fun to do. I thought about what makes a conference call productive and how we use them as one way to sell – to each other and to our prospects and clients. Accordingly, I have grouped conference call behaviors into three categories all anchored around the key concept that we are all in sales. These best practices are the same whether it’s an internal or external conference call. Listen, I don’t think there is anything new and earth shattering here, but I hope you enjoy it just the same
First and foremost – everyone on the call matters and each professional on the call are all a part of your Virtual Sales Team
Now, the three categories are Prepare, Presence and Perform!
- Every call must keep the customer or prospect in focus FIRST
- Different products and product maturity impacts the conference call.
- “Individual efficiency impacts the group’s efficiency”. We are a part of an entire effort.
- Practice INclusiveness not Exclusiveness when inviting. Balance numbers with value!
- When you invite people YOU are responsible for educating them as to why they were invited and what you want to achieve
- Invite people because you know what they do and how they do it. Tell them why they were invited and what you plan to achieve with their help and support
- Send out an agenda, the not slides ahead of time with an explanation of the reason for the call- from the client perspective what is to be accomplished and in what time frame.
- If you do not know why someone is on the call, then likely they don’t either and this slows down your call progress and the sales campaign
- If you are invited to a call, take that as a sign of good faith and trust
- Be open to someone asking to be on the call – use this as an opportunity to start, build, deepen or reestablish a relationship
- The presence that you present becomes other people reality. There is a difference between being there and being present
- Call Leadership is Your Opportunity to Lead
- The image you demonstrate to each other is a microcosm of what you could be showing your clients
- Reminder…..practice INclusiveness not EXclusiveness
- Don’t speak just to be heard. If you have nothing to say then listen closely. Silence does not equal disengagement
- Start and end on time. The leader needs to be first online and the last off.
- Open with WHY the call is happening and review the reason for the call ( and agenda) from the client perspective – and what will be accomplished and in what time frame
- Ensure you acknowledge and welcome each person
- Ensure you call on people when there area of expertise is being discussed
- Try to use a landline phone (“a what?”) if possible. This minimizes noises and weird sounds (understanding that landlines are not always feasible).
- Manage the mute button. Listen and when you are called make sure you are actually close to the button and you can hit that button! We hear more than you think!
- Practice “Self Awareness” and manage (your) extraneous noises.
- When moving from topic to topic acknowledge its end, required actions and move on
- Manage the pause and silence! When you are quiet other people do the same and you have control. Talking over people encourages others to do the same.
- End with a call to action and individual commitments. If you miss this final point, then I am afraid your time and call has been wasted
I know this may seem like a lot of things to remember, but it really isn’t. It’s really just common sense and behaving proactively. Being mindful of these three (four) areas and conducting conference calls with my principles of sales culture in mind will bring about more success and more sales with your conference calls.