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At Element 74, our lives revolve around digital communication, so it can be easy for us to fall into the trap of only communicating online.

We all know the common issues that surround this: things get lost easily, misinterpretations happen often, and important emails get buried under tacky email offerings.

In this fast-paced digital world, communicating with clients or colleagues through email and other online platforms can actually be less efficient than simply picking up the phone for a quick chat. It can be very easy to think of a phone call as a time consuming hassle, but instead think of it as an opportunity to improve a relationship!

So, here are 4 quick tips to having a successful phone call that puts your project back on track while improving your relationship at the same time.

1. How to Make a Strategic Phone Call

Phone calls are not predictable and it can be easy to steer off-topic when talking on the phone. This is why many people resort to email communication even though it can be slower and even delay progress.

To have more controlled conversations, make sure to schedule the call so that the other person will be as prepared as you are. Also, have an outline ready of what you hope to accomplish with the call. Listen and be flexible enough to deviate from this if necessary, but have a plan and list key points and questions you need answered. This could be very similar to the initial email you likely sent prior to the call.

If you veer too far off topic it will be easier to return by mentioning that you have a few more points you wanted to talk about and then proceed with your outline. You can even email the outline to the customer first so they can prepare on their end.

2. Avoid Being Defensive

Pretend to see yourself from above and realize when you are responding emotionally to what someone has said.  Try to focus more on listening and less on reacting, and remember to pause and take a deep breath if you feel an emotional reaction springing up.

If you’re working with someone on a long-term project, having at least weekly touch points will also make this easier. It helps build a relationship with the person and makes sure that surprises are handled timely enough that they don’t become problems.

It can be stressful to call a client you haven’t talked to in a while. You don’t want to have to have a conversation that starts with, “I know we haven’t talked in 3 months…”.

Having routine calls can help you avoid getting in this bind to start with.

3. If You Don’t Get a Response, Keep Trying

It can be easy to think: “Why try so hard to contact someone who won’t get back to me?”

Remind yourself that the goal is to complete the project, not just get the ball out of your court. Small delays really add up, starting from days, to weeks, to months. The worst part is it causes your workload to increase when you can’t clear your plate. Imagine each project as a physical item on your desk. What can you get done today?

4. Recap, Recap, Recap!

Take time to recap phone conversations to be sure all parties agree on the key points and have a mutual understanding of those points. It’s easy for people within a conversation to think that they agree, but then take away different understandings.

By sending a wrap up email, the customer can confirm or correct what they said (or meant to say). This can be achieved simply by adding notes to the original outline you created before the conversation and resending it via email after the call.

Everyone Benefits from Strategic Communication

Instead of playing phone tag or not getting tasks accomplished promptly through email, strategically plan out a phone call to a client. This will help your goals stay on track and strengthen the relationship you have with clients. It may take a little more effort on your part, but the payoff will be well worth it!

Chris Behnken

About the Author

Chris Behnken
From tractors to computers, Chris is a classic problem solver. His process is total immersion--getting involved to find the exact point of the issue and fix it from the inside out. The only thing he loves more than programming is his wife Jen.

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