Surviving client calls: Tips for the phone-phobic

Nov 30, 2015

I hate the phone.

The ring alone is enough to make me jump. The green dot that indicates a waiting voicemail? Torture.

And unidentified callers? Forget it, you have a better chance of randomly reaching me by smoke signal.

The Internet is fond of bemoaning the lost art of making a call, but text messaging is the best thing that ever happened to phone-phobes like me. Finally, a controllable, convenient way to reach out to others – without ever having to dial.

You can imagine, then, how I feel about client phone calls.

Email and in-person meetings can serve their function, but the day will inevitably come when you will have to answer that dreaded ring.

Fortunately, there are a few tips that can make client phone calls bearable, productive, or even… enjoyable?

Yes, even for you, fellow phone-phobe! If these steps work for me, trust me – they will work for you.

1. Have your own goals

I think that many of us dislike phone conversations because they’re unstructured.

Unlike emails and text messages, phone calls can’t consist of carefully crafted sentences. This leads many of us to anticipate conversations that wander into pointless tangents, go way off-base, or peter out into awkward silences.

Solve this dilemma by having independent goals for calls. Don’t rely on clients to steer the conversation!

Building in your own objectives helps to create the give-and-take of in-person conversations. Create your own structure. It’ll reduce any awkward pauses, and help you to feel in control.

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2. Have information at hand

Having pertinent materials at hand helps structure conversations and makes you feel prepared – which considerably reduces anxiety.

Nothing feels worse than “um”ing and “uh”ing a client for an interminable length of time while you frantically search for papers (hint: your cat is sitting on them, and enjoying your pain).

Before you call a client, take a few minutes to pull together relevant materials.

Take some notes; it’s always good to have a few facts and figures on-hand. Even if you never use them, you’ll have them as a touchstone to return to.

3. Remember – you’re invisible

Phone calls may be onerous ordeals. However, they can be onerous ordeals endured in one’s pajamas.

Client calls can be irritating... but they have their benefits! Try not to dwell exclusively on the negative.

When we get caught up in dreading client calls (and really, the dread is the worst part), we tend to forget that the phone renders one ENTIRELY INVISIBLE.

One may clean while taking a client call, or surf the Internet. One may scramble for relevant documents while maintaining a perfectly calm, collected tone of voice.

One may, in fact, engage in rude hand gestures. Nobody can seeee youuuuuuu!

Even the best client calls may have their share of awkward silences and stilted conversations – but the truth is, phone-phobia makes perfectly normal pauses and hitches seem outsized.

Prepare for a call, have some objectives in mind, and luxuriate in your privacy: you may just find yourself leaping eagerly for the phone.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.