Sunday, February 26, 2006

The book is done - Thanks to everyone - here's the first of several excerpts

I submitted my manuscript to the publisher last week and I just want to thank everyone for their contributions through this blog. I couldn't have done it without you.

Now we begin the promotional phase and what I'm thinking is that I'll post excerpts from the book each week (so you don't have to wait until it comes out in June). We still have to go through the editorial process and I don't know how much room there will be to make changes, additions, etc, but I do hope you will continue to comment on the ideas. You never know.

So here's the first excerpt from Chapter 6: Hang Up on Phone Fear:

There are certain phone calls that Brenda dreads making: calls to upper management about the status of a project (especially if it isn’t going well), calls to the media, sometimes even a call to a vendor. She finds herself staring at the phone with a pounding heart and a frozen brain. And even when she writes a script out in advance, she sometimes speaks too fast and forgets to make the most important point.

There is something about the phone that instills fear in many of us. Even those who have no trouble meeting strangers in person seem to have an abject fear of calling them on the phone. In the words of one very successful writer, “Give me strangers at a trade show any day; just don’t make me call them.”

One of the prevailing attitudes and excuses for giving in to “phone fear” is, “If they wanted to talk to me, they would call me.” Needless to say, that is not necessarily true. Plus, it’s a passive way to approach business, and life. Or

Or what about these:
· You don’t want to sound stupid.
· You don’t want to “bother” the other person.
· You don’t want to sound like a telemarketer.
· You don’t think they’ll take your call.

It’s true that when we sit face to face with another person, we rely heavily on their intonation and body language to understand their message. So when you’re on the phone, you are, in essence, blind because you don’t get any of those clues.

But if you think about it, approaching strangers in person should be more intimidating than calling them on the phone. You see, on the phone, if they’re not interested or can’t deal with whatever you’re calling about at that moment, they will likely tell you and you will both hang up and move on. It’s a much cleaner getaway than what would be required in person.

Still, phone fear persists, and is rampant.

When the phone is most appropriate
Some people have a straight preference for the phone; others for email. So if you know the person you’re calling, think first about what they prefer when deciding how to reach out. You can usually tell if you observe their own communication. If they prefer the phone, they’ll use it more often.

Next, think about the reason for your call. Some topics need to be handled in real-time – for some the phone is fine, for others a face-to-face meeting is required.

Make sure your decision isn’t based on a communication rut. In other words, don’t send email because that’s what you always do or because that’s the way you’ve communicated historically with this person and it works, so why do anything different? The topic may call for something different. That’s why it’s important to be awake to each situation.

Here are some guidelines for the phone is most appropriate:

· When you have something sensitive to say. You want the other person to hear the sound of your voice and you want to be able to hear the sound of theirs when they respond. Or if what you have to say could potentially be misinterpreted.

· When you just need a quick answer. Using the phone indicates urgency in many situations. It conveys the message, “I’m serious about this and would like to take care of it now.”

· When it takes longer to write. Don’t waste your time writing when it would be just as easy to pick up the phone and either tell the person or leave it as a voice mail message.

· When negotiation is required to find a time or a price. Rather than going back and forth endlessly, it often makes sense to simply pick up the phone.

Conversely, here are some situations when email or a written communication is most appropriate:

· To confirm a date, time, price or other specific that could be easily confused. It’s useful to have a paper trail and to put in writing what you understood, just in case you didn’t have the other person’s full attention or they made a mistake or understood something else. This happens often because of how quickly we are all moving from one thing to the next.

· When you’re communicating with someone new and aren’t familiar with their habits or don’t know how well they process information. Again, take a moment to reinforce or repeat what was said, for clarity’s sake.

· To prepare or ask for a real-time conversation. When the issue is complicated and it would be useful to give them a heads up so they can give a little thought and be prepared to talk on the phone or in person.

Be aware of cultural differences too. For example, the Japanese consider it impolite to make people speak to a machine so they don’t use voice mail for business. (Tip if you’re marketing to a Japanese company: don’t leave a voice mail message for a Japanese person you’re trying to reach.)

If you’re still not sure which is the most appropriate medium for communication, either ask directly or follow the other person’s lead. If they call you, call them back, unless they specifically say “email is fine.” If they email you, email them back, unless they say, “call me to discuss.”