By Kathy Sisk
As I mentioned in the last issue, approximately 60 percent of communication is lost over the telephone. Therefore, when selling over the phone, you need to use your voice to be communicative and persuasive. To do that, we’ve already covered the strategic pause and voice inflection. Here are three more techniques for more effective phone communication:
Volume: Volume is also an important consideration for increasing the effectiveness of your communication. Turn up the volume! This will project greater confidence in your voice, and your prospect will be able to hear this confidence. If you are soft-spoken, try to speak approximately 25 percent louder than you normally would. If you’re in a small or confined environment, don’t concern yourself about whether you’ll distract others by raising your voice. This is only a distraction if the conversation taking place has nothing to do with business. Small talk within a confined environment can be extremely distracting, since the other ear wants to listen in on the secondhand conversation rather than listening to the prospect. If you already have a strong voice projection, just use your natural volume.
Rate of Speech: Pacing will always play an important role in your presentation. By using variable speeds, you avoid the monotonous drone which so often typifies prospecting. When using a variable-speed approach, you verbally shift gears. You can speed up when you want to get quickly through a part of your sentence. You can also slow down when you want to gain your prospect’s full, focused attention (this is usually during a benefit statement or after a strategic pause). Try to indicate in your scripts where you would like to slow down. One way is to underline in your written scripts the phrases or sentences where you should slow down; you can highlight them in your electronic scripts. Remember, writing your scripts the way you want to deliver your message will help you to the read scripts without sounding canned. Use the following exercise to practice this variable-speed technique (remember that a strategic pause is indicated with (…pause) and inflection with italics:
“Information will be provided to compare (…pause) the existing programs you have in place. When you’re ready to upgrade, this will give you (…pause) peace of mind by having a better understanding of what you’re needs are. Additionally (…pause) this will benefit you by giving you increased confidence when making your final selection.”
Notice that the strategic pause, voice inflection, and now the variable speed for your pacing are used. Try the exercise again without the voice techniques you just learned and listen to the difference they make in your style of delivery. In order to master this example, keep practicing it until you feel comfortable with the way it sounds.
Pitch: Many people breathe incorrectly. The common exceptions are most athletes, singers, and actors (that is, those who have gone through professional training that teaches them to use their voice or breathing apparatus efficiently). The following example demonstrates this further.
Count to three and take a deep breath. Pretend you are about to dive into a swimming pool, and you are going to be underwater for a few minutes. Don’t worry, you won’t have to hold it for that long, but let’s just pretend for the sake of proving this point. Okay, begin – count one, two, three, and take a deep breath. Hold it. Now let it out. When you took that deep breath, what was moving? For many of you, it was your chest and shoulders. If that is what you did, then you’re breathing incorrectly.
Consider this: How does a baby breathe? When you see a baby lying on its back, what is moving? It’s their stomach. Somehow, when we grow up we use the upper part of our chest area to breathe as opposed to the part of our anatomy that we were born to breathe from – our diaphragm, the muscular partition between the chest and abdominal cavities. Now, try the same exercise, but this time use your diaphragm. For some of you, this will take some practice and concentration, especially if you have not used this muscle for quite some time. Just remember where your diaphragm is located and try expanding that muscle area outward as opposed to holding your stomach in.
What is the importance of this? Breathing from your diaphragm will help you to better control the variations in your pitch and will benefit your presentation. A deep, low voice can be a distraction, especially if your voice sounds “froggy.” A high-pitched voice can sound nasal, squeaky, or mousy. None of these enhance your prospecting efforts. It is desirable to control your pitch at or about a level that makes for easy listening. An appealing, pleasant voice can soothe and disarm and is a valuable tool for those who market over the telephone. An unattractive voice can be a detriment.
Practice different pitches and record your voice to get a better idea of how you sound. A good technique for this is to lie flat on your back, take a deep breath, and speak slowly from your diaphragm. Repeat the alphabet or make vowel sounds (A-E-I-O-U) while letting your breath out slowly. This will help you exercise your diaphragm and will aid in altering your pitch. This technique also increases your endurance and reduces your stress level and exhaustion at the end of each day. You will prospect longer with a strong and durable voice.
Next month, we will cover three final telephone communication skills: the smile, good listening, and making statements.
Kathy Sisk is president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.
[From Connection Magazine – April 2011]