Telephone time management is important because the phone is still the primary communication tool for most small businesses. But much of the time that businesses spend using the phone is a waste of time. Instead of communicating with the people we want to communicate with when making outgoing calls, we fritter away time talking to other people or machines, playing endless rounds of phone tag.
But what if we could just call and talk to the people we wanted to talk to, say what we wanted to say and move on? Imagine how much more productive we could be and how much time we'd have to do other things.
Well, we can - and all it takes is a little bit of preparation beforehand.
Keep Your Contact Information Updated
Whether they're suppliers, regular clients, or contractors, many of us call the same people repeatedly. Keep your contact information updated with time-saving details so you don't waste time trying to reach people who aren't available.
For instance, if you know that a particular person you want to reach takes lunch from 1 to 2 p.m. each day, why waste my time trying to call her during this time?
Program Numbers You Call Frequently
Program the Numbers for Those You Call Regularly Into Your Telephone to save time looking them up.
Plan Your Outgoing Calls
Before you call, jot down the main goal of the call and the key points you want to cover. This will help you stick to the point when you're on the phone and ensure that you cover everything you want to cover, saving time during the call and avoiding having to call again because you forgot something.
Keep the Contact's Information in Front of You
If you're calling someone who is entered into your contacts database, have all the information about the person you're calling in front of you when you call. Whether you're using a desktop computer, a mobile device or a Rolodex, this is a great memory aid during the call. Plus, if you're not having to look up something such as the name of the client's husband, you'll have the option of making notes during the call, saving even more time.
Use a Speakerphone or Headset
Of course, if you want to take notes during a call (or do anything else while you're speaking on the phone), a good speakerphone or headset is essential. Freeing your hands can free up a lot of time.
Leave a Detailed Message
If you do reach someone's answering machine or voice mail, leave a complete message that gives your telephone number twice and states the reason you're calling. For example, "This is Susan Ward at (phone number). I'm calling to discuss the estimate for your project. You can reach me at (phone number) this afternoon."
Stating your number twice gives the recipient of the message a much better chance of getting it right and getting it written down without replaying the message.
Don't Give in to Telephone Compulsion
When you're trying to reach someone and you haven't, it's tempting to call back - perhaps every half hour! But if you've let a proper message, there's no need to waste your time leaving repeated messages (and filling up the person's answering machine or voice mail). Give the person you're calling a reasonable amount of time to call back, such as until the next business day.
Block out Time for Phone Calls
Schedule your telephone calls and make them all together in a single block of time, if possible. Most of us aren't that good at multitasking and lose a great deal of productivity when we're flipping back and forth from one task to another. So if you have a dozen calls to make on a particular day, it's more efficient to make them all in one hour than to make one or two, and then make another three calls an hour later, and another two 45 minutes after that.
Book Your Outgoing Telephone Calls, If Possible
If it's not going to be a quick call, when you first call someone, introduce yourself, tell her why you're calling, and then ask her if it's a convenient time to talk or if she would prefer to book a time to discuss it. Then arrange that you will call her at that time. This can not only save you time on the spot but save time when you call the person back because you'll both be prepared to discuss the issue you originally called about.
Make Your Outgoing Telephone Calls in "Prime Time"
Research has shown that more people are in their offices early in the morning and can be reached between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.