Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Telephone Etiquette

Since the invention of the telephone it has served as an integral part of business. Today, with the advent of cell phones this is even more true than ever before. We are constantly on call and available twenty-four hours a day.

Deals are made and lost on the telephone. Job searches are conducted, interviewed and negotiated over the telephone. Real estate is bought and sold over the telephone. Millions of dollars are exchanged daily through transaction negotiated over the telephone. Often these opportunities are made or lost by the use of either simple telephone etiquette and/or courtesy.

Over the years I have seen a decline in basic telephone courtesy in all areas of use, especially in the business world. Here are a few tips to help improve your chances of a successful telephone deal.

Answering a Call

Have you ever called someone and the first words they answered with were, “Who’s this?” Or, have you had someone call you and before you could say anything, they asked, “Who’s this?” How did you feel when this happened? Did you want to continue with the call?

There are two basic rules to answering the telephone.

1. Identify yourself.

2. Identify what company you are with (If this is a company phone).

If you are at work, in an office, this is very easy to remember. Most companies have a standard script they want you to follow when answering the telephone. If not, you need to develop your own script.

The problem usually occurs when you are answering a cell phone. Most people forget that if this is a business phone you should treat it as such and identify yourself and your company name. If you are self-employed your cell phone is your business lifeline and should be treated like any other professional office telephone.

Placing a Call

If you are placing a call the same two rules apply. After the other party has answered the telephone and identified themselves you should acknowledge them and then immediately identify yourself with your full name and your company (if you are making a company call). Don’t assume the other party will recognize your voice and don’t make them ask you who you are.

Leaving a Message on an Answering Machine

If you have to leave a message on an answering machine it is important to speak slowly, clearly and concisely. With the poor reception that often occurs with cell phones this can be a critical factor in whether your message is received or not.

Identify who the message is for at the beginning of the message. Then identify who you are, full name, the company you represent, if applicable, and your telephone number. Leave a simple message which covers the subject of the call but don’t embellish and ramble, as this may make the message confusing. At the end of your message repeat your name, company and your telephone number.

The Most Important Telephone Tip of All

The most important tip of telephone etiquette is to SMILE when you talk on the telephone. Yes, smile because it transmits through the telephone lines and airwaves to the other party. A simple smile will be reflected in your voice and your attitude while talking.

Your attitude can make or break a deal while talking on the telephone. If you are courteous and polite you will get more results. Often in the business world in order to get to the right decision makers you have to get past the gatekeepers, which are the receptionist, the assistants and the secretaries. By simply being polite and courteous you have a better chance of reaching the people you need to talk to in order to make a deal happen.

Today’s business environment revolves around telephones and especially cell phones. In our fast-pace world decisions are no longer just made in the Boardroom. They are made on the go, while on vacation, when at home, and anywhere else where you find yourself with a cell phone.

Courtesy and telephone etiquette are more important than ever before in helping insure you receive your portion of today’s business successes. Be polite and courteous whenever you are using a telephone.

Most importantly, remember to smile when talking on the telephone.


  1. Hello. Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. When I popped over here and saw the topic, I was captured. We went into business about three years ago and I am appalled at the business manners and etiquette that I do not find. It's a long conversation. Thanks for this wonderful post. Donna

    (I think I may be blogging on this subject soon.)

  2. YES! (to all your points, Larry)

    I especially like the suggestion to 'smile when you talk on the telephone'.

    I'm really uncomfortable speaking on the phone with people I don't know. I've realized I use body-language for cues on how to respond to a conversation and the telephone just isn't good for that. However, I CAN hear a smile in someone's voice!

    Thanks for the post!