Two quick steps to make clients love your phone skills

Have you ever had this conversation?

Client: Do you remember what we decided to do for this?

You: We made this decision on the phone a month ago, but now I don't remember.

What follows is a rehash of the same conversation you already had, but possibly without the same information you had the frist time around. It's been so long, the details leading to the decision are no longer fresh in mind.

Or maybe you have had this happen:

You spent time on the phone consulting with your client, came up with a great solution, then nothing happened after you hung up.

You both agreed it was a great idea and you both had intentions of making it happen, but it just ended up forgotten after a day or two of "business as usual".

Phone calls can be very useful.

If used correctly, they can save you a lot of back-and-forth time on an unnecessary email chain. It's helpful to have realtime communication where you can get instant feedback on what you are saying. You will often uncover details that never would have come out via email.

So how do you turn a good phone call into a productive one?

The biggest failure of a phone call is that it's ethereal. Once the phone call is over, nothing exists except what the callers have inside their heads. All it takes is a single distraction and you just move on to the next task and quickly forget about what was discussed or decided.

You need a way to make the phone call "real". You need something physical to look back on after it's over.

The best way I have found requires two simple steps, and it takes less than 5 extra minutes to do it.

Take good notes

First, take notes about what you are discussing on the phone. In your notes, put a star next to the following:

  • Decisions made on the call.
  • Unanswered questions and who can best answer them.
  • Action items or next steps and who should carry them out.
  • Deadlines for when tasks should be finished

You don't have to keep detailed notes about everything that was said, but these four are important.

If you get behind while you are taking notes, just ask the speaker to pause and let you catch up. No client has ever complained about pausing to take detailed notes on a call.

Keeping up is easier if you take less detailed notes during the call and flesh them out after you hang up.

When the call is wrapping up, quickly look through your list and find any items that are unresolved or incomplete. You don't necessarily need answers to all questions, but for anything that is still open, you want to have a next step for it.

Send the notes to the group

Second, after you hang up, flesh out your notes and organize them into the four sections mentioned above. Make sure to list everything in the action items section, along with who is responsible for them.

For example, if you have an unanswered question and Kate is the best person to ask, include the question in the action items section with Kate's name next to it.

Here's an example of what your notes should look like:

Decisions: We are going to remove the large logo from the homepage The sign-up form will only have name, email address, and password

Unanswered Questions: Should we automatically sign new users up for the newsletter or allow an opt-in?

Action Items: We need to switch the password hash to use bcrypt. -Angie Should we automatically sign new users up for the newsletter or allow an opt-in? -Kate

Deadlines: password needs to be using bcrypt by Friday the 11th

Now you just take this follow up list and send it to everyone on the call and everyone who has a follow-up item.

Set yourself a reminder to follow up again right before the deadlines occur.

Your clients will love you

Your clients will love this, because you are making the phone calls much more productive.

You are creating a record of the call that can easily be passed around and referenced in the future. If Kate wasn't the best person to answer the newsletter question, she can just forward the email to the right person.

You are making it much more likely that the value generated from the call is actually realized for your client. People are much more likely to do an action item if it is in a list sent to their peers. You also make it easy to follow up when you near the deadline.

Best of all, you are taking work off your clients' busy schedules so they have more time to do more important things.

Since this only takes a few extra minutes of your time, it has a great ROI.