How to make better phone calls

You can’t always rely on the information superhighway to get answers to your questions.  If you can't find an answer online or an email address to use, you might have to go old school and use the phone to call someone you don’t know to get the information you need.  Email and texting have killed this skill for many of the high school students I meet.  So here's a quick course for teens on how to make better phone calls:   

1. Before you dial, get prepared. 

Some people dial a phone number before they’ve even considered why they’re doing so.  So take a minute and consider why you’re calling.  What are you hoping to learn?  What question do you want to ask?  What’s the best way to ask it?  There’s no need to rehearse this like a script.  But a little pre-call preparation goes a long way.

Also, get a pad of paper and a pen so you can write down whatever information this person shares with you.  Writing it down is more polite than clacking away at a keyboard (which the person will be able to hear you doing in the background).

2. Say hello and introduce yourself.

No need to list your entire biography.  A simple,  “Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m a junior at Central High School” is just fine.

For extra credit, write down the person’s name if he or she reveals it when answering the phone.  That way, you can use it to say thank you at the end of the call.

3. Clearly and succinctly explain why you’re calling.

“I was wondering if you were hiring for any part-time positions?”

“I was hoping to take your video editing class this summer, but I don't see it listed on the schedule.  Do you know when the course will be offered?”

4. Consider your potential next steps.

Think through the possible answers you could get to your inquiry, and consider what you’d like to do next in each of those scenarios.  What action will you want to take if this person shares the information you were hoping to find?  If this person can’t help you, would you like to ask advice about who might be able to?

Let’s say you find out the class you’re calling about will be offered this summer.  Will you want to ask how to register?  If the course won’t be offered, do you want to ask when it will be, or where else you might be able to take it? 

Considering these questions ahead of time will help you make the most of the call.

5. Thank the person and sign off politely.

You don’t want to just say, “OK, bye” to end the call.  Instead, thank the person for the help.  If he or she was particularly helpful, acknowledge it.

“Wow—you made this really easy.  Thank you so much for helping me.” 

People who take time to help you deserve your thanks.  But there’s a strategy at work here, too.  Use the phone call to make a great impression, not just to get the information you need.  You never know.  You might leave a lasting impression that comes back to help you in some way.   

Bonus tip:  If you get a voicemail, do steps 1, 2 and 3 briefly (15-20 seconds if you can), leave your name and number while speaking slowly and clearly, then sign off with #5.