What do you say on your first phone call?

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How to lead a business conversation when talking on the phone

September 18, 2018December 10, 2021 (Updated)
Candice Benjamine
Article by: Candice Benjamine
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Today, a lot of people prefer emails and text messages to phone calls for work-related communication. Why? Making business calls can feel a bit nerve-wracking.

According to Darlene Price, the president of Well Said, Inc. and author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, the fear of talking on the phone and doubt of what to say and how to say it stop many potential callers from dialing numbers.

Unlike emailing and messaging, where you can edit your words at any moment, using a phone for business communication is a real-time experience. The first 20 seconds of your call can be the key to success. Using only the combination of your words and voice tone, you can make or break your chances of getting the desired outcome of this interaction.

While it may be more convenient to contact someone via digital technologies, the phone is still a more personal way of carrying on a business conversation. Nothing can replace the sound of a human voice. Outside the realm of texting and emails, many job interviews and business meetings are still conducted entirely by phone. Thats why its important to know how to speak with impact using this method of communication.

To help you make your business calls as effective as possible, we created a list of basic steps and phone etiquette tips. Check out our helpful guide.

See also: our article on the 6 best business English courses for 2020.

How to talk professionally: basic tips

talk professionally on the phone

Prepare for a call

What is the first thing you should do before making a business phone call? Take a moment to prepare. Here are some steps to do this effectively:

  • Identify the reason you are calling. Knowing the purpose of your business phone call will prevent you from being nervous about speaking with someone you barely know. Do you want to sell something, ask for help or get some information? Think for a minute about the goal you want to achieve with this call.
  • Write down the key points you need to cover. To keep your call on track, prepare some notes about things you want to discuss during the conversation as well as any questions you need to ask. A couple of bullet points can also help you feel more confident and maintain control of the conversation.
  • Prepare the required supporting information. Be close to a device with the internet so that you can search for any extra data quickly.

Introduce yourself

When making outbound calls, say Hello and introduce yourself to the person on the other end of the line. To follow professional phone etiquette, start with your first name as well as your last name, title or companys name if required. For example:

Hello. My name is Brian, and Im calling from [Companys name].

It is polite to start a conversation with small talk, especially if you know the person well. But dont be too chatty. Remember that you have limited time on the call, so stay focused on the specific purpose of the conversation and get right to the point. If you dont know the person, exchange pleasantries like a brief How are you today? or I hope youre doing well today.

Find the best greetings for formal conversations in our latest article 22 Useful English Greetings for Every Day.

State the main reason for your call

After the professional phone greeting, state the purpose of your call politely and directly. For instance:

I received your email yesterday, so Im calling to follow up.

Im calling from [Companys name]. Id like to speak with you about your recent purchase.

Explaining the reason for your call provides focus and direction to the conversation. Besides, this will help you keep the persons attention and show that youre prepared for the talk. Keep a steady pace and speak without a lot of pauses and filler words such as um and uh.

Listen actively without interrupting

While you may strive to achieve the main purpose of your business call, make sure that you carry on a two-way conversation rather than a monologue. Give the person you are talking to time to respond and ask any questions they may have. Listen attentively and use verbal nods like Uh huh, Sounds interesting, Good, Yes, I understand, Thats right, I see, Could you please tell me more about, etc.

Practice your business phone etiquette

It is so easy to get worried when you have to make an important call. But if you allow anxiety to overtake your emotions, you wont succeed in business communication. First of all, make sure to stay calm and speak clearly. Choose your words carefully avoiding slang and jargon. For more on this, check out our article on how to master business English for managers.

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To speak on the phone in a professional business manner, pay particular attention to your tone of voice. Speak in a normal tone or a bit higher keeping it natural, positive, and inviting. Try to pronounce words clearly and minimize your accent.

If you need to put the person on hold, ask them for permission to do that and explain the reason why. You can say something like:

[Name], is it okay if I put you on hold for a few seconds while I check with [Name] about this issue?

To follow phone etiquette at work, never leave someone on hold for more than 30 seconds and always check back in after 15 seconds. When you finally get back to the call, thank the other person for waiting. If it is going to be a long hold, make it clear to them that you dont want to waste their time on hold and promise to call them back. If you have to put someone on speakerphone, let them know you are about to do so and mention who else is near you.

Give thanks

Politeness will never be old-fashioned. End your call by thanking the person for their time.

Thank you so much for talking with me. Have a good day.

A brief afterword

From a business perspective, a failed telephone conversation can cost you productivity, time and even money. If you want your calls to bring good results, you should prepare for each of them. Try to keep the conversation as light and positive as possible and dont forget about business telephone etiquette. With more confidence and a little practice, you will have no problem leading a business conversation whether you are talking to a customer, business partner or colleague.

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Candice Benjamine
Candice Benjamine
Preply tutor
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Candice Benjamin is an English teacher with more than 6 years of online teaching experience. Candice has taught English to children and adults alike of various levels, ensuring that each achieves their respective goals. Candice specializes in the IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge exams and creates courses and strategies specific to the needs and goals of each student, to help them achieve their desired grade. Candice is patient and determined to produce significant results for her students.

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