How To Sell Yourself Over The Phone

By Mel Sim

Ways to impress without being face-to-face

As a freelancer, many of my first meetings with clients are usually over the phone. I get a call inquiring about my services or after exchanging a few emails, we go through the brief via a phone call to see if I am the right person for the job. Even more so now with COVID-19 where physical meetings seem to be a thing of the past!

In order to seal the deal, it is important I sell myself right during that phone call. But this can be a hard thing to do, especially when you can’t judge from the other person’s body language or facial expression to know how you’re doing!

If like me, you’ve been doing a lot of “selling” over the phone – whether it is to market your services to a client or perhaps a phone interview for a job – you’ll know that your game plan is the same as a face-to-face interview: You need to make the right impression.

Shouldn’t be a hard thing to do, right? I mean – you’re on the phone practically every day so what’s another call? Only that this isn’t like all the other casual phone conversations you’ve had and it requires some skills to convince the other person on the line that you’re the person they’ve been waiting for.

If you ask me, I find phone interviews more challenging. At least with face-to-face interviews you can create some form of connection that will help your case. It’s easier to convince someone who is sitting in front of you that you’re the right fit by showing enthusiasm; but over the phone if done wrongly, it can come across as fake.

Then there are the awkward silences. Who speaks first? Would it be considered rude if you are always cutting the other person off because you can’t tell whether he wants to say something over the phone? And what if your dogs simply won’t stop barking (all of which has happened to me before).

So I did some reading and found that these are the top tips on how to ace selling yourself over the phone (hint: It’s pretty much the same things you would do for an in-person interview!)

#1 Get serious
Think phone interviews mean you can lounge around in your pajamas and have one eye on that Netflix series you’ve been watching all day long. No. While the other person won’t know if you’re in your most comfortable bedroom slippers he can tell you’re not taking the call seriously, especially when it’s obvious you’re not prepared for it and you’re not giving it your 100% attention.

If the call is about a job interview, then like you would a normal interview, be by your phone before the actual call so you can gather your thoughts and not appear that the caller is interrupting something. Lock yourself in a room so that nobody can disturb during the call (pet or parent). Dress for the call too – wearing your PJs means being lazy and slouchy but if you are dressed the part, it will kick your mind into the right frame – and interviewers can tell.

#2 Really listen
It’s easy to lose focus during a phone interview – trust me, it’s happened to me before especially if the other person on the line is going on and on about something you have no absolute interest in. One way to prevent this from happening is to stop doing everything else – no sitting in front of your laptop reading emails, no checking on that social media notification, no eating and no drinking. Sit up straight at your table with your notes, pen and paper in front of you.

Also, interruptions seem more rude on the phone than they do in person. To avoid this, really listen to the other party talking. You’ll know when she is coming to an end in her sentence and even then, give it three seconds or so before you respond. Don’t try to finish the caller’s sentences; it’s annoying and it shows you’re more interested in what you have to say instead of listen.

#3 Prepare the basics
If you are using your mobile phone, sit where there is a clear signal (nothing more off-putting than having to repeat themselves because the line keeps dropping). Charge your phone the night before and if it helps you hear better, you may want to consider using a headset (but make sure your mic is working well and there’s no background noise!). Really basic stuff but really important to ensure your phone call goes smoothly.

#4 Slow and steady
It’s normal to feel like you need to fill in the awkward silences during your call. But this will only make you seem nervous, which could result in the other person assuming you lack confidence. Focus on speaking slowly and clearly by taking a moment to gather your thoughts before spewing whatever comes to mind. If there is a time to really practise “think before you speak”, this is it.

Above it all, go with the flow! You’re already one foot in so you obviously have something the client or recruiter is interested to know more about. Don’t be too pushy in selling; be natural and be yourself. It’s good to be prepared but sounds fake if it seems like you’re reading from a script.

And final tip: Follow up with an email to recap the phone call if it’s a potential client or a thank you note if it is job interview. Because whether it is a face-to-face or phone interview, being polite is always a good idea!

Photo by Vinicius "amnx" Amano on Unsplash

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