What a difference a voice makes

We all react to people and make assumptions if not judge them consciously and subconsciously.  Even if you see someone in the pub for the first time, there is an initial primal reaction to the way people are, there are assumptions based on age, sex or looks, facial expressions and a whole manner of other things.  Some of it will be accurate and some purely personal gut reaction and prejudice.

One of the parts we react to is the voice.   While we speak to customers less on the phone now, it is still part of most of our business lives.  But in learning good voice training for the phone, you are also learning voice training for in-person sales and that will really help.  Using your voice is a big part of sales.

When you see someone in person, you may take into account how they look, or even perhaps how they smell, before you even meet them.   You will have made decisions about their age, their sex, their background and quite possibly if you would like or trust them.  Well over half of what you deduce even when they are speaking to you is based on what you are seeing.

On the phone, with someone you have never met, you don’t have the luxury of any of this.  Yet you have to get to the same place, and at a faster rate.  You won’t have the same amount of time either.  But that need not matter.  You can very easily learn to do the same thing in a different way.  It is just a bit of re-programming.  Next time you pick up the phone and speak to someone you don’t know, try writing down in the first minute some of the answers – male, female, rough age, social background, pleasant or unpleasant.

Learn to visualise who you are talking to.   Instantly.   Because the more you can nail about them and the quicker you nail it, the quicker you will react to that information and relate to them.

Let’s take a simple example.

Some older people consider it over-familiar to be addressed by their first name by someone they don’t know.   Using first names or surnames can change the whole dynamic of a conversation and for them, some stranger using their first name is disrespectful.   No-one is going to be receptive to what is being said when they feel disrespected.

So on a very elementary basis – if you can hear from someone’s voice you are talking to someone possibly older, certainly more formal, mirror it.  And use that person’s title and surname when addressing them.

You will read and hear the phrase “mirror it “often.  Mirroring is not the same as imitating.  But it is respectfully reflecting back some of how another person behaves.  We do this instinctively when we meet people in person.  It might be in the speed we speak, the formality, the language used and in person, might include body language.  If you watch and listen to two people who are getting on well inter-act for a while, the more the time goes on, the more you will see them both using more and more of the same language or gestures.  On the phone, you need to do it vocally.

So when you are speaking to someone younger, with a very relaxed and chatty personality, they might be uncomfortable if addressed by their surname.   Just as you won’t establish a rapport if you have disrespected someone, you won’t get very far talking to someone you have made uncomfortable either.    So listen, listen, listen to the person you are talking to.

In the same way, your voice is going to give an instant impression to them.  If you have a high voice or a low voice doesn’t matter.   It is not how you sound but the WAY that you say things, the nuances.    If you sound bored, unfriendly, and disinterested – just with a few words – that matters.

So how do we make the very best out of your natural material?

Firstly, it is back to posture again.  You need to sit up straight, be engaged and get plenty of air in your lungs.   It is impossible to sound very awake otherwise.  Nor, equally important, will you be anything like as positive, and if you aren’t feeling good about yourself or what you are doing, your chances of success are a great deal lower.

Then you must be smiling.

You could now be asking why that matters down the end of the phone or even saying to yourself, “I am not going to sit there looking like a right muppet with a smile plastered on my face when I am on the phone”.

Try saying something quite simple, even a good morning with a totally straight face.  It will come out on the same level of voice.  Say it again with a smile on your face (and yes, if need be, even a fake one will do) and you will find that immediately your voice goes up and down.    A genuine smile and a longer sentence will produce even more extreme results.  It is your facial muscles which give voice light and dark tones and make it interesting to listen to.   There is nothing more boring on earth than a voice all on the same level.

It is also about how you emphasize words, and which words you emphasize to get feelings across.  Let’s take the simple sentence   “how do you want your eggs cooked”.  Try the following examples out loud:

You could say it in a very short, snappy and bad tempered way, when you are not amused about cooking the eggs.  You will be speaking abruptly, crossly.

You could speak almost with a sigh, very slowly and quite low, dragging out the sounds, and generally monotone in which case the sound will convey that you are bored and fed up of cooking the eggs.

Draw it out further and take it lower still, with your best Marlene Dietrich impression, and you may sound as if you are proposing something quite different!

If on the other hand, you speak somewhere in the middle range, confidently, quite fast and just insistent enough to emphasize it being a question, you will sound as if you are natural and happy to be cooking those eggs.

Over half what is taken from a conversation is the way it is said, rather than what words are used.   It is professional to speak clearly.  Speaking too fast not only tends to blur the words and make it impossible to follow, but too slow can be boring too.  The best thing to do is hit somewhere in the middle erring on the side to match who you are talking to, in other words if they are a fast speaker, you speak a bit on the faster side.   Back to mirroring again.  And the sooner you mirror, the sooner you will create a rapport between both parties.

Make it friendly and make the sentences fairly short.

They are much easier to follow.  And avoid clichés – no one wants to a whole load of hackneyed old and meaningless phrases.  Just be natural.   If you have to use a script, still personalize it a bit.

If you are talking more than the customer, you are already losing the sale.  So the biggest thing about your voice, is keep its use to a fair minimum! Your job is to prompt the customer to talk and then listen, not to whittle on yourself for hours.

When they are talking, concentrate and engage.  Never interrupt.  Let them know you are listening, not just with regular yes, or I see’s, but also by reacting with intelligent feedback and questions.  Show them you are listening and care about what they are saying.

Too many salespeople talk too much!   Their job is more about listening.  So remember to continually ask your customer if they have any questions – don’t just fire off information at them, however brilliant the solution to their needs might seem to you.  In sales, you should be talking less.

None of this is hard to do.   We all do it naturally with people we know and good networkers do it when meeting new people too.   It is much easier than networking.   And when you have understood the art of the voice on the phone, you will get into the habit of using it in person as well and it will have a knock on, positive effect on your sales.

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