As a financial advisor, you probably spend a considerable amount of time on the telephone, both prospecting and talking with existing clients. But are you sabotaging those efforts with less than exemplary phone etiquette?

Many people in sales have poor phone manners, says Diane Craig, president of Toronto-based Corporate Class, which provides business etiquette training and other executive services.

“People are often uncomfortable on the phone,” Craig says, “so they hide behind email.”

But it’s important, she adds, for advisors to master the nuances of phone etiquette. Business transactions often begin with a phone call, and the quality of your interaction strongly influences your client’s first impression of you.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help ensure your telephone manners are up to snuff:

Be prepared

When placing a call, don’t be surprised if you get voice mail, Craig says: “You should always expect to get voice mail, and have your points ready so you can leave a proper message.”

Keep a crib sheet, if necessary, so you don’t leave an awkward, stumbling message. “If you’re unprepared,” she says, “you are likely to ramble or sound incoherent. That makes a poor first impression from which it’s difficult to recover.”

Be brief but direct and as specific as possible when leaving your message. State the reason for your call and speak clearly and slowly when leaving your name, company name, phone number and email address.

Set the tone

Let your voice and phone manner create a good impression. “People prefer doing business with those who are pleasant and courteous,” Craig says. “Communicate warmth with your voice and have a smile on your face – it will come across in your conversation.”

Sitting up in an alert posture will help you to project a tone of confidence and authority.

Keep it simple

If you’re the caller, ask if it is a convenient time for the person to speak with you. If the answer is yes, engage in some small talk before asking if you can arrange an appointment. If the person you are calling doesn’t have time to talk, ask when a convenient time to follow up would be.

Be respectful of people’s time by making the initial conversation as brief as possible. Use short phrases and simple words. Also, avoid casual words and slang.

After ending this conversation, Craig advises, let the other person hang up first. That ensures you’re still there if the other person has a final question.

Smile when you answer

When you take a call, make sure you are smiling and identify yourself immediately. A smile actually comes across in your voice.

It’s also important to ensure that you have enough time to talk properly and give the caller the necessary attention. “Don’t answer the phone and say, ‘I can’t talk now’,” Craig says. “It sounds like a brush-off.”

If you don’t have time to talk, she continues, don’t answer the phone: “Let the caller leave a voice message, and return the call when you can give him or her the time deserved.”

Craig also cautions about distractions, such as other phone calls and text messages: “When you’re talking to a client, always give that person your full attention. Don’t conduct side conversations while you’re on the phone. And don’t eat, work on your computer or do anything else that distracts you from the call.”

If you must interrupt the call, wait until the other person has finished speaking and ask permission before putting the call on hold. If the interruption is going to take you a while, offer to call the person back as soon as you’re free.

© 2013 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.