Residential Magazine

The Anatomy of an Effective Phone Call

This business staple, if done correctly, can build rapport with clients

By Nancy Friedman

Making a phone call sounds simple. But there are many people who do not know how to make a phone call effectively and many who do not even enjoy talking on the phone. And yes, they are in the mortgage industry.

There are as many as nine channels to communicate (and often miscommunicate) in the business world. These methods of communication are face to face, email, regular mail, fax, phone, voicemail, text, chat and social media. Miscommunication occurs across each and all of these platforms. It comes with the territory.
Meeting in person might offer the best chance at building a one-on-one connection, but it’s unrealistic in many cases due to the time demands of today’s world. Text, chat and social media have their purposes, as do email, snail mail, faxes and voicemail, but only one channel offers both convenience and the ability to readily establish a relationship.
It likely won’t be taught in any school curriculum, but you can be assured that the most effective way to communicate with your clients and your referral partners is on the telephone. This could include the simple black box on your desk or the cell phone in your pocket.

Immediate connection

Connecting and building rapport on the phone is an art, not a science. When you get a call asking about a mortgage and the questions that go along with it, that person is in fact interviewing you. They may call somewhere else if they are not pleased with your tone of voice, the words you use or something else.
When you lose a client, they do not go up to the mortgage company in the sky. They go to another mortgage company. That makes you a little weaker and the other company a little stronger.
How do you answer your office phone and your cell phone? You can make it simple and answer both the same way, or you can make it difficult and use different ways to answer. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you answer your office phone this way: “Hi, thanks for calling First Mortgage, Bob Smith speaking. How can I help you?”
What’s wrong with that? That’s pretty much how most folks answer their office phone. This may be true, but it does not make it right and it’s still ineffective. Why? For starters, “Bob Smith speaking” is not necessary. Besides, it sounds as if it’s a full name. Robert Smith Speaking. I’m married to Susie Speaking and we have two kids, Billy Speaking and Debbie Speaking.
The “how can I help you?” line also is unnecessary and totally ineffective. Clients and business partners expect you to help when they call. That is why you are there. A simple and effective alternative for your desk phone and even your cell? “Hi, this is Bob.” If you’d like to use your last name, that’s fine, but a first name on the phone call starts to build rapport more quickly. That’s all that’s needed to answer a phone call.

Dynamic language

If you’re a fan of using caller ID, you might see the name Roger and answer with, “Hey, Roger.” Stop. Caller ID also is ineffective. In the mortgage business, you hear one horror story after another about how someone saw a name pop up on their desk phone or cell and answered with the supposed caller’s name. And guess what? It wasn’t that person.
This can be dangerously embarrassing in some cases. One businesswoman’s caller ID displayed the name and number of her fiancé. She picked up the phone and said something very personal and inappropriate. But it was not her fiancé — it was her fiancé’s boss. She was mortified. This will never happen to you if you stick to the ground rule of answering professionally every time.
Moving on to the greeting you give to the client. You answer, then someone says, “Hi, I’m interested in finding out about a mortgage.” Your opening line should be, “Well, you called the right place. My name is Bob Smith. Who am I speaking with?” Bingo. You’ve got a name. But you must be prepared. This is not the time to say, “Wait a minute, let me get a pen and paper.” A professional will always have paper and pen by the phone — always.
Now that you have a name, welcome them. Say something different than, “Hi, how are you?” You will be surprised at how well a replacement line works. Try “nice to meet you by phone” or “good to hear your voice again” (if it’s a second or third call). “Hi, how are you?” is social noise. Nothing happens. All you get is another, “Fine, thank you, how are you?” What a time waster — and so ordinary.
If you would like to stand out as more colorful than the average mass of gray that’s out there competing with you, consider using some of these tried-and-true tips. You can start using them immediately and effectively. ●


  • Nancy Friedman

    Nancy Friedman is the founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor, a customer-service training company headquartered in St. Louis. She has spoken at several state and national events for mortgage brokers and bank associations, and she has worked with corporations and associations on communicating better with their clients. She is the author of nine books, and her online and Zoom programs have been acclaimed as a "class act." Visit her website at

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