Business calls in English can run the gamut from routine to very serious from friendly to hostile. How you handle a business call will obviously depend on who, what, where, when and why you are communicating with the other person or persons.
Under normal circumstances, when people make business calls in English (or any other language, really) it is usually to:
Depending on the reason for your call, your tone and actual words of communication will differ. Obviously, for instance, you would speak differently if you are “disputing” than if you are “collaborating.” And so forth.
If your English skills are below fluent and you have an important business telephone call to make, consider practicing or rehearing the call beforehand or role play with a friend or colleague whose English is better than yours.
This post is based on busines calls that lean more towards the friendly side than to the hostile side. While it does not cover every possible contingency, the goal is to give you at least a basic primer for making business calls in English.
8 Tips for Making Business Calls in English that Make the Professional Grade
- At the start of the call, identify yourself by name and if appropriate, by company, or the department in which you work.
For example, “Hello, this is John Smith with Merrill Lynch. I am calling from the asset management department. May I speak with Allain Duroc, Please? I need confirmation that the Lagos conference has been cancelled.”
2. Get familiar with modal verbs because it is impossible to have a business telephone conversation without them. (Obviously, you need to work on this long before you even make the call.)
- May I speak with your supervisor, please?
- Would you mind re-sending the fax? We were unable to read the last few lines.
- Would that be all the information you need? Is there anything I can clarify further?
- Can I help you with anything else? Keep in mind that the company never agreed to participate in this survey so my authority to give you more information is limited.
- Should I include that report in the presentation? Do you think this would help to better explain the findings?
- When will you arrive in Brussels? Should I make reservations for dinner?
- Could you repeat that? I don’t know if I fully understood your line of reasoning.
- Who was supposed to handle this client’s account? Because I’m afraid this person will be fired.
- Where might I find the stock accounts in the file, do you know?
3. Review auxiliary verbs DO, BE and HAVE as these verbs are vital to business telephone conversations (obviously, you would need to do this long before you need to be making the business calls in English!)
Examples with BE (3 tenses)
- I am delighted to speak with you finally after such a long time emailing each other.
- I was in New York on business and apologize that I missed the meeting yesterday.
- I will not be in the office next week so I would need to reschedule the conference call.
Examples with DO
- I do believe I received your last email but I don’t remember if you answered this specific question.
- Do you agree that this contract is one sided?
- I don’t think Ariane is the right person for this assignment. We should send Paul instead.
Examples with HAVE
- Hello Roman, this is Mike Dubke, do you have a minute for a quick discussion about the powerpoint?
- Hello Janice, I am calling because I just realized you have not sent in your timesheets.
- Have you got the updated files on a disk?
4. Review WH words (who, what, where, when, how) as these words are integral to conversation including Business calls in English.
- Who might I say is calling?
- What can I do for you?
- Where are you calling from exactly?
- When would be a good time to follow up with another phone call?
- How can I help you?
5. If you need the call to remain short and brief, ask closed ended questions (so that you can get a “yes” or “no” response); or say something like:
- “I received the latest figures. I can get this back to you on Friday. Would this work for you?”
- “Hi John, I am calling to have a quick word on the new contract negotiations but I would like to keep it brief due to a meeting. Can you please clarify clause 5 on the second page?”
6. If you need to transfer the call:
- Tell the person you will transfer him or her.
- Give the person the extension number to which they are being transferred as well as the person they are being transferred to.
- Alert the person receiving the transfer who is on the line and why they are being transferred.
7. Watch your manners and etiquette
- Smile when possible as it can be heard in your voice
- Say please, thank you, good morning, good evening, etc., when appropriate
- Don’t yell and scream
- Apologize when necessary
- remain calm and classy
- Don’t eat and chew gum
- Use language and tone appropriate to the conversation
- Turn off other interruptions such as cellphones, pagers, music and other devices
- Avoid putting the person on hold to talk with colleagues.
- Listen without interrupting
8. End the call in a professional manner
- “Thank you for calling, have a good day.”
- Thank you for you time this was very helpful.”
- OK that sounds good. What is the best way to reach you if I have further questions?
- It was good to speak with you, I will let the boss know that you called.
- It is going to be great to collaborate with you on this project. Shall we talk tomorrow as scheduled just to finalize everything?
- It’s confirmed. Thank you, goodnight.
- I will verify that and get back to you ASAP. Take care, goodbye.
- Ok Great, let’s talk again soon.
- OK, I’ve got to run. Thank you for your assistance. Have a good day. Bye.
- Have a nice day!