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Your work phone may look like your personal phone (it may, in fact, be the
same instrument you use for personal calls), but you need to differentiate
between the two. You will be using your business phone for all sorts of professional
reasons—getting and leaving information, negotiating the terms of a
The contract, clarifying issues, etc. Marianne Rosner Klimchuk, associate chairperson
of the Packaging Design Department at the Fashion Institute of
Technology, discusses the need to develop skills and tact in order to communicate
in a professional manner on the phone.
Young designers entering into the work environment often take an
informal approach to communication and cross the boundaries of professionalism.
A formal, respectful, and courteous manner should always be
followed. Casual communication is only appropriate after a professional
relationship has been established.
With cell and home phones doing double duty as business/personal telephones,
it’s especially important to regulate the atmosphere of your business calls. Lee
Silber, author of Self-Promotion for the Creative Person, has this advice, “Answer
the phone like a business person. (No screaming kids, loud music, or eating.) Be
professional but remain personable. Have a signature salutation when you
answer the phone. Your voice/answering machine is a marketing tool. Treat it as
such. (Upbeat and updated is good.)”
When your phone call involves multiple details, decision-making, negotiating,
or other complicated issues, you should prepare for the call as you
would for a business meeting. Plan in advance what you want to cover and
what you hope to achieve. Don’t try to keep this in your head. Instead, write
up a simple agenda or checklist that will keep you on track. Otherwise you
might end up focusing on the other person’s agenda and forgetting important
items of your own.
The Agenda. An agenda is simply the written outline or list of the topics you
want to cover during your telephone conversation. Before the call is made,
write down the date, time, purpose, name of the person you are speaking with
(if you don’t know this in advance, get the correct spelling, title, and telephone
extension), and the items you want to cover. If negotiation is going to be part of
your conversation, write down your desired outcomes. One effective executive
we know prepares by grading potential outcomes into: 1) the ideal outcome, 2)
an acceptable outcome, and 3) an unacceptable outcome or, in other words, a
deal breaker.
If you are good at thinking fast and coming up with quick and grounded
responses, an agenda or list is probably all you need to stay focused and conclude
your phone conversation satisfactorily. If you are not at your best in confronta-
tions (even on the phone), you can still increase your effectiveness by anticipating
a few different ways the conversation could go and figure out how to respond
most productively. Write your responses down like mini-scripts until you get the
hang of it.
Meeting Notes. Take notes while you’re on the phone. Write down, for
example, adjustments on costs or timeframes, the names and numbers of new
people coming into the project, or referrals and resources.
As soon as you hang up, look over your notes and add to or clarify what
you’ve written. Even if you have a great memory, you don’t need to tie it up with
details of the projects you’re working on. Paper trails are a part of good business
practice. Save all of your phone notes in your project files.