By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

Email, instant message, and texting have become the norm. But I have to break it to you, for freelancers and entrepreneurs, the ability to talk on the phone still matters.

Did you know that 77% of consumers say a phone call is the quickest way to get support?

I recently coached a business client, Kristen, who left the corporate sector to create her own freelance business. Together we had prepared all of her content, laid the foundation for a successful business and began marketing campaigns. She was over the moon when she found out she landed her first potential client call.

What happened next is something I hear all too often. She bombed the call.

Kristen got off the phone and realized she had not asked any of the questions we planned. At this moment, she began to question not only the call but the entire idea of building her own business.  

Ever been there? Chances are if you are growing a business, you have.

Jumping on a call can be uncomfortable and nerve-racking. The hard truth is if you want to become successful at converting leads into clients you must learn how to hone in this skill.

Below are some sales secrets to turn your next sales call into success.

1. Create Boundaries Immediately.

Prior to hosting the call, know what you are and are not willing to do.

Freelancing is great in the flexibility it offers, but don’t allow yourself to agree to do something that is far beyond your wheelhouse or area of expertise.  

2. Serve It Up Hot, Not Cold.

While it is okay to email someone, do not cold call any potential clients. In a cold email make sure they know why you can help them and add value right off the bat. From here, request to schedule a date and time for a formal call.

An unexpected phone call is a major distraction, and on average takes 23 minutes to recover from. This will reduce stress and ensure both parties are prepared and present to focus.

This is especially important if you are working with Millennials, who make up the largest generation of the workforce. They actually perceive unexpected phone calls as rude.

3. Set An Agenda And Sick To It.

Create an outline of what you plan to discuss prior to hopping on the call. Structure what you plan to discuss and review this with the client at the beginning of the call.

What happened with Kristen was that although she had prepared an agenda, the client asked an off-topic question that derailed the conversation. Before she knew it, they were off in the weeds far away from her plans.

Sound familiar?

While it is important to be accommodating and answer your client’s questions, it is also important to ensure the purpose of the call is met.

As the salesperson, your job is to lead the call and hold the boundaries of the call. Even if your potential client wants to run astray.  

If the question asked is something you will address shortly, let them know you will get to that soon. Be sure to answer the question at the appropriate time and stay on the agenda. This will help you look and feel confident and prepared.  

4. Stand Up And In Control.

This may sound silly, but stand up when you are on the phone and smile. According to research although you are on a call and cannot be seen, the person on the other end can still feel the energy in your voice. Standing up gives you more confidence and improves the sound of your voice.

Don’t forget you are the leader of this call. Make sure it stays that way by using friendly strength to drive the conversation, ask the important questions and actively listen to their words. This is the dance of mastery.

5. Close Strong With a Summary and Next Steps.

Complete the call with a quick summary and confirm next steps.

If they have any additional questions, make sure you use this time to answer them and always provide an estimate of when they can expect to hear back from you.

6. Reflect And Follow up.

Instead of jumping immediately to a different task, review your notes and reflect on the call that just occurred. If your schedule is packed, build in a 10-minute buffer to each call. If you plan to be on the phone for 20 minutes, schedule that it will be a 30-minute call. This allows you to reflect immediately and jot down anything before you forget.

You can also use this scheduled time for drafting a follow-up email or researching any questions that still need to be answered.

Even if you don’t convert this lead, there is always something valuable to be learned. Don’t forget that!

Kristen learned her lesson about phone calls the hard way, but after discussing it, we have her prepared better for the future.

As I have told many clients I really believe life is all about managing tough conversations.

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  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.