I was talking with a new client last week, and she explained to me that she wasn’t one of those people who found it easy just to pick up the phone and talk to people – particularly people she had not spoken to in a while. I know that one of the best ways to win more business from your current client portfolio is to stay in touch with them. Whilst you may not have responsibilities for winning business for your firm, as an HR business partner, trainer or HR specialist, there are always going to be times when you will need your internal network to help you out.

That’s not easy when the assignment has finished or an obvious reason to call isn’t there. It always becomes easier to pick up the phone and talk to someone when you have spoken to them recently! So, how can you get over the fear factor and do it regularly? Now, keeping in touch is more than being able to pick up the phone – but how do you get comfortable with picking up the phone and speaking to them without a prescribed agenda?

Here are my thoughts:

1. Identify what you are worried about

More often than not, if you don’t like picking up the phone and have an unplanned call, it’s because you are worried about something. So, what is that something?

Will I look stupid?

Will they think I am trying to sell something?

Will I know what to say?

Will they not want to speak to me because I am from HR?

Will the conversation dry up?

If you identify your often irrational fears, then it’s easier to put in place a strategy to remove the barrier and pick up the phone.

2. Follow them on social media

This is a big tip for those HR folks who do have business development responsibility, but it works just as well if you don’t. If you follow them on social media, it often gives you a real excuse to pick up the phone. Many people on twitter will tweet personal stuff, which allows you to easily and readily engage. For example, if a client of yours tweets about going on holiday to Cornwall in a couple of weeks. How about giving them a call to tell them about some great things to do in Cornwall, and ask if there is anything that needs to get done – which you can help with – before they go away.

3. Have some standard script items

Knowing what you are going to say, before you actually pick up the phone, makes it easier to do it. For example, get into the habit of asking:

Is now a good time to talk?

And set a loose agenda for the call:

We’ve not spoken for a while, so I wanted to take the opportunity to catch up, and find out what’s happening in your part of the business.

4. Set the expectation that you will call

This is possibly the most powerful way to help you pick up the phone. All this is, is warning the person you will call, that you are going to call. This builds your commitment to make the call, and also helps the other person expect your call. In fact, if you do this well, they may even suggest a good time for you to call them. This expectation can be set in many ways. For example, you could send them an email in advance with an interesting article, and mention that you are planning to call them this week to catch up.

Or, at the start of the relationship you could set the expectation that you would like to be able to call from time to time to see how they are doing.

5. Don’t take it personally that your call is not answered

Very often, your call will not be answered or sometimes not returned. Don’t take this personally. The other person may be flat out at work, and not have the time to return your call. Or, they may not even have got the message that you called. Sometimes, their agenda doesn’t match your agenda – and that’s happened to me a lot when I have been following up on proposals, which I have submitted!

A final thought for you. I know one firm which asks each of its partners and senior managers/associates to make one keeping in touch phone call a day. One of the best ways of getting over your fear/dread of ‘just picking up the phone’ is to do it regularly…