“Phone Lady” says the key to success is in the palm of your hand

Who you gonna call?
“Phone Lady” says the key to success is in the palm of your hand

“PICK IT UP. MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!” This is the mantra behind everything that Mary Jane Copps teaches in her seminars as The Phone Lady. Early in her career, Mary Jane encountered a common workplace challenge that few people realized existed. Many workers are so reluctant to use the telephone that it affects their quality of work and their career development. She even found that, in some cases, it’s a full-blown phobia. “Throughout my career, I’ve encountered many employees who have been procrastinating on a task. When you drill down, you find that they needed to make phone calls, and they’ve procrastinated on that,” Mary Jane explains.

Her career has been a long, winding journey to her most recent venture as The Phone Lady. Mary Jane has been involved in journalism, sales, researching and fundraising. Her willingness to make phone calls that no one else wanted to make helped her to advance her career in significant ways.

“I started my career on the phone by accident, when I started working for a small weekly paper so that I could put myself through university. I found that there were all kinds of story ideas that people wouldn’t follow up on because they involved using the phone. I would always offer to do the articles that required phoning famous or important people, and they usually ended up on the front page. Eventually, the Globe and Mail called and asked me to write for them.”

A little over six years ago, a friend asked Mary Jane for help with his software company. Recognizing the value in her phone skills, her friend suggested that she should begin offering seminars. As an experiment, she sent out 10 brochures that she printed on the office printer. She received three contracts right away. “And so, The Phone Lady was born,” she says.

Mary Jane has now conducted meetings and seminars with more than 60 organizations and businesses. Her clients contact her on a regular basis to let her know that they’re still doing business her way, and that it’s working for them. She’s even noticing some interesting trends emerging since she began her seminars. Phone technology is advancing so quickly that some demographics are having a difficult time adapting.

“I do a lot of work with universities, because a lot of them have co-op programs. The universities will sometimes get phone calls from the employers saying things like ‘Great engineer, but we really need them to be able to talk on the phone.’ Today, kids are growing up with texting, and talking on the phone is not even something they’re really exposed to.”

Generation Y is not the only group experiencing these challenges. She has also noticed that some workers in the 55-64 age bracket don’t like to leave voicemail messages. Many of these individuals find it hard to simply leave a message on a machine instead of talking to a person. Some are also uncomfortable with the number of attempts that it sometimes takes to reach someone.

According to Mary Jane, the key to making a successful phone call is positive thinking. “I visualize the person answering the phone. The majority of people imagine the other party in a negative way – they either worry that they’re interrupting, or that the person is going to be annoyed. If you give that person the skill set, it’s much more likely to go well.”

By Sarah Sawler

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