Interviewing for market research #3: five steps on hitting the right tone of voice
A tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. It is more than words, it is also their order, rhythm, and pace. The right tone of voice can make or break the success of your interview. We take you through 5 steps on how to hit the right tone of voice for a successful market research interview by telephone.
1. Understand the importance of tone of voice
Many studies have been carried out about the aspects of communication. Most of them agree that the meaning of a message is derived from three aspects: body language (what we do), words (what we say), and tone of voice (how we say it). In face-to-face communication, they count for respectively 55%, 7%, and 38% of all meaning.
A telephone interview obviously lacks the signals you can get from body language. This means that in telephone interviews, tone of voice is much more important in getting your message across, than the words of the message itself. Some experts believe that the percentage of how meaning is transferred over the phone consists out of 75% tone of voice and 25% words. Having control over your preferred choice of tonality – and knowing what tone is appropriate for your specific message – is the key to conducting a powerful interview.
2. Practice the power of your voice
You can practice your tone of voice. Take the text you wrote in your script and read it out loud while recording your own voice. Read it in different tones, rhythms, and pace. Don’t forget to use your body language: when speaking, body language is absorbed into your tone of voice. Each gesture affects the way sounds come out of your mouth. So, spread your arms, smile, nod, etc. You have to become comfortable with body movements while on the phone. Take a mirror and look into it while smiling and talking on the phone. You will see it makes you sound more upbeat and engaged.
3. Use the right tone of voice to create an open and safe environment to talk
Even though you should be focused on getting answers for your research questions, remember you are talking to a human being. They are more likely to share the information you need if they feel safe. You can achieve this by mimicking the tone of your interviewee. By sounding positive and upbeat, you show them that you are really listening to what they say.
Be an active listener, make encouraging sounds, and repeat things your interviewee said. This lets them know you are listening carefully. Adjust your questions to something the person on the other end has said before and reassure them that their input is very useful. You can do this by saying things like: ‘thank you, that is very interesting.’ This encourages people to keep sharing.
Regardless of how you feel, you have to put your personal feelings aside. Use a tone of voice that is soft, inquisitive, sincere, courteous, and professional. Remember: friendliness never goes out of style.
4. Use your tone of voice to lead the conversation in the right direction
Learn how to work your voice to lead the conversation in the right direction. Most people like to talk about themselves – and you should encourage that to create a safe space to talk – but you also have to keep your eyes on the goals you set for this interview.
When the interviewee gets too side-tracked, intervene, and keep them on board by asking questions that lead back to the topics you want to know more about. Do this in a firm, confident, and positive tone. This type of intervention is important to practice beforehand – there’s a thin line between sounding confident and cocky.
If you come on too strong, you might lose the carefully created safe space between you and your interviewee. However, if you are afraid to intervene at all, you might have a nice conversation, but will miss out on important research information.
5. Do not make these mistakes
Next to all the mentioned do’s, there are also some don’ts. Make sure that you don’t take an offensive tone or become argumentative during interviews. It’s important to always reply in a calm matter, as raising your voice is regarded off-putting. You can raise your voice slightly – for example when you are passionate about something – but remember that you are the one that needs information. You are not in an argument about who is right.
Are your feelings running high? Take your time to regain composure before you reply and always stay polite. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of your interviewee, this will only be counterproductive for your research.
Now you know how to get an interview, how to prepare, and how to conduct it in the right tone of voice. Of course, you can run into objections during any of these steps. Read more about managing objections in part 4, the last one in this series on how to interview for market research by phone.
Marieke de Haan