Business Speaking

Controlling a Telephone Call with a Native Speaker

19 May 2019

One of the biggest problems is speed. Native speakers, especially business people, tend to speak very quickly on the telephone. As a non-native speaker, you need to develop techniques which will allow you to take control of the call. Here are some practical tips:

 
  • Immediately ask the person to speak slowly

Could you speak more slowly, please?
Would you mind speaking more slowly, please?
Would you slow down a little, please?

  • When taking note of a name or important information, repeat each piece of information as the person speaks.

So, you say you can give us a discount of 10%?
OK, you are willing to extend the warranty to 30 days, right?
Your telephone number is 2718 3892 and your email address is.....
Let me just confirm that. Your name is Andy Hogg and your company is called ‘Gtech Ltd’.
Let me just repeat what you have said.
I’d just like to confirm what you’ve just told me.

This is an especially effective tool. By repeating each important piece of information, or each number or letter, you automatically slow the speaker down.
  • Do not say you have understood if you have not. Ask the person to repeat until you have understood.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying.
I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.
I sorry, but I don’t follow you.
Would you mind going over that again for me?
Could you say that again, please?
Could you repeat that, please?
Could you explain what you mean?

Remember that the other person needs to make himself/herself understood and it is in his/her interest to make sure that you have understood. If you ask a person to explain more than twice they will usually slow down.
  • If the person does not slow down begin speaking your own language!
A sentence or two of another language spoken quickly will remind the person that they are fortunate because THEY do not need to speak a different language to communicate. Used carefully, this exercise in humbling the other speaker can be very effective. Just be sure to use it with colleagues and not with a boss!
 

Showing Empathy in Business Situations

12 May 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful for showing empathy in business situations. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.

 

FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

Reflecting - Reflecting on how you can see what someone is feeling:

I can see that you're really upset about this.
You seem to be upset.
You seem upset.
You don't seem to be very happy at the moment.
You seem to have made your decision already.
 

Legitimizing - Putting yourself in the other person's situation:

I'd be upset, too.
I can understand why you would be upset about that.
I can definitely see why that would be frustrating.
I'm sure that irritated you!
I can understand your concerns, but.
I understand that.
I can see how hearing those comments might annoy you.
It's not very nice to hear comments like that, is it?
I can understand your feeling betrayed by my not talking to you directly.
I can definitely see why that would upset you.
 

Supporting - Offering to help in a specific way:

I'll be here if you have any questions.
If you are unhappy here, I am here to discuss it with you.
 

Partnership-building - Offering to work together as a team to solve a problem

Maybe we can focus on,,,,
Let's see what we can do to resolve this problem together.
 

Respecting - Expressing admiration for how another person is coping with a situation

You don't seem to be too upset about this.

You are dealing with this very well.

 

Expressing Opinions and Agreement

21 Apr 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful for expressing opinions and agreement in business situations. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.

 

 

FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

ASKING FOR OPINIONS

What do you think about...?
What's your opinion of...?
Do you think that...?
Tell me what you think about...
How do you feel about...?
 

EXPRESSING OPINIONS

I think that...
I don't think that ....
In my opinion...
In my view...
It's my belief that...
I reckon that...
I don't reckon that ...
I feel that...
I don't feel that ...
I believe that ...
I don't believe that ...
If you ask me, I think/feel/reckon that...
As far as I'm concerned...
 

CHECKING AN OPINION

Do you think so?
Do you feel that?
Is that what you think?
Do you really believe that?
 

AGREEING

I think you're right.
I agree with you.
You're right.
 

STRONG AGREEMENT

I couldn't agree with you more.
You're absolutely right.
I agree entirely.
I totally agree.
I completely agree with you.
 

AGREEMENT IN PART

I agree with you up to a point, but...
That's quite true, but...
I agree with you in principle, but...
 

DISAGREEMENT

Note that when you disagree with someone, you can often sound more polite by using a phrase such as 'I'm afraid...'

I'm not sure I agree with you.
(I'm afraid) I don't agree.
(I'm afraid) I disagree.
(I'm afraid) I can't agree with you.
(I'm afraid) I don't share your opinion.
 

DISAGREEING STRONGLY

I don't agree at all.
I totally disagree.
I couldn't agree with you less.
 

Handling Difficult Requests

07 Apr 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful for handling difficult requests at work. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.

 

 

 

FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

SAYING WHY YOU'RE CALLING

The reason I'm calling is:
I was calling to ask a favour:..
I'm calling to ask if you could:..
I'm calling because we need some help......
 

EXPLAINING THE PROBLEM

The situation is this....
Here's the problem.....
Let me explain the situation......
 

REFUSING A REQUEST

I'm afraid that's not possible.
I'm sorry but we just can't do that.
I wish we could help you, but:..
I'm sorry, but I'm not in a position to do that.
 

STATING YOUR POSITION

I understand your situation, but we really must request:..
Our company policy is to:..
It's not our company policy to.....
We always demand .....
We never allow.....
 

MAKING A POLITE REQUEST

Would it be possible to.:?
We were wondering if you could possibly.:?
Would you be able to:.?
Could you please.....?
We'd appreciate it if you could.....
We'd be grateful if you could.....
 

SUGGESTING A COMPROMISE

How about if we......?
What (about if we...?
If we were to ....... would you....?
We'd also be willing to.....
How would you feel if we...?
Why don't we/you:...?
 

AGREEING TO A REQUEST

We could probably accept that.
We might be able to agree to that.
We could agree to that on condition that......
I suppose we could accept that.
That is a possibility, but I'd have to check with....
 

Ending a Conversation Politely

31 Mar 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful for ending a conversation politely. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.

 

 

FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

BEGINNING
(you hint to end a conversation)

A: Well, it was great meeting you.
B: Yes, it was nice.
A: Well, I'm glad we had a chance to talk.
B: Me, too!
A: It sure has been nice seeing you.
B: Yeah, I enjoyed it!
 

MIDDLE
(you have to go soon)

A: I'll be sure to call you.
B: That'd be great.
A: I'll send you an email next week.
B: OK. I'll look forward to that.
A: I hope to hear from you soon.
B: Yes, me too.
 

END
(you really have a chance to leave now)

A: Bye for now.
B: Bye!
A: I'll talk to you later.
B: OK. Until then.
A: See you again soon.
B: See you.
A: Take care.
B: You, too. Bye.
A: Keep in touch.
B: I will. Bye.
 

Giving Presentations - Survival English

17 Mar 2019

If you get your facts wrong.

I am terribly sorry. What I meant to say was this.
Sorry. What I meant is this.

If you have been going too fast and your audience is having trouble keeping up with you.

Let me just recap on that.
I want to recap briefly on what I have been saying.

If you have forgotten to make a point.

Sorry, I should just mention one other thing.
If I can just go back to the previous point, there is something else that I forgot to mention.

If you have been too complicated and want to simplify what you said.

So, basically, what I am saying is this.
So, basically, the point I am trying to get across is this.

If you realize that what you are saying makes no sense.

Sorry, perhaps I did not make that quite clear.
Let me rephrase that to make it quite clear.

If you cannot remember the term in English.

Sorry, what is the word I am looking for?
Sorry, my mind has gone blank. How do you say 'escargot' in English?

If you are short of time.

So just to give you the main points.
As we are short of time, this is just a quick summary of the main points.
 

Complimenting Someone at Work

03 Mar 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful for complimenting someone at work. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.



FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

MEN COMPLIMENTING MEN
(on their clothes)

I really like that shirt.
That's a nice jacket.
I like your shoes.
That tie (really) suits you.
It looks good on you.
It (really) suits you.
 

WOMEN COMPLIMENTING WOMEN
(on their clothes and accessories)

Your bag is so cute.
Your dress is beautiful.
It looks great on you.
It really suits you.
It's lovely.
I love that bag.
It looks great with your.....
That's a lovely necklace you're wearing.
 

WOMEN COMPLIMENTING WOMEN
(on their hair, figure, appearance)

You look really fabulous today.
I love your (new) hairstyle.
Have you lost weight?
Are you on a diet?
You've lost loads of weight.
You look so slim.
 

BOSS COMPLIMENTING SUBORDINATE
(on a job well done or performance)

You did a (really) great job on....
I'm impressed.
I was impressed with....
I'm (really) pleased with...
Your presentation was excellent.
Keep up the good work.
 

COLLEAGUES COMPLIMENTING COLLEAGUES
(on success)

I just wanted to congratulate you on .....
I'd (personally) like to thank everyone for....
Congratulations!
Congratulations on your promotion.
I (just) wanted to let you know that I liked your.....
 

RESPONDING TO COMPLIMENTS

Thanks a lot.
Thanks
Well, thanks.
Thank you so much.
Yes, I love it..
Thanks for noticing.
I appreciate that.
Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for letting me know.
Thanks. That means a lot to me.
 

Making Introductions in a Business Setting

17 Feb 2019

There are two kinds of introductions: self-introductions and three-party introductions.

When do you introduce yourself? When you recognize someone and he or she doesn't recognize you, whenever you're seated next to someone you don't know, when the introducer doesn't remember your name and when you're the friend of a friend. Extend your hand, offer your first and last names and share something about yourself or the event you're attending.

Tip: In a self-introduction, never give yourself a title such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.

In a three-person introduction, your role is to introduce two people to each other. In a business or business/social situation, one must consider the rank of the people involved in order to show respect. Simply say first the name of the person who should be shown the greatest respect. And remember, gender (whether someone is male or female) doesn't count in the business world; protocol is based upon rank. Senior employees outrank junior employees, and customers or clients outrank every employee (even the CEO).

Begin with the superior's name, add the introduction phrase, say the other person's name and add some information about the second person. Then reverse the introduction by saying the second's name, followed by the introduction phrase and the superior's name and information. When a three-party introduction is done correctly, the two people being introduced should be able to start some small talk based upon what you shared about each of them. Introductions should match, so if you know the first and last names of both people, say both. If you know only the first name of one person, say only the first names of both.

Examples:

"Mr. Brown, I'd like to introduce Ms. Ann Smith, who started yesterday in the Accounts Department. Ann, this is Douglas Brown, our CEO."

(Ann would be wise to call the CEO “Mr. Brown” right away and not assume she may call him by his first name. Always use the last names of superiors and clients until you are invited to do otherwise.)

"Pete, I'd like to introduce to you Doug Brown, our CEO. Doug, I'd like you to meet Pete Johnson, who's considering our firm for his ad campaign."

Tip: Don't say "I'd like to introduce you to...", but rather "I'd like to introduce to you...."

Tip: Always stand for an introduction.

To succeed in business, you need good social skills. Knowing how to shake hands and handle introductions can give you an advantage over your competition!

 

Accepting and Refusing Business Invitations

03 Feb 2019

In the key expressions box below, you'll find a number of standard phrases that you might find useful when accepting and refusing business invitations. Click on the audio link to listen to the expressions.

 

FUNCTIONS

KEY EXPRESSIONS

MAKING INFORMAL INVITATIONS
Would you like to have dinner with us?
How about having a drink with me?
Let's go out for a meal.
Would you like to . . . ?
We're going to . . . . Would you like to come along?
There's a . . . . (tonight). Would you like to go?
I wonder if you'd like to . . .
I was wondering if you'd like to . . .
Why don't you join us for ....?
Perhaps you'd like to come to ....?
MAKING FORMAL INVITATIONS
I would like to invite you to our grand opening.
If you have time, I would like to invite you to see our new premises.
Would you like to join us for dinner this evening?
We'd be glad to have you accompany us to the ceremony.
We'd be delighted to have you as our guest at the new Chairman's inauguration.
ACCEPTING INVITATIONS
I'd love to.
I'd be delighted/happy/glad to.
Thank you. That would be great!
Yes, I would. That's a great idea.
 
REFUSING INVITATIONS
I'm sorry, but I'm going out that evening.
I'm afraid I can't make it. I have a prior appointment.
I'm really sorry but I can't - I've got another engagement.
I think I'm going to have to pass on that. I'm feeling rather tired.
I'd better not. I've got an early start tomorrow.
Thanks for asking, but I'm afraid I can't.
I'd love to but my parents are in town at the moment.
 

Interviewing in English

20 Jan 2019

Interviewing is an important task that shows your ability to ask relevant questions and identify key skills in prospective employees. Conducting an interview efficiently is a critical task, since hiring the wrong person can cost your company a lot of time and money. Often, there are standard interview styles and formats which can be used to conduct interviews, but you should also remember that conversation is spontaneous and can lead in different directions. It is always better to think ahead and to prepare questions for different scenarios.

Some key points to remember are:

  • Keep each interviewee's details in mind and ask questions that are relevant to their backgrounds and qualifications, and that are built around the job description.
  • Remain friendly and alert at all times.
  • Keep your tone pleasant and interested, but impersonal.
  • Use key words and phrases from the interviewee's responses to lead the conversation forward.
  • Remember that body language and visual cues are often as important as what is said.
  • Examine the interviewee's resume carefully to ensure that you ask relevant questions.
  • Take brief notes on the candidate's responses so that you don't forget anything important that they have said.
 

Agreeing to and Declining Requests

06 Jan 2019

When agreeing to a request, agree to it in a positive manner. Don't just say 'Ok' or 'All right.' Use these positive phrases:


Absolutely.
Sure.
Yes, I'd be happy to.
No problem.
That should be OK.

Sometimes, you may be undecided and unable to give a definite answer at that moment. In such cases, use these phrases to buy yourself a little time:


Can I think about that?
I'll get back to you. Let me have a think.
If you don't mind, can I give you an answer this afternoon?
Give me some time to consider it.

At other times, you may agree to a request but with certain conditions. Then you can use these phrases:


OK. But only with the following conditions:
Yes, that's fine. But only if...
Sure, but I'd prefer it if you...

Declining a request is more difficult. Don't decline a request directly. Use one of tentative the phrases below and follow it up with a good reason:


I'm afraid I can't.
That's really not possible, I'm afraid.
I wish I could but...
I'd really love to help you, but...
I'm not sure if that's a good idea.
I don't know about that. You see...

 

Making Polite Requests: Different Requests for Different Situations

23 Dec 2018

When you are asking someone to do something for you or trying to influence their actions, you can often show that you want to be polite by saying things in an indirect way:

Help me file these documents please. (Very Direct - more demand than request)

Please will you help me file these documents? (Less Direct)

Could you help me file these documents please? (Even Less Direct)

Do you think you could possibly help me file these documents? (Indirect)

I was wondering if you could possibly help me file these documents. (Very Indirect)

Generally speaking, the more indirect the expression you use, the more polite you will seem. If you are too direct you may be considered impolite. However, the more indirect expressions can sound "too polite". When deciding which expressions are suitable for which situations it is useful to ask certain questions.

  1. What is the relationship between the speaker and the listener? More direct expressions are often used between friends or when the speaker is in a position of authority.
  1. How important is the action to the speaker? Usually, the more important the action, the more indirect the expression.
  1. How much inconvenience will the action cause for the listener? If, for example, the listener is being asked to make a lot of effort or do something which they do not usually do, the speaker will probably use a more indirect expression.
 
 

Introducing Yourself at Work Part 2

09 Dec 2018

There are a number of ways of making a self introduction. It usually needs to be on a case-by-case basis; however, here's some more basic advice and sample dialogues to get someone's attention and finally make an acquaintance.

Making a Comment

Make a comment to someone about the situation you're in or the environment. Once they've responded, introduce yourself.


A: You wouldn't have any change on you for the coffee machine, would you?
B: I might have. Let me just check.
A: Can you change a $10 bill?
B: Sure. Here you go.
A: Thanks a lot. I'm Ken Carlson by the way. I work in the IT Department just down the corridor.
B: I'm Sheila Thomas. Nice to meet you, Ken. (shakes hands)
A: Nice to meet you too, Sheila.

Use a Third Person to Get an Introduction

If the person you want to introduce yourself to is speaking to someone you already know, then take it as a chance to get acquainted. Walk towards them and say hello to your friend or the person you know. An introduction can then follow naturally. This isn't strictly a self-introduction.


A: Hi, Warren. How are things?
B: Fine, Jeff. And you?
A: Great!
B: This is my colleague, Veronica. Veronica, this is Jeff. Jeff works in the Design Department.
A: Pleased to meet you, Veronica. (shakes hands)
C: Pleased to meet you too, Jeff.

When You Know the Person's Name

If you want to introduce yourself to a person you only know by name, you can start a conversation by confirming their name - "Mr Reynolds?' Once you get their attention, continue by stating how you know about them and then introduce yourself.


A: Henry Warne. Hello. I saw you speaking at the conference last week. That's how I recognized you.
B: Oh, I hope you found it interesting!
A: I certainly did. You gave an excellent presentation. I'm Karen Booth from Production.
B: Pleased to meet you, Karen. (shakes hands)
A: Pleased to meet you too, Henry.

 

Introducing Yourself at Work Part 1

25 Nov 2018

There are a number of ways of making a self introduction. It usually needs to be on a case-by-case basis; however, here's some basic advice and sample dialogues to get someone's attention and finally make an acquaintance.

Direct Introduction

The direct approach works for most people who have the confidence to do so. Simply go up to the person whom you want to introduce yourself to. Say "hello,' offer a handshake, and tell them your name.


A: Hi. I'm Peter Holden. I'm from Accounts. How do you do? (shake hands)
B: Hello. Nice to meet you, Peter. I'm Jason Warrick.

If, however, it is a group you are approaching, politely ask if you can join them.


A: Hello. Is it alright if I join you?
B: Sure, no problem.
A: My name's Gordon Brand. I'm new here.
B: Pleased to meet you Gordon. I'm Tom Bevan. (shakes hands)
A: Pleased to meet you, Tom.
C: And you too, Gordon.
B: And this is Benjamin Pratt.
A: Pleased to meet you, Benjamin. (shakes hands)

Giving a Compliment

Giving a compliment is also a good tactic. Remember to give a compliment that you really mean. Sincerity is the key here. You can start the conversation with a statement like, "I like your shirt' or "You have a nice watch'. The other party can reply with a "Thank you'. From that point, be prepared to talk about the object you are complimenting on to prove that you really admire it. After a minute or two, or when appropriate, start introducing yourself.


A: I love your shoes. Where did you get them?
B: Oh. Thanks. I got them from Harvey's just yesterday.
A: What kind of leather are they made of? It's got a really nice pattern.
B: Aligator, actually.
A: I don't dare to ask you how much they cost. But they look so expensive.
B: Not as much as you'd think. I got them in a closing down sale.
A: Really? I'm Francesca Tomlins by the way.
B: I'm Robert Downing. Pleased to meet you, Francesca.
A: Pleased to meet you too, Robert. (shakes hands)

 

A Six-Step Strategy for Customer Service

11 Nov 2018

1. Listen Positively and Empathise

Don't try to defend yourself or the company. Allow the customer to let off steam. Show understanding.

What seems to be the problem?
Can you elaborate?
Could you give me the details?
That must have been very irritating.
I understand how you must feel.

2. Admit the Mistake and Apologise

Don't put the customer on the defensive or question his judgement. Admit mistakes immediately.

I really am sorry.
It seems something has gone wrong here.
There's definitely a problem here we need to deal with.
I'm very sorry about this.
I must apologise on behalf of the company for this.

3. Accept Personal Responsibility

For customers, you are the company. They don't care whose fault it is. You have to deal with it. If the problem can be dealt with only by someone higher in the hierarchy, stay with the customer until it is clear that the problem is being resolved.

I'll make sure this is dealt with.
Let me see what I can do.

4. Act Immediately

Show customers that you are taking their complaints seriously.

I'll get on to it right away.
Let me see what we can do to help you immediately.
I'll deal with this straight away.

5. Offer Compensation (if possible)

Demonstrate your concern practically if you are able to. Often, the form of compensation is less important than the thought.

Please accept this to make up for some of the inconvenience.
Would you like a cup of coffee while you're waiting?

6. Thank the Customer

We should be grateful for complaints. It's one way we can find out how to improve our service. Remember, too, that it costs five times as much to gain a new customer as to keep an old one.

Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention.
Thank you. This will help us to improve our service in the future.

 
Menu