This post was authored by Charlotte Stark, Dunham's Marketing Communications Associate, as part of the Dunham Foundations Series. If you have questions concerning today's topic, please call us at (858) 964 - 0500. Hold us to a higher standard.

When running your own business, nothing maintains relationships with your clients like a well-timed phone call. Below are 5 techniques for making your best possible phone call every time.

1) Stay Focused, Stay Quiet

It can be all too easy to rummage through papers on your desk, answer email, or otherwise multitask when on long phone calls. If, however, you think the other call participants don't notice inattentive blanket responses or can't hear all that background noise, think again! Give calls your full attention and keep ambient noise from your call space to a minimum.

2) Plan Ahead

You usually call someone with the intention of accomplishing a task and likely try to keep in mind a few things you want to discuss. When the participant on the other end of the line adds in their own goals and tasks, it can be easy to lose track of items on your own list. To combat this, take a few moments before you call to jot down what's important to discuss and accomplish. That way, you'll know at a glance if you've got everything covered before hanging up.

3) The Art of Voicemail

It happens to everyone: you anticipate the person you're calling will answer the phone, only to be given their voicemail instead. Now, the speech you had an exact idea how to make to a live person now sounds choppy and repetitive as you try to re-tool it for voicemail on the fly. To avoid being flustered by an unexpected voicemail, use your list of pre-planned topics for the call to outline a specific voicemail. Try to be very direct about why you're calling and end with a call to action so they know exactly what you're expecting them to do as a result of this voicemail. For example:

"Hello! This is Charlotte Stark calling from Dunham. My callback number is (858) 964 - 0500. I called to confirm you're planning to attend my seminar - will you call me with a status update this afternoon? Again, my number is (858) 964 - 0500. Thank you!"

4) Watch Your Tone (and Volume)

When participating in a phone conversation, it can be easy to forget that the other person isn't in the room with you. Every nod, smile, or other physical show of interest is completely lost over the airwaves, making it extra important to mind your tone. Putting a little extra levity in your voice, or adding in "mmhmm"s and "absolutely"s as appropriate can make the difference between a bland phone call and an agreeable one. On the same token, while you should always enunciate and speak clearly, there's no need to shout over the phone. Your nearby office neighbors will thank you!

5) Identify Yourself

Last but certainly not least, be sure to always identify who you are on the phone. This is especially important when answering a call, as a general "hello?" can lead to confusion. You don't want the call to start with a negative emotion! Instead, try polite general salutations that include your name. For example:

"Charlotte Stark, how may I help you?"

"Hello, and thank you for calling Dunham, Charlotte speaking!"

As long as you keep in mind that calling on the phone requires a unique finesse when compared to other common communication methods, you'll do well. Above all, courtesy is key. With these 5 tips, you may be able to up your own call game, and improve your own communication skills.