If you’re a passionate grassroots activist, odds are you’ve spent your fair share of time at phone banks, sitting for hours calling hundreds of people about an issue you care about.
Whether you’re a phone banking champion or you’re new to the game, these tips will help you take your skills to the next level.
If you come across too slick or polished, you’re going to make people think you’re selling something or looking for donations. They might even think you’re a recording! (Trust us, it happens more often than you’d think.)
Don’t try to sound professional—sound like you. If the people you’re calling trust that you’re just a volunteer making calls about something you care about, they’re much more likely to answer your questions.
If you’re just reading a script out loud, you’re not going to sound authentic. Be sure you’re hitting all the important points and asking questions the right way, but make the script yours.
Listen to what the person you’re talking to is saying. Be sure you’re responding to them, not just reading off the next question. If you’re conversational, you’re much more likely to build the trust you need to get people to complete your survey or take action. Make it a conversation, not an interrogation or a lecture.
Know Your Stuff
Of course, in order to be conversational, you have to know the script backward and forward. If you’re provided a list of talking points in addition to the script, read through them several times and refer back to them if the person on the other end of the line has any questions.
Don’t Pretend to Know Everything
Of course, even the best-prepared talking points or FAQ sheet won’t contain all the answers. If someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s better not to guess. Be honest (and authentic!) and say something like “You know, that’s a great question. I honestly don’t have the answer to that, can I get your contact information so someone can call you back with the answer?”
Odds are, they’ll say no, but if they say yes, pass on their info to the phone bank organizer.
Stay on Target
If you’re a politics junkie, you know how easy it is to hop from topic to topic. That can spell disaster in a phone bank. Keep the conversation to the issue you’re calling on, and don’t let the caller get you off topic by bringing up other issues your grassroots campaign doesn’t deal with.
Keep it Short
Remember the people who take the time to talk to you are doing you a favor and be respectful of their time. Your phone conversation should last no more than one or two minutes, and your script should contain no more than four questions. There’s another reason to keep your conversations short: the more time you spend on each individual, the fewer calls you’re able to make.
Roll with the Punches
Phone banking means getting rejected—a lot! Some people may even yell at you. If things get heated, remember you can always hang up. And don’t let rejection, yelling or profanity get you down. They’re not mad at you personally, and the worst phone calls can make for the best stories.
Keep it Fun
Unlike door knocking, where you’re out in the sunshine and getting exercise, phone banking can get tedious fast. You can keep things fun by competing to see who can get the most calls or the most survey takes. Keep a running tally on a whiteboard and challenge your friends! Be sure to take regular breaks, or even break out a puzzle!
At the end of the day, phone banking is still one of the most effective ways to get your message out and make a difference. Use these tips, and you’ll be even more successful!
To learn more about data and other grassroots skills, check out one of the upcoming Grassroots Leadership Academy trainings coming up near you here. For grassroots tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our email list here.