A scene from the classic Vegas flick Swingers has haunted the thoughts of many men as they angst over when and how to call a woman they’ve recently met.

In the scene, Mike (played by Jon Favreau) keeps nervously calling a girl he met earlier that night at a bar, trying to leave a message on her answering machine.

But the machine keeps cutting him off in mid-sentence. So he calls back, again and again, trying to finish what he was saying – until she suddenly picks up on the other end and tells him to never call again, blowing Mike’s fragile self-esteem to pieces.

Guys, don’t be like Mike.

Here are some tips for you on mastering the Phone Game, which is an essential part of your dating success.

First, a note on scoring her digits: don’t ask permission. Make swapping numbers seem like a completely natural step. After around ten minutes of conversation, take your phone out of your pocket and tell her,

“Let’s exchange numbers, we should continue this conversation sometime.” Don’t wait for a “yes” or “no.” Just start programming her name in.

Even better, mention there are some parties/events coming up that you want to let her know about. This makes you sound socially savvy and plugged in, a characteristic of Alpha Men.

“Let’s swap numbers, there are some cool parties coming up that I want to let you know about.” (This is an appealing offer. Doesn’t every girl want to be in the social loop?)

If you’ve laid the proper groundwork, she’s going to go with your flow. She’ll give you her number, and you’ll give her yours. As the man, you’ll be the one to make the first phone call–but swapping numbers, rather than just getting hers, makes it feel like a fair exchange.

Now, as you program her number in, say “I’ll have some free time on _____ (name the day of the week two days from now). What’s a good time to ring you?”

This eliminates any worries about disturbing her while she’s in the middle of something, or calling too soon. (Most guys fear that if they don’t wait long enough to call, they’ll appear desperate. This is nonsense. Find out when she’s available to talk two days from now, and call her then.)

NEVER ask permission for a girl’s number. As I explain in the M.A.C.K. Tactics book, a woman’s response is usually going to based upon the signals you are sending.

When you ask permission (“Do you mind if I get your number?” “Would you like to go out sometime?”), you’re demonstrating weakness, and giving her the opportunity to decline. In many cases, she will–because when it’s a guy they don’t really know yet, women have far more reasons to say “yes” than no.”

Make her go with your flow, and you won’t encounter this resistance.

You are comforting her with the idea that swapping numbers is a natural, harmless thing to do at this point in the conversation.

Now, when you make the call, here are some tactics to keep in mind:

1. No matter who answers the phone, announce who you are: “Hi, this is Mike. Is Sarah there?” This demonstrates confidence, and if a housemate or family member answers, you’ll establish rapport with them. This can come in handy later if you meet them.

2. If they tell you she’s not home, just ask for her to call you back. Don’t go into any sort of explanation or mention that you want to make plans with her. It will only make her feel embarrassed when they relate the message to her.

3. Never call to chit-chat. Only call to plan a date with her, and have the game plan already in mind. Keep the phone call under five minutes. You’ll have plenty to talk about when you meet again in person. Once the date has been set, tell her you’re looking forward to seeing her and politely end the conversation.

4. Talk slowly and sound cheerful and relaxed. Your tone is very important. If you sound anxious and talk too fast, you’re going to come off as desperate and over-eager.

5. If she doesn’t answer, don’t leave a message. In most cases she’ll screen the message and “forget” to call back. Make the call in the afternoon, and if she doesn’t pick up, call again in the evening. In Vegas, it’s especially important to find out what she does for a living and ask “when is the best time to ring you,” because a lot of women work night shifts and sleep during the day.

Waking her up and having to apologize sucks! (If you don’t get her on the line in your first two attempts, try again two days later. Still no answer? Forget her and move on, unless you’ve also got her email. I’ll get to that in a moment.)

6. Don’t send her a text message instead of calling her. This is an obvious impersonal wuss move, and the flirty energy and tone of your voice is important for making her feel comfortable saying “yes” to the date.

7. So what about email? In this day and age, it does make a lot of sense to get her email as well as her phone number. Women are far more likely to respond to an email than a voicemail message.

Here’s how to do it: instead of asking for her number, ask her if she’s got an email address. Notice the phrasing; you’re not asking for her address, you’re asking if she’s got email – sounds completely non-threatening. This prompts her to write down her email for you. (Remember to always carry a pen.) As she does this, say “oh, write down your number, too.” Again, this sounds smooth and harmless.

Now you’ve got two ways to contact her. I suggest calling first. If you can’t get her on the line, send her a brief, friendly email. Don’t propose a date; just ask her when a good time to call is. When you connect on the phone, that’s when you’ll lay out the plan and make it happen.