Powerful Words: Or

January 20, 2013
Mary Jane Copps


No matter why we pick up a phone – to close a sale, book a meeting, connect with a customer or resolve a service issue  – being able to inspire a conversation holds tremendous value. It is through conversation that we can:

*hear opinions, thoughts and feelings;

*encourage participation;

*establish rapport and build relationship;

*stimulate discussion; and

*create equality.

Open-ended questions inspire conversation. Using the words who, what, when, where, how or why at the beginning of every question jumpstarts a conversation and allows us to learn more about our customer, our prospect, our provider.

However, for a reason I have yet to discover (and if you know where I can find out, please let me know) human beings have a natural inclination to ask close-ended questions, the ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. While close-ended questions are valuable in certain situations, when our aim is to build relationship and gather information, they are, well … useless.

For example:

“So, can we schedule a meeting to continue our discussion?”    “No.”

“Are you able to finalize that order with me today?”    “No.”

“May I speak to your supervisor?”   “No.”

In each of these scenarios, the person asking the question doesn’t learn anything. Instead they create a conversational dead end.

But for many of us, creating open-ended questions during a conversation is not straightforward or simple. We know we want to ask them, but once the conversation is in full swing, we stay in our close-ended comfort zone.

Enter the power of  “or”.

For example:

“So, can we schedule a meeting to continue our discussion, or ….”

“Are you able to finalize that order with me today, or … .”

“May I speak to your supervisor, or … .”

This works because we are all inclined to finish thoughts, to complete sentences. “Or” serves as an invitation to speak and the majority of the time, the invitation is accepted.

For example:

“A meeting doesn’t work for me this month, but let’s schedule a phone conference for early February.”

“I need a P.O. number to finalize the order and I should have that by tomorrow morning.”

“My supervisor is unavailable at the moment.”

While I do believe it is important to use a wide variety of open-ended questions (more on this in future posts), using the word “or” gives you the power to inspire conversation with minimal effort.


Want to learn more about effective telephone communication. Here’s some options:

PhoneWork: The Art (and Science) of Effective Telephone Communication 

There are 3 spots left in this course that takes place three Thursday evenings (January 24 to February 7) at NSCC, Institute of Technology Campus, Halifax

From telephone interviews to conference calls, from customer service to market research, from booking appointments to closing sales, the telephone is an essential business tool. Using it effectively requires specific listening, interviewing and speaking skills. Regardless if you are a business owner, an employee, or someone looking for a new job, this course provides you with everything you need to banish phone fear and become phone fabulous!

All the information, including registration, is here: 


Grow Your Business 

Wednesday January 30, 10 am until noon, Halifax

This monthly prospecting practice, in conjuction with The Hub Halifax – 1673 Barrington Street, brings together like-minded entrepreneurs who want to perfect their telephone skills and attract more customers. To register click here  Call me at 902-404-3290 or email me for more details.


Exceed Your Quota: Get More Appointments – Close More Sales!  

Wednesday March 13, 9 am to 4 pm, Halifax 

Peter Skakum of Tangent Strategies joins me for this powerful workshop at Ashburn Golf Club. We’ll show you how to confirm more meetings and leave those meetings with new customers and new orders. Download the course description, learn more details and register here:




  1. Thomas Nolte says:

    Could it be that we want to avoid the risk of an unexpected or unwelcomed or lengthy answer and therefore we do not ask open questions? Or maybe we are usually so self centered that we have no time or desire to hear the other person out?

    • The Phone Lady says:

      These are definite possibilities, Thomas. And both new to me. I will include these ideas in my next workshop. It will be interesting to see how many people relate to each suggestion. Thanks for taking the time to send these to me.

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