Powerful Words: What

February 4, 2013
Mary Jane Copps

When we pick up the phone to call a customer or a potential customer, our objective should be to inspire conversation.

With our customers, we want to learn more about them, find out how we can provide more or better service. After all, they are the ones that really know why they’ll stay with us for the long term.

And when we are prospecting, we want to confirm we have reached our target market. One thing I know for sure from my past weeks on the phone, time is everyone’s most valuable resource. Revealing essential information early on by asking open-ended questions shows respect for a prospect’s time. When you respect their time, you gain credibility – and, of course, you save yourself time as well!

In sales, open-ended questions actually help your prospect make the right decision for themselves. Nothing builds trust faster than helping someone make the right decision, even if it means the answer is “no”.

Open-ended questions both invite and inspire conversation. As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t automatically think or speak this way, so using open-ended questions (like so many things in life) takes practice. But I can promise that, once you get the hang of it, your sales will increase, your customer retention will improve and … your time on the phone will be waaaaay more enjoyable.

So, getting back to “what”, here’s some examples of how to make use of this powerful word to extend and expand your conversations:

“What are your thoughts?”

“What would you like to see happen next?”

“What works best with your schedule?”

“”What needs to happen before we can proceed?”

“What is your budget for this project?”

“What were/are your expectations of our meeting?”

“What is/was your desired outcome?”

“What can I/we do for you?”

“What makes sense to you in terms of our next step?”

“What  is your favorite “what” question?” … I’d like to know! Simply scroll to the bottom of this blog and add a comment. (Yes, you have to do a CAPTCHA ( in order to post – apologies for the inconvenience.)

And please come back next week when I’ll introduce you to the most powerful way to start any conversation.

Happy dialing everyone!



  1. Steve Foran says:

    If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

  2. Tell me about………………….

  3. Kate MacLeod says:

    Mary Jane, when are you going to put out a book?! I loved this post, thank you.

  4. Linda Daley says:

    What brought us together? OR What prompted this discussion?
    What do you want to achieve? OR What are your goals?

    Interesting enough, thinking about this made me realize that I probably ask “Why?” more than I should, when “What?” would be a better approach. “Why?” can sometimes be taken as more judgmental.

    Thanks, this is a great article!

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