The #1 Way to Build Relationships

April 10, 2016
Mary Jane Copps



The conversation is the relationship.

Susan Scott, CEO & Founder, Fierce Inc.

Last week I introduced you to the two questions you must answer – quickly – at the beginning of every cold call.  When you accomplish this, you eliminate distractions for your prospect and – if you’ve sparked their curiosity – they will engage in conversation.

So … how do you get the conversation started?

You need to ask an open-ended question – not in order to make an immediate sale, but to uncover your prospect’s needs and desires, and begin building relationship. You see, a cold call is really the last step of your research process. You’ve done all your homework and you are confident your services are a fit for this prospect, but you can’t know that for sure until you have a conversation.

Here’s the script I shared with you last week, including my “go to” opened-ended question:

Hi Joan, it’s Mary Jane Copps calling from The Phone Lady. The reason for my call today is I understand you have a team of people there making outbound sales calls. I work with teams like your’s, giving them the skills they need to be more effective on the phone and produce more revenue. I’m wondering, how do you choose the trainers that work with your team?”

There are so  many ways a prospect might answer this question. And this is the challenge. Open-ended questions require us to be prepared for anything, to know our product or service so well that, no matter what the response, we remain comfortable and confident within the conversation. 

The most common response I hear to my question is  “Hmmm, well tell me a bit more about what you do?” And isn’t that perfect? The prospect actually gives me permission to describe in detail the services and benefits of working with The Phone Lady. This is the response that allows me to build relationship and most often results in a new contract.

Other responses include:

“We do a training budget annually and make decisions at that time.” In this case, I find out more about submission guidelines and make sure my information is considered during the next budget discussions.

“All our training is decided by head office in Toronto (or somewhere else).” Here, I push back a little bit, perhaps asking “So, you aren’t able to work with any local trainers?” And I’d certainly ask about, and call,  the correct contact at head office.

“We create and deliver all our training in-house.”  Again, I push back a little by asking “Oh, and does your in-house team ever connect with other trainers to access new material or learn new skills?”

“We are in a long-term contract with a training company and cannot look at any other options until that contract is complete.” In this case, I do ask which company they are working with and then respect their timeline, indicating that I’ll follow up at the end of their current contract.

In every scenario, I forward information by email. Whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, I use every opportunity to build The Phone Lady brand.

I made my first sales call in early 1987. Since that time, I’ve had a lot of conversations with prospects. While not every conversation has resulted in a sale, every sale has come from a conversation.  

So …  how will you get the conversation started? I encourage you to share your open-ended questions in the comments section below.

Enjoy your phone work everyone!



  1. Natasha says:

    I love what you say about really knowing our product or service. Of course we KNOW it, but can we relay it back to someone, when put on the spot, in any number of scenarios?? You remind me to continue to work on my elevator pitch!!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      This is great, Natasha. You are right. Of course we KNOW it, but can we express it in a way that communicates with our audience. I think you’ve given me another blog post.

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