Is This My #1 Conversation Skill?

In less than six weeks “The Phone Lady” will be 18 years old. For this, I am both amazed and constantly grateful.

In the beginning, the work was all about sales, working with teams and individuals to enhance their phone skills and confidence. Over the years, this expanded to include customer service, job search strategies and, increasingly, combating phone anxiety. Yet the demand for sales skills has never wavered and 2023 was another banner year. Clients from diverse industries in Canada, the US, France, England and Australia fully embraced the power of proactive calling, leading to insightful conversations, numerous ‘light bulb’ moments and revenue growth.

This past year, phone communication also garnered a lot of media attention. I participated in over 30 interviews (radio, television, print and podcasts) here in Canada and around the globe. The most frequently asked question was, “What one skill can you share that will most improve everyone’s phone conversations?”

I’ve reflected on this a lot. I think it’s a simple but elusive skill that’s valuable for every conversation. It works on the phone, in person, and on camera. And in business conversations or relaxed, engaging conversations during the holiday season.

What’s this elusive skill? Are you incorporating it into your conversations?

When it comes to business and proactive calling, creating and utilizing a script or checklist are necessities. For beginners, a script is essential—it’s akin to sheet music for learning an instrument or a recipe for a new dessert. However, the key to a great conversation, script or not, is striking a balance between sharing information and inspiring conversation.

Early in a conversation, what’s crucial is … a pause.

As most of us have experienced, many newcomers to proactive calling tend to rush their entire opening after an initial greeting, almost as one long sentence. Consequently, we push back, asking for details about them or their purpose for the call. This stalls the conversation’s innate flow and effectiveness.

Enter the pause.

We share our opening statement clearly and efficiently. Then we ask an open-ended question and allow a moment for engagement.

For instance:

“Hi there, this is Mary Jane from The Phone Lady. The reason for my call – I understand you have an active outbound sales team and I’m curious to know … what’s the biggest challenge they are facing as we enter 2024?” Pause.

At this point, the prospect might respond with, “Hello, Mary Jane,” or express familiarity with The Phone Lady, or ask me why I’m curious. The exact response isn’t as crucial as the fact they’ve engaged, signaling their willingness to speak with me.

The pause is our invitation into a conversation.

It indicates that we want the other person to participate, and that ideas, thoughts and discussion can be freely shared. Yes, I want to gain a new client, however building trust and long-lasting relationships are equally, if not more, important. And that’s what conversations do.

This brings to mind a message I recently received from Suzanne Iwankow, a participant in one of my workshops. I laughed out loud when I read it, and also understood it’s connection to creating conversation: “Thought you might find it interesting to hear that you have now become a verb. My partner recently told me to “phone lady” a prospect!”

Do you think “the pause” is my #1 conversation skill? Which one would you choose? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.