Listen – Respond – Build Rapport

This past week I was on the phone steadily and had several strong reminders of the importance of listening – and responding – to what I hear. This is vital to our ability to create and maintain strong relationships. 

Phone fear is grounded in our inability to see what is happening on the other end of the line. Many of us visualize our call being a rude intrusion and, as a consequence, hesitate to “pick it up and make things happen”. 

Sometimes – not often – but sometimes this visualization comes true and that’s when you need to be able to rely on strong listening skills and empathy. 

Empathy? Yes, absolutely, because empathy is our ability to identify with and communicate our understanding of, another person and their situation. And this builds rapport – harmonious relationship. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about your customer or potential customer. 

Examples from my past week include a call on Monday morning that was answered in a hospital. The person I had reached had a very ill spouse. The illness was sudden, the diagnosis dire. 

I suppose I could have quickly said “Oh, well I’ll call back another time.” But that wouldn’t have been responding to what I heard. I heard someone who needed human contact in that moment, who needed someone to listen and provide support in some small way. This wasn’t hard to do – we would all do the same if we came across this situation face-to-face, so having it happen on the phone, while surprising, doesn’t change how we should react. 

I did abandon the reason for my call altogether; it had no importance in that moment. What was important was the listening and responding. 

Another call was answered while driving a car. This happens frequently and my response is: “Sounds like I’ve caught you while you’re driving. Why don’t I call you back later today.”  

The contact, who had children in the car as well, was pleased with my reaction and illustrated this by calling me back. We had a great conversation, have connected on LinkedIn and are definitely building rapport. 

Finally, I reached a contact just home from emergency surgery. Exhaustion was evident in their voice. In this situation empathy is vital and, as in the first scenario, it’s important to set aside our agenda, offering comfort and exiting the call as quickly as possible.  

These situations also raise another issue I’ve talked about before  – how and when we are answering our phones. It is certainly possible that in each of these scenarios the individuals were expecting an important call, or answered on impulse. That’s going to happen. But ideally, we want to answer our phones when we can talk. Our voicemail, with its all-important welcoming message, can answer for us – and sometimes that’s the perfect choice. 

What about you? It would be great to hear how listening and empathy have supported your phonework.

And … I want to share with you a unique project that’s come my way. It involves reaching only one person and booking one meeting. The person happens to be the CEO of one of Fortune’s top 40 companies but  … I love a challenge and the proposed compensation is creative and valuable. I’ll keep you posted.

 And I’m excited about two upcoming workshops – one in Fredericton on March 30 and the other in Cornwallis on April 4. For details and to register click here:  And please help me spread the word! 

One last thought

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do. -John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900)

Enjoy this week’s PhoneWork! TPL



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.

0 thoughts on “Listen – Respond – Build Rapport”

  1. So much great information here. To be flexible and aware are such a great skills always, especially if we are going to be REAL on the phone. And… to only pick up when you are prepared to talk…great lesson! Thanks, Mary Jane!

    • Thanks, Natasha for the lovely comments. Yes, it is important to acknowledge our ability to take a call before we answer the phone.

  2. Thank you Mary Jane for bringing your post to my attention. I am one who has no patience for those who have no time to interact with me. If our time is so important, then why can we not extend the same courtesy to those that wait for customer service. Literally speaking, customer service is not being offered if the desk/sales clerk is on his/her cell. I turn and walk away possibly choosing to speak with another sales rep or just leaving the store/office. However, my greatest fear is being on the same road as the distracted driver. It has been proven that using a phone while driving is equal to driving under the influence of alcohol. I am so frustrated that with all the publicity available enforcing the dangers of cell phone use and driving, people still want to risk their lives as well as mine. I hope everyone who cares will not ignore this issue, but speak up and act to change this critical habit.


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