The #1 Rule of Phone Work

As with all blog posts, I’ve been thinking about this one for several days – letting images and words bump around in my head before finally sitting down to move all the thoughts into logical order.

The images go all the way back to 1988 when, having just started my first company, my business partner and I moved from my living and dining room to office space at Woodbine and Danforth in Toronto, above the TD Bank. Thinking about it brings back a bit of the excitement – and anxiety – of signing a lease, hiring staff and making that monumental leap of faith that, yes, the company can meet all of its financial obligations.

And we did. We took our hodgepodge of furniture and organized the space into a decent looking office. Our desks were on either side of the one large window, which made it easy to talk to each other throughout the day. And also meant that my partner heard every phone call I made … and there were lots of them! Both of us understood the value of keeping records, so I had already started to maintain a “tick sheet”, a record of each call I made and the results. Take a look at my activity in January 1989 (My best guess anyway based on the notation about my business partner’s birthday. Given the number of calls I made that day, I’m guessing we celebrated!):

MJs Tick Sheet January 1989


I’m quite amazed when I look at these numbers – 105 calls in one day! That’s not even possible for me now. Back then, encountering busy signals and no answers actually allowed me to complete more calls. What’s interesting is that I reached more people, but the number that called me back is roughly the same as today, something for a future blog post.

So, back to Woodbine and Danforth  – the sound of my voice was a constant hum in the office and it was glaringly obvious when I hesitated or procrastinated on making calls. And I would. Some days that phone did weigh 200 lbs and my mind raced with all the reasons why the conversation was going to be difficult or uncomfortable.

That’s when my business partner would look up from her desk and share these words of wisdom across the office – words that are my # 1 rule of phone work: “The answer is always “no” if you don’t pick up the phone and ask.” 

It really is that simple. Whether the call is about acquiring a new customer, or improving communication with an existing client, or getting funding, or accounts payable, or challenging your cellphone bill … if you don’t make the call the answer remains “no”.

Possibility lives in the phone call so … pick it up, make things happen!

Leave a comment

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.