The #1 Way to Build Relationships


“The conversation is the relationship.”
Susan Scott, CEO & Founder, Fierce Inc.

I recently received a note from an entrepreneur who participated in one of my October workshops. He shared that the techniques we worked on continue to have a positive impact on his company’s ability to connect with prospects and clients. Then he asked me a question which I think you can help me answer.

What question did this entrepreneur ask? And how can you help?

The entrepreneur has remained curious about open-ended questions and inspiring conversation. Did I have any additional resources on creating great questions? While I do have some research set aside for the upcoming holiday, I’m hoping you can contribute some ideas this week.

Not long ago 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 yours, 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 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 do you get a conversation started? Please share your favorite open-ended questions in the comments section below.


Where’s The Phone Lady

Tuesday Dec 5 – Telephone Excellence, Canadian Credit Union Association, National Virtual Conference

Thursday Dec 7 – Phone Skills That Build Relationships, Assante Hydrostone, Halifax

Tuesday Dec 12 – Effective Phone Communication Skills, JA Snow Funeral Home, Halifax

Thursday Dec 14 – Effective Phone Communication Skills, Construction Association of Nova Scotia, Halifax

Friday Dec 15 – Vacation!

Monday Jan 8 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous, CBDC NOBL, Truro

Tuesday Jan 9 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous, CEED, Halifax

Wednesday Jan 10 – Effective Phone Communication Skills, Investors Group, PEI

Thursday Jan 18 – Creating Consistent Revenue, CBDC Blue Water, Porters Lake

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 “The #1 Way to Build Relationships”

  1. 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!!

    • 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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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

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