The Question is in the Answer

woman in phone call at desk

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

A variation of this quote is likely familiar to most of us. And most of us understand that preparation is an important and essential part of success. But … there are times when preparation prevents us from doing our best, particularly when it comes to conversations with our clients and potential clients.

This was clarified for me this past week in two ways. One was during a conversation with a journalist on conducting interviews. In some instances today, interviews are done by email, the questions being created ahead of time and sent out. The interviewee sends back the answers, over which they have taken some time – and had the opportunity to edit.

When I read articles in magazines or newspapers that use this interview technique, I can always tell. Not just from the polished responses but because the interview doesn’t “flow”, it doesn’t have the rhythm of a conversation. Instead, it bumps along, leaves gaps where I, the reader, can get distracted and move on to something else.

Also during this past week, on behalf of a client, I’ve been calling and getting feedback from existing customers. My goal with each phone call is to have a conversation. I make this happen by asking one open-ended question – and that is the end of my preparation!

My next question depends totally on the answer I receive. This includes the sound of their voice or even their lack of response.

This is where, I believe, great phonework comes from. In the absence of body language it is vital that we set aside our need to be completely prepared and allow ourselves to: 1) ask one solid open-ended question; 2) listen carefully to the answer; and 3) create our next question(s) from what we hear.

For example, if I am following up on information I’ve sent to a prospective client, I can start the phone call with “Hi Joan, I’m calling today to follow up on the information I sent you last week. What are your thoughts on the training I provide?”

No matter how Joan answers – whether she has a question, or she expresses interest in a certain workshop, or she wants to talk price, or perhaps she’s decided training is not of interest at this time – my next question comes from her answer.

This is how we inspire conversations with our prospects and clients. This is how we get to know them and build a relationship. This is how we create the “flow” that makes our jobs fun and exciting.

What do you think?

One Last Thought

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

— Theodore Isaac Rubin, Psychiatrist

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 Question is in the Answer”

  1. Soooo true Mary Jane. Sometimes you just have to “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Planning and preparation are essential but sometimes when overdone it can lead to paralysis. The first rule of taking control is knowing that we don’t have total control 🙂 Happy Selling.


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What's The Phone Lady doing?

  • One-on-one coaching with 6 amazing entrepreneurs - info about sales coaching here
  • Teaching phone skills to job seekers to tap into the hidden job market
  • Sales training on outbound calls for a team of outdoor gourmet kitchen designers
  • Sales and marketing coaching for a team for natural products for arthritis in dogs
  • Customer service training for a team supporting energy efficiency in homes
  • Sales training for financial advisors
  • Training with new entrepreneurs for discovery call, sales and customer service conversations
  • Cold calling for corporate education specialist

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