What Do We Undervalue?

young white man talking on the phone while looking at the sheet of paper and showing a big smile

Following through on an idea, especially one that involves using unfamiliar skills or putting ourselves in the spotlight, is a tremendous challenge. The possibilities of failure, appearing foolish or wasting one’s time all conspire to create doubt and, perhaps, a bit of procrastination.

I’m well acquainted with this scenario.

These past few weeks I’ve pushed through on creating and distributing my first annual Phone Communication Trends Survey. Of the 723 individuals invited to complete the survey, 15% took the time (many thanks!). And of these 74% were senior executives in sales and customer service, with over half of these being CEOs.

While I still have a lot of work ahead to analyze and collate the results, one comment jumped out at me immediately. It’s a bit of wisdom that instantly changed how I view our current relationship with the phone, and I’m hoping it has the same impact on you.

What is this comment? How has it changed my views?

Here’s what the respondent shared:

“Younger employees undervalue the power of a great conversation on the phone and often rely too much on using online.”

The word “undervalue” quite literally took my breath away.

I’ve spent so much time the past decade talking about phone fear and phone anxiety, and explaining how and why younger team members can struggle with phone communication. But I never thought about this simple fact – they undervalue it.

The word “undervalue” came into our English vocabulary in the 1590s and means “to rate as inferior in value, to value or appreciate insufficiently, to depreciate.” In other words, for many individuals,  texting, email, video conversations and social media are perceived to be of more value than a phone conversation.

This got me thinking about how I’ve come to value something.

For example, I grew up in a household where money was never discussed, particularly with women and children. When I left home at 18 and was suddenly responsible for my own money, it meant nothing to me. Then, while still in university, I got a part-time job at a real estate office. I typed up a lot of listings and offers and one evening, a very patient agent took the time to teach me what all the words meant.  As I began to understand things like mortgages, interest rates and valuations, I also started to appreciate money.

This led to my purchasing my first home when I was 23, in 1981. And even though I understood all the words involved in this activity, it was doing it that deepened my relationship with money and its value.

This first house was at Pape and Danforth in Toronto. I bought it for $60,000. The second mortgage was at 21%. To make this work and begin renovating, my partner-at-the-time and I enjoyed Friday nights by going to the library and then buying a frozen pizza at the local grocery store. We sold this home in 1986 for $95,000, a big lesson on the value of money … and hard work. (A quick search tells me that today this semi-detached home could be worth $1.5 million. How astonishing!)

In addition to teaching and doing, I have had, and still have, several financial mentors in my world. My early years of undervaluing money have left their mark and I continue to need support and leadership to help me manage my finances and prepare for my senior years.

Understanding the Value of a Conversation

So when someone is reluctant to incorporate phone conversations into their work, we not only need to provide them with skills, we need to help them understand the value. Those of us with this knowledge need to mentor, support and lead by example. We need to teach. And we need to give them the opportunity to learn by doing.

The alternative is to acquiesce, to agree that phone conversations have lost their value. Admittedly some things have lost their value, likely forever. Things like VCRs, typewriters, carbon paper, the Blackberry, etc.

I know that phone conversations have retained their value. And as I go through my survey results, the majority of responses support this knowledge. So now it’s up to all of us to pass this knowledge along.

The full survey results will be available to you in my post on March 10. I look forward to your reactions and feedback.

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.