Counter the Brushoff With These Four Powerful Follow-Up Questions

Oct 7, 2014

I was walking past my desk when the phone rang.

“Hi, I’m Jamie,” said the caller. “I can help improve your website.”

“Sorry, but I’m on my way to the airport,” I said. “Can you call me back next month?”

“Sure,” said Jamie, and he hung up.

A missed opportunity, I thought. And a pretty familiar scenario.

Like Jamie, I often end a conversation before it’s had a chance to gather momentum. Or before I can exchange contact information with the other person. And as a result, we’re both worse off.

Truth be told, I could probably benefit from Jamie’s services. And I’m sure he would like to make a sale. But since I was in a hurry and his caller ID was marked “private,” I’ll either have to wait a month for him to call me back, or we’ll pass as two ships in the night.

Starting What You Finish

At the very least, Jamie should have said, “I see my timing is bad. Can I email you some information to look at while you’re waiting for your flight?” But instead, we crawled back into our caves without even leaving bread crumbs.

To ensure a future connection, here are two quick tips:

1. Recognize common phrases that can derail a call. These include:

  • I can’t talk right now.
  • Can you leave me a voice message?
  • I’m in a meeting.
  • Sorry, I’m not interested.

2. Have an effective follow-up question ready. Here are four of my favorites:

  • Assuming you had a couple of minutes, could you potentially be interested?
  • What’s the best email address to send you some information?
  • May I try you at this number tomorrow, or is there a better time or way to reach you?
  • Really? This will only take 15 seconds.

Years ago, a recruiter called me to pitch a job opportunity. And out of pure instinct, I cut the conversation short. Fortunately, the recruiter asked me to write down his name and number, just in case I changed my mind.

Two minutes after hanging up, I noticed that my hand was still gripping the phone. Obviously, my heart knew better than my mind. And as it turns out, the job — which I later interviewed for and accepted — changed my life. Had I not called back, I would have never worked in Europe, the Caribbean and South America. Or had the chance to meet Princess Diana.

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