How to End Conversations: The Clean-Up Question

Just about everyone has numerous conversations daily, either with internal colleagues or with prospects or current clients. Typically, we conclude our conversation or meeting, and everyone goes on to the next item on their to-do list. Too often, we miss an opportunity to find out more or to explore other areas of interest because we did not ask the clean-up question: “What else would you like me to know?”

There are other ways of asking the clean-up question, such as:

  • “What other topics do we need to discuss?”
  • “What else should I know?”
  • “What other areas should we cover?”
  • “What additional information should I have?”

Many people think they are asking a clean-up question when they ask, “Is there anything else?” Unfortunately, they have done themselves a disservice because they began their question with “Is” instead of using one of the above examples, thus turning an open question into a closed question. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that asking a closed question makes it too easy for the other person to say “no.” The end result–any further discussion is stopped, and the chance to explore other areas or topics becomes a lost opportunity.

An open question makes the other person think before just automatically saying “no.” Many times when the responder takes a moment to consider the open question, he or she will often share some other areas to discuss. It may be that there is not time during this meeting or conversation to cover the new topic, but it can certainly be the reason for a follow-up meeting or conversation.

An example:

A salesperson for a manufacturing company was calling on a prospective client. During the conversation, it quickly became apparent that the prospect wasn’t interested in the original purpose of the meeting. However, the salesperson ended by asking, “What else should I know?” That question got the prospect thinking for a moment. The salesperson said you could see the light bulb going on in the prospect’s head. That one question opened up a whole new topic and that prospect became a client.

One of the nice things about the clean-up question is its versatility. It can be used in face-to-face meetings, as well as over the phone or virtually. It can be used in selling situations, or it can be used with internal colleagues. It can also be used in closing some emails. Think about ending your next call or meeting with a clean-up question. Make sure it is an open question and not a closed question. After asking, give the other person a few moments in silence to consider their response. Resist the urge to fill the silence—let the other person fill it with their response.

For more information on clean-up questions, check out Socratic Selling Skills and Persuasive Dialogue.


Check Out Our New Communication Q&A Series