Fantastic Phrases: Practical Words That Work

What’s On My Mind

Fast and practical this week!

One thing people love in our GrowBIG Training is exactly how to phrase something.

​This is important: the same offer phrased two different ways can get drastically different results.

​Let’s get right to it.

​Here are some of my favorite phrases!

​First up: a “family” of phrases…

Would it be helpful if…?

I call this a family of phrases because Would it be helpful if…? is so powerful and flexible.

​Would it be helpful if…? has a high likelihood of getting a yes. It’s much more likely to get a yes than saying Do you want us to…?

​You can use Would it be helpful if…? to advance all kinds of things.

​Let’s say you want to create some curiosity after a client has shared they’re struggling with an issue.

  • Would it be helpful if I share how we’ve helped other clients in your situation?

Now let’s say they liked that story, and it’s clear they might need your help. You can transition to how you might specifically work with them, building everything together as you go.

  • Would it be helpful if we talked through precisely–given your unique situation–how we might tackle this if we worked together?

​Or, let’s say your conversation is well before the above examples, and you want to invest in the client to create some demand with a Give-to-Get.

  • Would it be helpful if we invested in you by ____?

​Would it be helpful if…? is a great way to transition from one step to the next, or to get the steps started in the first place.

Next up…

At this stage, most of our clients hire us to <describe outcome>, which takes about <give rough timing> and typically costs between __ and __ <share range of investment>.

This little phrase is super powerful and easy to understand.

​Most professionals shy away from talking about commercial next steps, maybe fearing rejection or talking about money.

Don’t let this be you.

​Your clients want simple and obvious next steps.

​They want to be guided.

They’re busy and are worrying about the next meeting on their calendar.

Make things easy for them.

​Give them something to react to. You’ve got the expertise they need–make it easy for them to see the simple and obvious next step.​

A great presentation is like a sidewalk: it leads to one simple decision.

This simple sentence packs a punch. It shares the outcome, the timing and the range of investment.

It prompts questions, creating curiosity.

Can you tell me more about what the report and insights would look like? Is there a way to get preliminary results sooner? What determines the cost structure?

​These are great questions. The kinds of questions you want to get.

The best way to talk about doing work for a client is to start talking about doing work for a client.

And, here’s a great potential ending to that…

Would that be of interest to you, or not?

This is another great transition question. You can add it to the back end of the question above if you want, or it can be added to the end about any suggested transition.

Two parts:

Would that be of interest to you? is a great starter. It softens the question, not asking directly if they want to do whatever the next step is…but just asking if it’s of interest at all. Love that.

​But the or not at the end is where the magic is.

​Adding or not suggests you’re genuinely open to whatever they think. You’re not being presumptive. You’re truly listening. You’re OK either way.

​Here’s the deal.

​Of course, you want to know if they’re interested.

​But you also want to know if they’re not interested!

​The or not gives them license to say it’s not the right time or right offer. Better to know now than after you invested another 10 hours pushing a rope.​

Even better, the or not also pulls the recipient in if they are interested.

​They’ll swing back with a strong reply if they are.

​And here’s a way to enroll others in your plans…

I’m trying to ___ <describe challenge>. What would you do if you were me?

Man, I love this one!

​It’s a way to ask for help without being too bold. You describe a challenge in the blank above.


  • I’d really like to grow our impact at your company. What would you do if you were me?
  • We’d like to get to know Sue, your CFO. What would you do if you were us?​
  • We think we could offer a lot of value to your China subsidiary, but we don’t know anyone there yet. What would you do if you were us?

This question is so so so good.

Not only will you get great ideas from the person you’re talking to, but they’ll likely get enrolled in the task and offer things they can do to help. Clients love helping, and this is a wonderful way to ask for help.

So great.

Here’s a great way to get better feedback…

When you think about ___ <describe past event>, what’s one thing you would change and one thing you would keep?

This is a much better way of asking for feedback than “what did you think about ___?” That’s how most people ask for feedback.

The problem is that question usually gets superficial pleasantries.

And answers like “It was great!” don’t give you improvement ideas.

Asking specifically for one thing to change and one thing to keep will give you real feedback—real things to improve.


  • When you think about the meeting we just had with your boss, what’s one thing you would change and one thing you would keep?​
  • When you think about the project we just completed, what’s one thing you would change and one thing you would keep?
  • When you think about the RFP response we sent in, what’s one thing you would change and one thing you would keep?

​Pro tip: Sometimes, people will hesitate to give you something to change, maybe saying something like, “Wow, I’m struggling to think of something to change.”

Don’t let them off the hook.

Respond with, “Well, that’s great, but what’s one thing to change, even if it’s a really small tweak?”

Give them time to think.

​They’ve got something in mind, I promise. There’s always something to change.

​What they’re really assessing is if you’re open to the feedback. That response gives them comfort–and you’ll deepen the relationship by showing you truly want an improvement idea.

Now let’s look to the future…​

What’s the #1 thing we need to do to ____?

The future version of the last question is what top executive coach Marshall Goldsmith calls FeedForward.


  • What’s the #1 thing we need to do a great job on this project?
  • What’s the #1 thing we need to do a great job in the finalist presentation?
  • What’s the #1 thing we need to do to impress Philippe?​

The answers you’ll get will often surprise you…and tell you exactly what you need to do to advance a project, opportunity or relationship.​

It’s good to have the answers to the test before it’s given!

And here’s a great closing question…

What should we have discussed but didn’t?

This is a great question to finish meetings and almost always results in an interesting insight!

Let me pop up a level and talk about these fantastic phrases.​

The word rhetoric gets a bad wrap.

It’s often used negatively, often framed as politicians droning on and on from skewed one-sided views that aren’t helpful.

But that’s not what rhetoric really means. Here’s the definition I found on google:

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Rhetoric is important.

How you say something is as or more important than what you say.

​One super practical way of rocking your rhetoric is keeping a library of fantastic phrases.

Start a Fantastic Phrase note in Apple Note, OneNote or Evernote, or even a draft email.

​Anything that syncs across your devices can work.

​Then, when you hear someone say a fantastic phrase, take a moment and jot it down.

​(Funny side note: I had an all-star BIG colleague once that started a file titled $#!+ Mo Says. I thought that was hilarious.)

​You can start your note with the fantastic phrases in this email and add to it over time.

​Writing these down will help you remember and add them to your daily routine.

​Each phrase will improve your productivity, advancement rates and learnings.

And getting better sure is fun.

​Last question: can you hit reply and share your fantastic phrases?

​I’d really enjoy that.

​And if I get some good ones I’ll share them with this GrowBIG Playbook community.

​Would you like that, or not?


ps. While it’s focused on writing, Mark Forsyth’s book Elements Of Eloquence is a great way to quickly learn some of the most effective turns of phrase, refining your rhetoric. I use his techniques every day, and especially when I wrote The Snowball System. I’m proud that Snowball won some top tier writing awards, and Mark’s book was a game changer for me.

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