When "I Don't Know" is the Right Answer

What’s the square root of 347,890? What is the capital of New Zealand? How many nautical miles are between California and South Korea? What is your mother-in-law’s middle name?

Chances are most of you don’t know the answers to the questions above. I certainly don’t. Not a clue. And we’re all probably OK with that. But what if someone were to ask you what the best internet speed is for their business? Or if they should look into a public, private, or hybrid cloud solution? What a megabit means? What MPLS stands for?

These are the types of questions you probably feel like you should know the answers to. In our industry, customers are constantly throwing questions your way. It’s incredibly overwhelming to feel that you need every answer to every question at your fingertips. But I’m here to tell you that a quick answer isn’t always the right answer. Because in an industry that changes quicker than the time it takes to Google, “Which cloud solution is right for me?” it’s just as important to know how to get the right answer, as it is knowing the answer on demand.

Businessman holding paper with printed question mark

I recently had a chance to sit down and have a chat with TBI Vice President Ken Mercer.
One of the reasons I love talking with Ken is he lives by TBI’s core values, one of which is, “Plainspoken advice.” When you talk with Ken, you can rest assured that you will not leave the conversation feeling confused, insecure, or unfulfilled. Here’s an example:

While we were talking, I mentioned that sometimes I struggle to keep up with industry conversations because of all the technical jargon. Ken’s response: “What’s wrong with just asking?” I thought to myself for a minute and really couldn’t think of anything wrong with it. I realized that every time I’m asked a question I don’t know the answer to, I redirect or delegate to someone else (I’m sure you can think of a time you’ve done the same). But the truth is, no one knows everything all the time and there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”

How does this play out with our agents and their customers?
It’s been my experience that customers like most people value honesty above all. They want someone who is looking out for their best interest and someone who is going to tell them the truth in a straightforward, plainspoken way. If a customer asks you what MPLS stands for and you say, “To be honest, I don’t know…but I can find out,” you are going to gain respect as an honest and trustworthy professional. Especially if you get back to them with the answer.

While your customers don’t expect you to have all of the answers all the time, they do expect you to utilize your resources (resources they don’t have) to find answers. So when you find out what MPLS stands for, don’t just stop with what the letters represent. Go further and explain the value of MPLS and how your customers can use it. That’s what being a trusted adviser is all about.

If you think you don’t have the resources, think again.
TBI has more than 130 employees that are dedicated to getting you the answers you are looking for and providing the support you need. We’re just a phone call, email, or text away. We are constantly learning about new technologies and industry trends and love educating our agents as well.

And in case you didn’t know, MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching and is the most common way to build a wide area network. I didn’t know that at first, but I found out.


About the Author
Bryan Reynolds is a Partner Experience Manager at TBI. He provides partners with their initial on-boarding experience and guides them through TBI’s processes and procedures to ensure clear and efficient communication. You can contact Bryan at breynolds@tbicom.com or connect with him on LinkedIn here.