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The Receptionist: The Key to Reaching the Unreachable Prospect

 Every salesperson knows this challenge. You need to get in contact with a potential lead but you don’t have their contact details. Email addresses can be fairly easy to guess or find by using email search tools, e.g. “Hunter,” however, phone numbers are much harder to come by. In general, companies try to keep the phone numbers of their decision makers a well-kept secret.

Nevertheless, you have to try to get in touch with a potential lead in any and every way possible. The thing with emails is that they can be successful but you never know if they have been read, deleted, sent to spam or completely ignored and unfortunately, that reply you long for may never come.

So, what do you do?

If you have exhausted all your other resources, then your final option is to try calling via the receptionist in your prospect’s company to get in touch with your prospect. This can be difficult because most companies have strict guidelines on how contact details are published and how they are given out. This is especially the case with larger companies that receive a number of cold calls regularly and train their people in reception to keep the phone lines free of their decision makers.

That’s why I have put together some tips that have worked for us when trying to get past the last hurdle - “The Receptionist.”


 1. Be Prepared

It sounds basic but do your homework. Ask yourself who do you want to call? Search in Linkedin or Google for the decision maker you want to target and try to get their name and their position. This way when you are calling, you will sound more confident because you know who you wish to speak to and you will be able to leave a better first impression.

2. Show No Fear

It takes some experience and some practice to call and ask for someone but once you make this a routine, you will sound more natural and confident.

3. Be Yourself

Have you ever been to a club pretending to be someone else or acted not quite like yourself? Pretending to be someone else takes energy and can be stressful. In addition, trying to be someone else can be uncomfortable and this will show in your voice. A veteran receptionist will easily pick up on these things and won’t let you pass.

4. Master Your Voice

There are certain types of vocals tones that convey comfort and are able to establish trust with people. It's not only my opinion but there are actually a number of studies and books on this topic. Needless to say, mastering your vocal skills requires rigorous training, however, once achieved - they can get you nearly anything.

5. Show Respect

Showing respect to others is vital and it can go a long way. Especially if you call someone multiple times and end up with the same receptionist over and over again. Never forget that the receptionist is there to help you and others. They receive 100’s if not 1000’s of calls everyday and that can be exhausting. During your calls, try to stand out in a positive and innovative way. Sometimes a bit of positivity and respect can be all it takes to reach your prospect.  

6. Be Pushy

This may sound like it's contradictory to the previous tip but allow me to elaborate. You have to try to get what you want. Remember you are someone who needs to talk to the prospect. They need to let you get through. If you hit voicemail, just call the receptionist again and explain the situation. Ask for a phone number. If they don’t give you the phone number then ask for the desk number. You have to make the receptionist believe that this is important, however, don’t make it sound more urgent than it actually is. Studies show that calls related to an “urgent matter” fail more than 97.4% of the time if they are not actually urgent.

7. Don’t Go Into Too Much Detail

(Your Firstname, Lastname,) “I would like to talk to (Prospect’s Name).”

Provide the receptionist with a brief explanation for the reason for your call if they ask.

8. Be Direct and Concise

It sounds logical but it always isn’t. When you don’t have enough information you might    end up trying to fill blanks or make things up. This can backfire when the receptionist asks you to hold and confirms the information that you just provided with your prospect. Just be honest, don’t make things up and keep it together.

9. Have a Strategy

Think about how you are going to call the receptionist? Do you want to sound confused and puzzled or do you want to sound confident and prepared? Having a goal before making your call can go a long way, especially if you want to talk to your prospect.

10. Always Call Again

Try calling again if it didn’t work out the first time. You might end up with someone else who is more receptive, friendlier, etc. NEVER GIVE UP. If it didn’t work out today, try again tomorrow.

11. Try or Die Trying

In general, big companies have multiple centers that serve customers, e.g. tech support, customer support, reception, sales, etc. If you don’t get through via the receptionist, then try calling the other centers. Often those are prepared to serve the customer and are more than willing to help. Still, they might redirect you to the receptionist. Who said it would be easy?

12. Low Scoring

This is my favorite. Instead of calling the receptionist and asking for the sales director, ask for the sales manager. When you get through to that person ask him or her to give you the contact details for the sales director. This works almost every time.

13. Two Birds with One Stone

Instead of aiming to reach one prospect, find another person you can reach in the company. When you call reception, you might as well use the advantage of asking for information related to the other person as well. If the first prospect is not available, you have another prospect you can go to.

14. David vs Goliath

In some countries such as the US or the UK, they have companies that are very used to cold calls and may have very experienced receptionists. All you can do with these sorts of companies is to bring your “A-Game” and hope for the best. It won’t be impossible but it won’t be easy.

15. Argue Only When You Have To

Normally arguing won’t get you anywhere but if the receptionist insists on connecting you with a person that you know is not a decision maker or you know won’t be of any help to you, then you’re going to have to say so. The downside is that you might not be able to get through to the receptionist again, however, on the plus side, there are 100,000’s of other companies you can try to reach afterwards.

Other topics on taking your sales knowledge to the next level:

Sales Tips and Hacks For Salespeople Looking To Close More Often
How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle
5 Habits of the Most Successful People In the World