I work casually as a building attendant for a personal care home.  I do it because they paid for my education, but that’s neither here nor there.  One of my jobs when I’m there is front desk relief.  I take the place of our executive admin if she’s sick.  The company is quite large, they own several personal care homes.  We get a lot of sales calls.

So, when I’m in gatekeeper mode, enjoying my power trip, I’m on guard against some things, and delighted by others.  Here are some of the things that annoy/interest me when people cold call me.

Annoying:  Asking for “The Owner”, “The Manager”, or “The President”.

Interesting:  Asking for my help in finding the right decision maker.

You have a better chance of making a sale if you’re transferred to the person who actually makes the buying decisions for the product or service you’re selling – so explain it to me – and do it quickly – I’ve got three other lines going.  If you don’t have the ability to quickly  explain what you do to a gatekeeper in a way that they can understand it to assist you in finding a decision maker, you need to call Michel Neray at The Essential Message right now.  Google him.

Annoying: Pretending you’re not a sales rep.

Interesting: Telling me it’s a sales call.

“Oh, no, it’s not a sales call, I’m just calling to ask him some questions about the service he’s receiving from his ISP.”  Ugh.  You want me to track down the CEO so you can ask him a question about our ISP?  The only time he cares about our ISP is when he can’t open his email.  I don’t think he knows the name of our ISP.  He didn’t choose them, and he doesn’t pay them, and he wouldn’t mess with the IT department without their buy in.  I’ll help you find a champion for your cause if you’re honest with me.  If you stumble through a pretend survey pitch, or anything similar, I’ll send you into voicemail purgatory.

*an aside: I changed from a vague to a direct gatekeeper pitch years ago, and you would be surprised how many CxOs take my call just because I wasn’t being a weasel.  This works especially well with companies that are in their first few rounds of VC financing, where the executives are still pretty accessible.

Annoying:  Arguing with me about anything.  Trying to get information out of me that I’m told not to release.  Asking me questions about our vendors.

Interesting:  Asking me how to go about getting an audience with someone in the company.

I don’t know what we’re buying, if we’re buying, or who we buy from.  I can’t give out information about our employees (I signed a piece of paper saying that, and I think it was legally binding!) and I’m getting a little pissed off that you’ve asked me the exact same question three different ways.  Also, did I mention there are three other lines going off and I’m not allowed to hang up on you without fear of being disciplined by my boss and union rep when you call back to complain about how rude I was?

I do, however, know that the Executive Director eats lunch at her desk and answers her own phone when she’s there.  I know that the CEO is in at 7 every morning.  I know the IT director never answers his phone, but that his assistant controls his calendar and schedules in anyone that asks.  If you ask me for help — and hey, charming me a little can’t hurt — I’ll likely give you a tip or two on how to reach the person you want.

This is all rudimentary stuff.  Want to become a better cold caller?  Go get a receptionist job for a while.  You’re making your hundred calls a day.  The receptionist is fielding all of those calls.  You think making the same call all day every day gets tedious?  Imagine what answering them all feels like.

Many companies today have gone to an automated receptionist — and that’s a topic for another rant — but I imagine that revelation came after one receptionist fielded one too many calls from a sales rep that was being confrontational, manipulative, aggressive or just plain ignorant.   The whole win-win sales approach is about becoming a trusted partner and adviser.  The first person you have to work with is the gate keeper.