In business situations, when you are trying to reach the person who has the authority to make decisions regarding your product you are very likely to have to go through one or more people before reaching that person. For the sake of efficiency, there will likely be a receptionist and/or assistant who takes the initial calls for the decision-maker.

It's important that you realize most assistants are taught to protect decision-makers. Or, shall we say, screen calls so the decision-makers only speak with the people they want to speak with. It's very likely the assistant has been given instructions with regard to who to put through and who to keep at bay. Understanding this element is critical-the assistant is used to taking instruction from others. Therefore, you must come across with authority.

If you know the name of the decision-maker, you would simply say, Good morning, please put me through to Mary Smith. You will be pleasantly surprised at how well and how often this works.

If Mary has her calls screened, you may be asked for your name and/or what the call is regarding. Here's what you say:

My name is Jacob Martin and I'm calling regarding... and you would give a benefit of your product or service-not a feature, not a name, but a benefit.

...saving the company money on health care benefits.

...increasing profits through technology.

...improving the company's image in the marketplace.

If you can tie your benefit to something that might benefit the screener, all the better. If they suspect you're calling about something that might make their job easier, more fun or provide added benefits to them as an employee, they'll be quick to connect you.

In situations where you're cold calling and do not know the name of the decision-maker, here's how the conversation might sound like this:

My name is Jacob Martin and I am in business in the community. I'm calling regarding your telephone system. Who in your company is responsible for that? By the way, who am I speaking with?

It's important that you get the name of the assistant or gate-keeper. You want to make this a personal conversation. You want to enlist that person's aid and nothing is more personal than your name.

Gatekeeper: My name is Anne.

You: Thank you, Anne. I really need your help. Who in your company would I talk to regarding the telephone system?

What happens most of the time when you ask someone for help? They feel important. They want to help. It's tough for most people to turn down a request for help. So, use that to your advantage.

Gatekeeper: That would be Jack Peterson.

You: Jack Peterson. Thank you, Anne. Please put me through to him.

You want to repeat the name to ensure that you have it correct. If it's an unusual name, this is when you would ask for the correct spelling and double-check the pronunciation.

When you first reach the decision-maker, you need to capture their interest and establish rapport. One of the steps in rapport-setting is to give them a sincere compliment. In business situations, compliment them on the person who just put you through: Mr. Peterson, my name is Jacob Martin. Thank you for taking my call. Anne was very helpful and represents your company well.

It's that fast and simple. You've begun on solid ground.

There will be cases when the decision-maker is not immediately available or when the assistant is stalling your call. They may ask you to leave a message, trying to get more information about why you're calling-in essence, sizing you up. Don't go into a great amount of detail. You're not trying to sell the assistant on your business, just on yourself.

Anne, I'm in and out a good bit during the day and I'm sure he is very busy. Rather than having him waste time trying to reach me, I'll just call back. When is the best time to reach him?

If she's not sure or can't answer that, simply say: Please leave a message for him that Jacob Martin called regarding increasing profit to the company and that I'll call back later today.

When you finish your initial call, take a quick moment to write a note to Anne and mail it off:

Dear Anne,

I enjoyed talking with you on the telephone. I hope the company realizes how important the first image is when someone answers the phone. You do a wonderful job. Thank you in advance for all your help.

Jacob Martin

If you think about it, assistants and receptionists probably don't get a lot of recognition in most companies. By sending this simple note, you'll make her day and win her over for the next time you ask for help.

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