Screening Sales Calls

By | Apr 26, 2010

I’ve talked before about Screening Calls to Make Your Boss More Productive, but I didn’t discuss sales calls in particular.  Telemarketers are wily characters that will do their best to try and fake you out and get you to put their calls through.  It’s your job as an administrative or executive assistant to hold the line and not let them through.

The Easy Calls

Some calls are obviously sales calls

  • “May I speak to the person in charge of purchasing decisions for XYZ?”
  • “Who do you currently buy your office supplies from?”

My immediate response to these types of questions is always, “What are you selling?”  They’ll give you a song and dance, start asking questions, but don’t give in.  Eventually they will either tell you what they’re selling or they’ll hang up.  For those who tell me what they are selling, if it is something we might need, I tell them to send us a brochure.  If they want a name, tell them to put your name on it, and you’ll forward it to the correct person.  Never, ever give them the name of the person who would do the purchasing.  They’ll just use that to bypass you the next time they call.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

There’s no way to put a nice face on it.  Sales people will flat out lie to you to get through to your boss.  Don’t trust it.

  • “Hi, can I speak to Bob?”

OK, this one isn’t so much a blatant lie as an attempt to fool you into thinking he knows your boss.  The reply to this one is, “If you’ll give me your name, I’ll see if he is available.”  If you only get a first name in reply, then ask what company he’s with.  If you keep getting a song and dance, don’t let him through.  Remember, even if this is a legitimate call for your boss, it’s better to get a name and number, and let your boss decide about calling back.  I usually marked these messages as suspected sales calls.  I’d review them with the boss, just in case they were legitimate, so I’d know in the future.  Generally, if people have legitimate business with your boss, they are happily forthcoming with information, because they know it’s your job to protect your boss’s time.

  • “I’m returning Bob’s call.”

Now, this one is generally a blatant, bald-faced lie.  Again, you treat it the same way as the other calls.  If unsure, get a name and number and run it by the boss later.  Don’t put them through.

  • “I’m a friend of Bob’s.”

Again with the lies.  If this person is really a friend, they won’t mind leaving a name and number.

Confusion Reigns

Some marketers will just try to confuse you into letting them through.

  • “This is John from XYZ Company.  Your President is Mr. Howther, is that correct? I need to speak with him immediately.”

This marketer wants to intimidate you into letting his call through.  He puts on an air of authority and throws a lot of information at you in order to confuse you and hopefully get through to his mark.  Don’t fall for it.  A simple, “May I ask why you are calling,” is often all that is necessary.  If they don’t want to give you any information, then the boss will remain “unavailable”.  Take a name and number and mark it as a possible sales call.

Verifying Information

This gambit is one of my favorites. 

  • “This is not a sales call.  We just need to verify some company information.”

It’s true, they don’t want to sell your company anything directly.  What they don’t say is they are verifying information so they can sell it to another company to try and sell you things.  I firmly let them know that we do not verify that kind of information, and I hold to that.  If they won’t give up, I eventually hang up on them.

Be the Gatekeeper

Screening calls is probably one of the most important aspects of an administrative or executive assistant’s job.  Remember, you’re the gatekeeper.  It’s up to you who gets to talk to your boss.  Always be polite but firm when protecting your boss’s time.

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1 Comment so far
  1. Adam Barr (1 comments) March 6, 2011 6:28 am

    I find it amazing that some of these telemarketers will go as far as telling lies to try and speak to the boss man lol, If I was in their shoes, I would just try and get the brochure to the company and then let them decide.
    Adam Barr´s last blog post ..Yesterday I Became a Father

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