Lessons from the Wolf Pack #12 Dealing With Receptionists

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Lessons from the Wolf Pack is an ongoing series of recruitment advice articles taken from, or inspired by, situations and events observed during our phone coaching sessions with recruitment consultants making real, live calls to win business and find candidates. This is advice directly from the recruitment front lines!

Lessons from the Wolf Pack #12

Dealing With Receptionists

Love them or hate them you are going to talk to a lot of gatekeepers over your time in recruitment.

I had felt over the last few years that the problems with gatekeepers were becoming something of a historical footnote but I’ve been asked by a few recruiters recently to give them some advice on the topic hence this blog.

Now to be clear I define a gatekeeper as anyone who isn’t the person you want to talk to. That means managers; directors or other senior individuals within an organisation can also be gatekeepers if they are between you and the person you actually want to speak with.

The ones we traditionally think of are the receptionists; secretaries and PA’s and it’s receptionists that I will focus on in this article.

First up I want to say that they should always be treated with respect. They are human beings and doing their job just like you and I. The fact that their job might include not wanting to put our call through is just an unfortunate fact of life but it isn’t grounds to be rude to them.

When it comes to me making the call and getting a gatekeeper on the phone I take the view that they are there to put my call through. I base that assumption on the fact that I know my business proposal has some value for the company and that it should be presented to a senior decision maker who can then make a decision about it.

Given that companies exist to make profit for their owners and other stakeholders and that my proposition can increase their profit then in fact it is in their best interest to speak to me. From that simply, yet powerful, mind-set I act and speak assumptively with gatekeepers. I expect them to put me through and I act accordingly.

I also do as much as I can to take the decision away from the gatekeeper as to whether or not to put my call through.

I use a strong tone, clear, concise requests e.g. “Bob Smith, please” (rather than waffling) and lots of silence to create the clear impression that I know what I want, it’s important, potentially I’m important, and consequently the call should go through.

Sometimes there is a need to give them just enough information to help them reach the decision about passing the call through. Your company name is one such piece of information. I spent a good number of years advocating that people only gave their name first and then made the receptionist ask for the company name. I don’t hold with that now. I think for the most part when asked the classic “who’s calling” question that you should say your name and then the company name.

Things change and evolve in sales and recruitment and one of those things is that many receptionists now know that when a person only gives their first name and no company name they are attempting to hide their origins!

What I would advocate is saying both with strong confidence and also, where you can, spell out the company name and fairly slowly at that. I worked with a consultant last week who quite nicely got through a gatekeeper by spelling out the name of her company a heartbeat before the question of “what is the call about” was raised. It broke the receptionist’s rhythm and she put the call through.

Obviously if you have a very simple company name then this doesn’t work. (If you are in the unfortunate position of working for a recruitment company who put ‘recruitment’ or some such in their company name then try to simple use the first name or even use an abbreviation.)

In Summary

The key is confidence and asking with a tone and manner that makes your call seem important.

There is a lot more I could say on this topic (and indeed I have written about it twice before here and here) and I am sure I will return to it at some point.

Until next time; be successful!

Stephen Hart
Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com


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