The Wrong Person Can Sometimes Be Right

By Wendy Weiss, The Queen of prospecting

Having a hard time putting a name on the decision-maker? Can’t get the information you need to qualify your prospect? Want to know the best time to reach your prospect directly?

There is a solution. Call anyone–as long as they’re not your prospect.

Let’s say that you are having a difficult time finding the name of the decision-maker. You’ve done the easy stuff, checked the prospect company web site and called and asked the receptionist who has told you she’s not allowed to give out that information. What now?

The first thing that you could do is make up a name. Yes, make up a name and then call your prospect company and ask for that person. When the receptionist says, “There’s no one here by that name,” sound confused and then say, “(Made up name) was your (fill in the appropriate title). Who has taken over that position?” The receptionist may very well give you a name.

You can call the CEO’s office. The theory here is that Executive Secretaries know everything. Ask for the CEO. When the Executive Secretary says, “What is this in reference to?” tell her. She will then point you in the right direction.  You will also have the added bonus of being able to say to your prospect, “the CEO’s office said I should be speaking (or meeting) with you.”

Another trick is to randomly change the numbers of the general switchboard number. If the general number is –5000, call -5001, -5002, -5003 etc. and keep going until you actually reach a human being. Ask them to help you. “I’m wondering if you could help me, please?”  People love to help. (You can also add, “I’m being bounced around.” People will immediately be empathetic.)

Explain who you are looking for and ask: “Who is in charge of that department?” or “Who is the liaison with…?” or  “Who should I speak with?” or “Who would handle that?” Once you get a name, ask: “Do you have a company directory? Would you look up that extension for me?” and then ask, “Would you be good enough to transfer me?” Make sure to thank your helper profusely!

You can do exactly the same thing with companies that have replaced human beings with automated call attendants. Keep randomly making choices until you reach a live human being. Follow the script above.

Sometimes it’s the easiest to start out asking for the wrong person. Some very helpful departments are:

  • Sales
  • Help Desk
  • Accounts Receivable and/or Accounts Payable
  • Purchasing

Simply ask the receptionist for one of these departments, “Sales, please” or “Help Desk, please.” Once you are in that department, proceed as above, “I’m wondering if you could help me, please…”

Let’s say you have been able to name your prospect but you have not been able to reach the prospect directly. Your goal is to find out when you might be able to reach that prospect and to also gather any information that will help you qualify the prospect and have a productive conversation. Use the tools above to reach other contacts that work in the same department and/or work near your prospect. They may be able to help. Ask: “When is the best time to reach (prospect’s name)?” “What time does (prospect’s name) come in?”  “What time does (prospect’s name) take lunch?” “How late is (prospect’s name) usually in?” Sometimes these wrong people can even provide detail about the subject you want to discuss with your prospect.

If you call your prospect and reach voice mail you may want to do some research to find out the best times to contact your prospect. Usually at the end of an outgoing message is a statement like, “If you need additional or immediate help, dial…” or “To reach someone else in the company dial…” Take advantage of this. You might have to leave a message so that the system will let you move onto the next step. If you don’t want to leave an actual message you can simply say, “OK” which will be recorded and then allow you to move on.

If the voice mail mentioned a specific extension to call for additional or immediate help, dial that extension. If the voice mail only offered the option of reaching someone else in the company, dial random extensions that are close to the extension that belongs to your prospect. If your prospect’s extension is 500, dial 501, 502, 499 etc. These extensions will hopefully be in the same department and/or located near your prospect and so they might be able to help you with information. If, as you are making these random dials, you reach yet another voice mail, transfer again and keep going. Once you have a live human being on the phone, proceed as above by asking for help.

Using these simple tools will help you name your decision-maker, find out best times to reach decision-makers and ultimately, get that decision-maker on the telephone. You can also use these tools to learn more about your prospect, the prospect company and their current situation. This will prepare you to have a better, more productive conversation with your prospect. So remember: If you can’t reach the right person, go for the wrong one.

Wendy Weiss, “The Queen of prospecting,” is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Her recently released program, The Miracle Appointment-Setting Script, and/or her book, prospecting for Women, can be ordered by visiting Contact her at Get Wendy’s free Special Report, How to Write an Effective prospecting Script, at

© 2008 Wendy Weiss

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