Speaking of Gatekeepers …

Happy New Year Everyone!

I did make it back to my desk on January 4 and the first week after the holiday seemed both long and short at the same time. It is as if holidays create a kind of time warp that you carry with you until you are fully back in work mode.

But now we are indeed back, hopefully with our resolutions still in place and our goals shining before us, leading us to a more prosperous, joyful, healthy, fun, generous and balanced 2011 – at least that’s my wish for you, and for myself as well.

For those of you that have cold calling as one of the things you want to improve or master in 2011, do know that I have two spots left in my January 18 workshop. You can view the details and access the registration form here:
Ring Ring – I Am
Cold Calling!

One of the things we spend time on in the workshop is working with the gatekeeper and I was recently reminded of a receptionist phrase that can annoy us, cause us to stammer and feel uncomfortable in our skin, and completely ruin an excellent cold call. It is a phrase that receptionists use to get more information out of us, but in a passive/aggressive way. Here it is:

“Is she/he expecting your call?”

Doesn’t that question make you crazy?

First, a receptionist that knows to ask that question works for someone who tells them exactly what calls they are expecting. These receptionists are provided with specific information and an instruction like “Put so and so’s call through to me. I’m expecting it.”

So they know, when they ask that question, that the answer is no. They are hoping to trip you up, put you in a position where you have to give them all the details of why you’re calling so that they can say something like “Sorry, he/she wouldn’t be interested in that.”

How do you deal with it?

There’s the straightforward “No’s she’s not.” This can work beautifully, as the directness and honesty of this approach is unexpected. The call will usually end with “I’ll make sure she gets your message.”

There’s a matching passive/aggressive response such as “Not right at this moment.” Or “Not today.” The implication is that he is expecting your call but not at this precise moment. The receptionist is left with the task of delivering your message.

Another option I use is to laugh – a light, friendly, inclusive chuckle – at the insincerity of the question. I know its insincere and I want them to know I know! Then I say: “No, she’s not expecting my call. We have yet to speak, but I am looking forward to our conversation. She can reach me at my office throughout the day today.”

Having the right language and responses to work with gatekeepers is an essential part of all our phonework, so stay tuned for more tips throughout 2011.

Happy dialling everyone!

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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.