Stories of Do and Don’t

Recent work calling into Vancouver has provided a great story of how not to answer the phone:

At one association I was greeted by what I’ll call an “unengaged” receptionist. She wasn’t unpleasant, but she wasn’t welcoming either. She did not use her name when she answered the phone and her voice was without warmth.

I asked for the Executive Director by name to which she responded “May I ask who’s calling please?” This is an oft-asked question, but with a slight revision. Can you hear it? She didn’t ask: “May I tell him who’s calling, please?” but asked on behalf of herself.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “I would have told you my name immediately if you had introduced yourself but … okay.” And I gave her my name.

Her next question was “May I know what the matter is regarding?” Horrible grammar aside, this question is inappropriate and, given the context, i.e. I don’t know her name, I don’t feel welcomed, etc., certainly verges on rude.

I began to feel defensive, impatient. She had demonstrated a lack of interest and no desire to be helpful, so I was not inspired to provide her with my detailed explanation.

I answered with, “I’m calling from Halifax, Nova Scotia.”

Now I realize that doesn’t answer her question at all, but it’s always a good test. If she was really interested, she’d ask another question. But if she doesn’t care and is simply doing what she’s been told, she’ll move on.

She moved on. She said: “Let me double check to see if he’s available.” OMG! The “double check”  here is the obvious give away. He is in the office and she already knows he is not going to take my call. Sigh.

I understand that it is valuable to have a receptionist filter calls. I know we are all overwhelmed. But please, respect your brand and respect your industry by, at the very least, being welcoming and polite to all your callers.

P.S. I did reach the Executive Director a few days later and he was not a happy fellow. I knew he wouldn’t be. A receptionist’s behaviour reflects the personality of their supervisor and the culture of their organization.

And now my “do” story:

I was crunching numbers with one of my sales clients, figuring out when and how to reach a specific goal. I asked him about a particular prospect, what he thought about closing that sale. His response was (and I am paraphrasing a bit here):

“He told me he’s received information from about 30 suppliers but I’m the only one that’s called him, so he was going to take a serious look at my proposal.”


Regardless of all the changes in technology, the shift to email, how hard it is to reach our prospects – your phone call still matters. It makes an impact, creates a positive impression … increases your bottom line.

As I like to say: Pick it Up. Make Things Happen!

What about you? Have you encountered a disengaged receptionist lately? How did you handle it? And what about your follow up phone calls? Are you getting them done? If not, why not? I’d love to know. Maybe I can help!

0 thoughts on “Stories of Do and Don’t”

  1. Great stories! Both highlight the importance of persistence which is so important if you want to be ‘in the right place at the right time’. It sets you up for being ‘lucky’.

  2. Interestingly this also happened to me. I was ordering some lighting fixtures from the US and two different shops carried the ones I wanted. I ended up ordering from the shop who made the effort to call me. And the fellow who called had an Italian name and was calling from California so I could dream a little too!


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