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How do I get from the receptionist to the decision-maker?


The classic situation: You want to schedule a meeting with a company decision-maker, and the assistant picks up the phone and asks, “In which matter do you want to speak to the boss?”

The assistant’s role is to protect the boss’s time. Important matters need to be distinguished from unimportant ones. Therefore, the question “In which matter?” not only has its reason for existence but is also a necessary question for the proper execution of the job.

Before deciding to put the call through, the assistant needs to know three pieces of information:

  1. Who is calling?
  2. What’s it about?
  3. What is in it for the boss? In other words, what benefit does the boss have from speaking with the caller?

The boss also wants to know this information before taking the call.

I would like to introduce a technique and would appreciate your comments.

What techniques do you use when dealing with the reception area?

The “Please Help Me” Technique

When you ask someone for help, you put the person in a position of superiority. You give them power, their self-esteem increases, and they thank you by providing the desired help. And you become more likable! This Benjamin Franklin Effect (Wikipedia 2022) describes the psychological characteristic that we find people more likable when we do them a personal favor and assist them.

Salesperson: “Good day, Mr. Assistant. My name is Petra Müller from Media XYZ.

Mr. Assistant, may I ask for your help?/Can you assist me with a matter?”

Assistant: “What can I do for you?”

Salesperson: “I need a 5-minute conversation with Sabine Schulze regarding the return on investment with stable ad spending. When do you think she will be available for me?”

This conversation opener includes everything: name, company, topic of discussion, and duration. Therefore, you even address the question “In which matter do you want to speak with her?” beforehand. The assistant may not understand the specific topic, but it definitely sounds like an area of expertise. In any case,

I consider techniques like pretending to have a good relationship with the boss – “Good day, Mr. Assistant. My name is Petra Müller from Media XYZ. Tell me, is Sabine, (short pause) Sabine Schulze available?” – rather nonsensical. It’s not exactly an expression of appreciation towards the receptionist.

If you would like information on cold calling and addressing the assistant, please feel free to contact me.


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