Tips for Getting Through a Receptionist

by lyssa
20 replies
I have a background in working in a large medical office as a receptionist and billing coordinator, and I thought I might be able to offer some tips to people making cold calls and getting nowhere with a receptionist:

1) Know who you're calling: Many advertisers called the office with no idea they were trying to get through to very busy doctors. As a receptionist it's a top priority to make sure my boss doesn't have to waste any time, if you don't know who we are when you call, I'm probably not leaving your message.
2) Never ask through the receptionist immediately. Again, I get reprimanded for wasting the boss' time. State your case to me first so I know what you're offering is valuable. But know that I'm busy too, so you don't have to give me the whole pitch.
3) Be willing to get a call back. Usually when you call, it's not that I can just "patch you through", the boss is simply unavailable. Scheduling a time to call back is often a hassle for the front desk, if you've sold us before we'll make sure you get a call back.

I'd be happy to answer questions about marketing through receptionists, or medical receptionists/billers too!
#offline marketing #receptionist #tips
  • Profile picture of the author ambrking
    Thank you for sharing this. Getting through receptionists is one of the most tricky part in cold calling. I will forward this to my team so that they can learn from it. Thanks again.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    When I want to get "through" a receptionist I just squint my eyes and click my fingers around my head three times, say "ghost power!"....and then I turn into a ghost.

    I can get through WALLS like that too...:p

    Then when I get through, I just say "Turn back into yourself!"....and Im back again.
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    • Profile picture of the author lyssa
      Originally Posted by John Durham View Post

      When I want to get "through" a receptionist I just squint my eyes and click my fingers around my head three times, say "ghost power!"....and then I turn into a ghost.

      I can get through WALLS like that too...:p

      Then when I get through, I just say "Turn back into yourself!"....and Im back again.
      But- Can you use this to skip to the front of the line at Costco? That's the real test.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by John Durham View Post

      When I want to get "through" a receptionist I just squint my eyes and click my fingers around my head three times, say "ghost power!"....and then I turn into a ghost.

      I can get through WALLS like that too...:p

      Then when I get through, I just say "Turn back into yourself!"....and Im back again.
      John; I'll be honest with you, I have no idea how this part works. Almost none of my clients have a receptionist. And I only cold call trade organizations. They generally don't think of me as a salesperson. They just direct me to the right person. Could you and Mwind elaborate a little on what to say to a doctor's receptionist?

      This may have been beaten to death in another thread.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mwind076
        Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

        John; I'll be honest with you, I have no idea how this part works. Almost none of my clients have a receptionist. And I only cold call trade organizations. They generally don't think of me as a salesperson. They just direct me to the right person. Could you and Mwind elaborate a little on what to say to a doctor's receptionist?

        This may have been beaten to death in another thread.
        Lawyers, Doctors, and high level execs are all different. As different as their receptionists...meaning there is no "way" to get through. It depends on the receptionist answering, how her day is going, how her week went, how her man treated her that morning, how much she wants to go to lunch, and what kind of mood she is in. Seriously. How do I know? I was a receptionist for my first 2 years in this business, then an Office Manager for 5, then an Exec assistant for 4...what you get depended on how my day was going, and what type of tone you used when calling.

        It's a learned art, that only comes from calling and trying things out. The OP's original post is right on, as blunt as it is.

        When I call a doctor's office, my main goal is to make friends with her (but not in a cheesy way), usually it's "I know you're busy - what is the best way to get in front of Dr. Smith? Should I email, call early or LVM?" Most of the time they will ask what I need, and I'll tell them so they can direct me, and I'm in. I just mainly don't sound pushy or like she's beneath me.

        Sidenote: Don't call them (or any woman in a professional setting) "Sweetheart, honey, little miss" or anything like that trying to be endearing...unless you are from the South and say it with sincerity or you are over 70.
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  • Profile picture of the author JMM
    What you said above is taught in sales classes at local colleges and is considered basic information but often it's quickly forgotten. Sales people irregardless of what titles we go by (self included)... all to often forget the basics. thank you lyssa
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    • Profile picture of the author lyssa
      Originally Posted by JMM View Post

      What you said above is taught in sales classes at local colleges and is considered basic information but often it's quickly forgotten. Sales people irregardless of what titles we go by (self included)... all to often forget the basics. thank you lyssa
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response!
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  • Profile picture of the author hayfj2
    One tactic I've found useful is to ask "have you got a pen?"

    They either say yes, or "ill jsut get one" for their expecting to take down a message.

    Give them a message to give to the person your want to reach.

    Their employed to take messages, leverage their skills not work against them

    Just make sure its a damn good killer qualifying question, pain based teaser or benefit filled question and a url and password.

    let the message get communicated by a trusted employee,
    and let the url page do the selling or PREQUALIFYING for u.

    Go on try it.



    Hope that helps and gets you thinking...
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    • Profile picture of the author lyssa
      Originally Posted by hayfj2 View Post

      One tactic I've found useful is to ask "have you got a pen?"

      They either say yes, or "ill jsut get one" for their expecting to take down a message.

      Give them a message to give to the person your want to reach.

      Their employed to take messages, leverage their skills not work against them

      Just make sure its a damn good killer qualifying question, pain based teaser or benefit filled question and a url and password.

      let the message get communicated by a trusted employee,
      and let the url page do the selling or PREQUALIFYING for u.

      Go on try it.



      Hope that helps and gets you thinking...
      While I'm sure these are great tips, from my background they wouldn't have gotten you very far. There's no way to ask a receptionist if they have a pen and not sound like you're talking down to them. Anyone with that tone automatically had their message put to the bottom of the pile in my experience.
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  • Profile picture of the author Maxwell Stinson
    Calling hospitals, doctors and other health related institutes is usually difficult because you're trying to reach people who are busy throughout all of the day.

    For me, I think the best way to get through the receptionist is to know who you're calling for and to make sure that you sound like you have an actual reason as to why you're calling.

    I've called receptionists before and all I ever needed to do was to know who I wanted to reach and sound serious enough that they think they should put me through.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew J
    Getting through receptionists is a massive pain in the butt. I don't cold call because most of my lead generation is done online.

    Often a prospect will fill out my web form and I'll call to follow-up. Getting the receptionist to let me through, even though I'm NOT cold calling, is often a chore.

    One thing I found that really helped. My web form sends an automatic "we got your message" email. In that email I added a line that says "Please tell your receptionist to be expecting our call".

    Around 50% of the time that email gets forwarded to the receptionist. When it does my life becomes a LOT easier.

    There's one other trick I discovered but I don't recommend using it in a real world sales situation.

    I used to be a project manager for a company that sold office furniture.

    I would frequently need to call customers to schedule delivery of this stuff. Often times it was full semi-loads of heavy boxes. The time frame for scheduling was very narrow so I needed answers quickly.

    Often my conversations would go like this:

    ---

    Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

    Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

    Me: "I understand... This is really important. I need to get an answer before the end of today"

    Receptionist: "That's fine. I'll let her know. What company are you with again? Uh-huh? And what are you trying to sell us?" (Seriously... I got that on multiple occasions).

    ---

    This REALLY got in the way of me being able to do my job. Often times I would go days without a response.

    It's because even though I could provide order numbers, PO#'s, and lots of other documentation... The receptionist STILL wouldn't pass along my message.

    So I came up with a solution... Here's how my conversations ended up going.

    --

    Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

    Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

    Me: "You know what? I bet you can help me. I have a full semi stacked to the ceiling with desks coming in. Right now they're scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. Will that work for you?

    Receptionist: "You'll have to discuss that with [contact]"

    Me: "That's fine. I'm going to go ahead and schedule it for Tuesday. If I don't hear back from you I'll assume that Tuesday's fine. I'm marking you down as my authorizing contact."

    Receptionist: "Hold on... I'm going to go get [contact]"

    ---

    I call this the "Scare the living sh*t out of the receptionist technique". It works 100% of the time.

    When the receptionist was at risk of having their name attached to something that could go horribly wrong, it was AMAZING the lengths they went to in order to help me.

    Now... Like I said... Don't use this in a sales situation. It could horribly backfire in a 1,000 spectacular ways. It's poison gas. I'm just posting it for your entertainment! :-)
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    • Profile picture of the author esuresh
      Originally Posted by Matthew J View Post

      Getting through receptionists is a massive pain in the butt. I don't cold call because most of my lead generation is done online.

      Often a prospect will fill out my web form and I'll call to follow-up. Getting the receptionist to let me through, even though I'm NOT cold calling, is often a chore.

      One thing I found that really helped. My web form sends an automatic "we got your message" email. In that email I added a line that says "Please tell your receptionist to be expecting our call".

      Around 50% of the time that email gets forwarded to the receptionist. When it does my life becomes a LOT easier.

      There's one other trick I discovered but I don't recommend using it in a real world sales situation.

      I used to be a project manager for a company that sold office furniture.

      I would frequently need to call customers to schedule delivery of this stuff. Often times it was full semi-loads of heavy boxes. The time frame for scheduling was very narrow so I needed answers quickly.

      Often my conversations would go like this:

      ---

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "I understand... This is really important. I need to get an answer before the end of today"

      Receptionist: "That's fine. I'll let her know. What company are you with again? Uh-huh? And what are you trying to sell us?" (Seriously... I got that on multiple occasions).

      ---

      This REALLY got in the way of me being able to do my job. Often times I would go days without a response.

      It's because even though I could provide order numbers, PO#'s, and lots of other documentation... The receptionist STILL wouldn't pass along my message.

      So I came up with a solution... Here's how my conversations ended up going.

      --

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "You know what? I bet you can help me. I have a full semi stacked to the ceiling with desks coming in. Right now they're scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. Will that work for you?

      Receptionist: "You'll have to discuss that with [contact]"

      Me: "That's fine. I'm going to go ahead and schedule it for Tuesday. If I don't hear back from you I'll assume that Tuesday's fine. I'm marking you down as my authorizing contact."

      Receptionist: "Hold on... I'm going to go get [contact]"

      ---

      I call this the "Scare the living sh*t out of the receptionist technique". It works 100% of the time.

      When the receptionist was at risk of having their name attached to something that could go horribly wrong, it was AMAZING the lengths they went to in order to help me.

      Now... Like I said... Don't use this in a sales situation. It could horribly backfire in a 1,000 spectacular ways. It's poison gas. I'm just posting it for your entertainment! :-)
      Real good one man. Really good.
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    • Profile picture of the author brik2500
      I absolutely love this.....and while I understand why you wouldn't do this exact thing on sales calls, the principle is still the same.




      Originally Posted by Matthew J View Post

      Getting through receptionists is a massive pain in the butt. I don't cold call because most of my lead generation is done online.

      Often a prospect will fill out my web form and I'll call to follow-up. Getting the receptionist to let me through, even though I'm NOT cold calling, is often a chore.

      One thing I found that really helped. My web form sends an automatic "we got your message" email. In that email I added a line that says "Please tell your receptionist to be expecting our call".

      Around 50% of the time that email gets forwarded to the receptionist. When it does my life becomes a LOT easier.

      There's one other trick I discovered but I don't recommend using it in a real world sales situation.

      I used to be a project manager for a company that sold office furniture.

      I would frequently need to call customers to schedule delivery of this stuff. Often times it was full semi-loads of heavy boxes. The time frame for scheduling was very narrow so I needed answers quickly.

      Often my conversations would go like this:

      ---

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "I understand... This is really important. I need to get an answer before the end of today"

      Receptionist: "That's fine. I'll let her know. What company are you with again? Uh-huh? And what are you trying to sell us?" (Seriously... I got that on multiple occasions).

      ---

      This REALLY got in the way of me being able to do my job. Often times I would go days without a response.

      It's because even though I could provide order numbers, PO#'s, and lots of other documentation... The receptionist STILL wouldn't pass along my message.

      So I came up with a solution... Here's how my conversations ended up going.

      --

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "You know what? I bet you can help me. I have a full semi stacked to the ceiling with desks coming in. Right now they're scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. Will that work for you?

      Receptionist: "You'll have to discuss that with [contact]"

      Me: "That's fine. I'm going to go ahead and schedule it for Tuesday. If I don't hear back from you I'll assume that Tuesday's fine. I'm marking you down as my authorizing contact."

      Receptionist: "Hold on... I'm going to go get [contact]"

      ---

      I call this the "Scare the living sh*t out of the receptionist technique". It works 100% of the time.

      When the receptionist was at risk of having their name attached to something that could go horribly wrong, it was AMAZING the lengths they went to in order to help me.

      Now... Like I said... Don't use this in a sales situation. It could horribly backfire in a 1,000 spectacular ways. It's poison gas. I'm just posting it for your entertainment! :-)
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      • Profile picture of the author fredric22
        Wow, you must have faced lot of tough receptionists to gain this experience. Thanks for sharing this.
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    • Profile picture of the author Maxwell Stinson
      Originally Posted by Matthew J View Post

      Getting through receptionists is a massive pain in the butt. I don't cold call because most of my lead generation is done online.

      Often a prospect will fill out my web form and I'll call to follow-up. Getting the receptionist to let me through, even though I'm NOT cold calling, is often a chore.

      One thing I found that really helped. My web form sends an automatic "we got your message" email. In that email I added a line that says "Please tell your receptionist to be expecting our call".

      Around 50% of the time that email gets forwarded to the receptionist. When it does my life becomes a LOT easier.

      There's one other trick I discovered but I don't recommend using it in a real world sales situation.

      I used to be a project manager for a company that sold office furniture.

      I would frequently need to call customers to schedule delivery of this stuff. Often times it was full semi-loads of heavy boxes. The time frame for scheduling was very narrow so I needed answers quickly.

      Often my conversations would go like this:

      ---

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "I understand... This is really important. I need to get an answer before the end of today"

      Receptionist: "That's fine. I'll let her know. What company are you with again? Uh-huh? And what are you trying to sell us?" (Seriously... I got that on multiple occasions).

      ---

      This REALLY got in the way of me being able to do my job. Often times I would go days without a response.

      It's because even though I could provide order numbers, PO#'s, and lots of other documentation... The receptionist STILL wouldn't pass along my message.

      So I came up with a solution... Here's how my conversations ended up going.

      --

      Me:"Hi! I'm Matthew from [company name]. May I speak with [contact name]? I need to discuss delivery of your order.

      Receptionist: "I'm sorry but [contact] is unavailable right now. May I take a message?"

      Me: "You know what? I bet you can help me. I have a full semi stacked to the ceiling with desks coming in. Right now they're scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. Will that work for you?

      Receptionist: "You'll have to discuss that with [contact]"

      Me: "That's fine. I'm going to go ahead and schedule it for Tuesday. If I don't hear back from you I'll assume that Tuesday's fine. I'm marking you down as my authorizing contact."

      Receptionist: "Hold on... I'm going to go get [contact]"

      ---

      I call this the "Scare the living sh*t out of the receptionist technique". It works 100% of the time.

      When the receptionist was at risk of having their name attached to something that could go horribly wrong, it was AMAZING the lengths they went to in order to help me.

      Now... Like I said... Don't use this in a sales situation. It could horribly backfire in a 1,000 spectacular ways. It's poison gas. I'm just posting it for your entertainment! :-)
      If your call was being recorded for quality assurance purposes you'd be nailed to the wall for doing that.

      Well, it was entertaining. It's true that even if you have the chops to back up your claims of trying to reach your contact person that receptionists still try to keep you from getting there.

      It makes being a guy who does cold calling really difficult.
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      • Profile picture of the author Matthew J
        Originally Posted by Maxwell Stinson View Post

        If your call was being recorded for quality assurance purposes you'd be nailed to the wall for doing that.

        Well, it was entertaining. It's true that even if you have the chops to back up your claims of trying to reach your contact person that receptionists still try to keep you from getting there.

        It makes being a guy who does cold calling really difficult.
        My calls weren't recorded, thankfully. Although I will say my boss knew what I was doing and was fine with it.

        By the time I was making those calls the furniture was already sitting on a truck. Freight carriers give you a very small grace period, then they start charging you hefty storage fees.

        Those fees can quickly destroy the profit margin on an order. Every day that I couldn't get the furniture in because the receptionist was a dipsh*t was money we lost on the order.

        So our options were:

        1.) Play nice with the receptionist and let our profit margins go down the toilet.

        2.) Ruffle the receptionists feathers a little and get the order taken care of.

        I had the lowest margin erosion in the department. This is why.

        The thing is that the actual decision makers, the ones signing purchase orders, absolutely loved me. I built relationships with them and they learned that they could count on my word.

        After I left several of them reached out to my boss and asked if there way any way they could get me back.

        In many instances the receptionist is the most powerful person in the company. Most of them are aware of this fact. I would never use this in a sales situation because pissing them off would be detrimental.

        My job wasn't sales though. My job was to complete the order with the least expense possible. For better or worse, this was effective at getting the job done!
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  • Profile picture of the author Coach Anna
    Thank you for sharing your tips Lyssa
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  • Profile picture of the author JMM
    If you honestly want to get through to the purchasers at a hospital. You have to know the right channels... Research who is sitting on the board... figure out who does the chamber meetings, who does the PR work. Cold calling large organizations 99% of the time to make a measly marketing sale is going to end up stay cold.

    It's always been my experience non profits (as most hospitals are) purchase through people they (the board and members/staff) have had personal contact with...
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  • Profile picture of the author MaxReferrals
    Tip: Call early morning or late evening, when the business owner is likely to answer the phone!
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  • Profile picture of the author SashaLee
    Hi all,

    I've found the trick is similar to Matthew J's - you simply ask the receptionist a question she/he can't answer without input from the person you wish to speak to in the first place.

    How do you come up with such a question? You study your prospect, their business and how you can provide value to them or their organization.

    Cold calling without research is asking for trouble. My clients get cold-calls all the time asking "How would you like to be on the first page of Google for X"? My clients laugh because in most cases they're already on the first page and usually in Positions 1 -3.

    This kind of cold call is a dead duck. No amount of tricks/schemes/ruses will succeed if you do get through the receptionist and then ask the prospect a stupid question.

    Sash...
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