Prospects Will Hang Up If You Start With This Question

Imagine the expression on a frustrated business person’s face because he or she has just heard the very worst possible opening question from an unfamiliar caller. You might guess that this was the caller’s question:

“How’s the weather in Denver today?” You would want to answer, “Check the Weather Channel.”

Or this: “How ya doin’ this morning?” You’re thinking, “Somebody I know doesn’t care at all how I am doing.”

Or this: “A friend of yours suggested I call you.” You wonder, “Oh, really? Then why didn’t you mention the friend’s name?”

Or this: “Would you like to make much more money next quarter than you expected?” Your sarcastic answer might come out this way: “No, that just doesn’t appeal to me at all.”

While those four questions merit runner-up positions, they still fall a far distant second to the most offensive opening question.


Number one: “May I speak to the person who____________?”

Fill in the blank with the possibilities you have heard:

–accepts job applications

–selects vendors

–supervises your largest department

–manages your social media

By now you have, I imagine, remembered many other words for ending the question. Now note: a great majority of listeners will not even hear what the caller asks for, because they have tuned out after those repulsive first six words, for one of two reasons.


One: the question is the hallmark of a telemarketer.

Two: Even if the caller is not a telemarketer, the question indicates that the caller has not researched the company carefully enough to learn who is in charge of which department or function.

In some cases, the caller could have identified the roster of company officials through an Internet search. Or if that did not generate the desired names/titles, frequently an aggressive sales or marketing expert can get the company’s lineup from his or her professional networking associates.


In short: Know exactly who you want to talk with and why. Ask for that person clearly, pleasantly, and energetically. Then instead of causing groans and grimaces–followed by a quick dial tone–you will enjoy a better chance to connect, converse, and possibly convince the appropriate corporate staff member.