By Mario O’Connell

Ring, ring. “Good morning, _____________ Incorporated,” he says hurriedly.

“Good morning,” I respond in a cheerful tone. “I was wondering if you would be willing to verify the contact information that I have for your company?” I continue after a millisecond pause. I don’t want to give him time to say no, but I leave just enough time for the receptionist to utter a short, “okay.” I continue: “I have that your fax number is…”

The conversation carries on just like the 34 that I had before it today. It’s called verification. Here at Whittaker Associates, we face a small problem: the most up-to-date databases that we have cannot keep up with how fast companies are changing. Therefore, when we are working on a list for a client, after we complete the initial research, we always call the company directly to verify that the fax number, address, and key people we have listed are indeed correct.

Already a month on the job, I have begun to develop certain calling techniques that have led me to success. Though some people will always be too skeptical to give out any information, I have developed some strategic methods for extracting information:

  1. First and foremost it is important to have a positive attitude when making calls. Be friendly. If you sound like you are in a good mood, the person on the other end is more likely to give you the information that you seek.
  2. Confidence is critical. When you face questions like, “What are you going to use this information for,” you must first answer honestly. Do not avoid the question, but respond in a way that conveys to the interrogator that you have a right to the information that you seek. So you say, “Oh, of course – my name is Maria O’Connell and I am calling from Whittaker Associates.” If you say that line with enough conviction, making your company sound very important, then usually there will be no further questions.
  3. Remember that the worst case scenario is really not that scary; the worst that can happen is that the receptionist refuses to give you any information. Whether they verbally decline, or rudely hang up on you, maintain your composure and polite attitude.
  4. Encouraging words are a must. When the company representative gives you a correct address or signifies that the information is correct, respond with a “great” or “wonderful.” Always remember to say thank you.
  5. Speak quickly, but clearly. Use those pronunciation skills that you learned in elementary school choir. And, speak somewhat quickly; the receptionist is a very busy person. If he/she sounds extremely busy and/or skeptical of your purpose, reassure him/her by stating: “it will only take about 30 seconds.”

Well – there you have it. Those are the tricks that I have learned in the past few weeks. You may be wondering how this applies to you? Well, we all have to make cold calls every so often – maybe it is to the customer service agent of, or possibly to your child’s teacher, whom you’ve never met, to discuss grades, or perhaps to the president of a specific company that you met at a networking event last week. Regardless of the prospect, I hope that you find these few tips to be helpful in your telephone-calling endeavors.