Here at Roundpeg, we have an unusual phone scheme. We don’t have individual phone lines or extensions. When you call our number, it rings throughout the whole office, and anyone might answer the phone. It might be an intern, it might be Lorraine herself, but a lot of times, it’s me. Answering the phone is kind of like Russian roulette, since you never know who’s going to be on the other end of the line. It might be a salesman or a wrong number; it might be a a current client with a question or our next big client.

As gatekeeper, my responsibility is to provide whatever help or guidance the caller needs. Sometimes, if the person calling is a salesperson or telemarketer, the best way I can help them is to get them off the phone quickly. Why? Because for one, we probably aren’t going to buy from them, so they’re wasting their time. And two, Lorraine likes to play cat-and-mouse games with them. While very amusing for us, it’s unpleasant for them.

So in the interest of helping everyone have a productive, efficient telephone conversation, here are some tips for dealing with a gatekeeper on the phone to help you get what you want quickly and pleasantly:

  • Tell me your name first. Don’t assume I have caller ID. Don’t assume I know your voice. And please tell me your full name. I know you think you’re very good friends with my boss, but she knows a lot of people named “John.”
  • Tell me your company. We’re a small business, so I know the name of every business on our client roster. Knowing that information will help me direct your call as quickly as possible. If you’re cold calling or trying to sell me something, that name might ring a bell that makes me inclined to pass you along to my boss.
  • Tell me why you’re calling. I’m not being nosy. I’m not getting involved in my boss’ business. I’m trying to protect her from time wasters. A few days ago, I had a caller who wanted to schedule a meeting with my boss but refused to tell me what it was in regards to. No hint, no clue. I refused to put it on the calendar. I’m 98 percent certain he just wanted to sell her something, but in the time he spent going around and around with me, he could have found a better prospect.

Sounds basic, right? But you’ll be surprised at how often people ignore these simple rules. C’mon, people. Help me help you and we’ll all be happier.