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Direct Dial or Switchboard – Which is more productive in teleprospecting?

I was recently asked which type of phone number was more beneficial for teleprospecting calling, a direct line to the contact or a mainline number to the company switchboard. While each has its benefits and disadvantages, the best answer — Both!

Mainline switchboard numbers are helpful because a teleprospector can leverage a brief conversation with the switchboard operator to find additional information about the contact they are trying to reach such as confirming that they are involved in the decisions pertinent to the topic of the call, determining when they are most available to receive a call, and identifying any alternate contacts that would be beneficial to reach out to.

Here are some great questions to ask when speaking with the switchboard operators:

  • “I have been trying to connect with Mr. John Smith for the past couple of weeks and haven’t been able to pin him down. Would you happen to know when he is typically around his desk and available for a quick conversation?”
  • “I’m calling for Mr. John Smith, but I understand that he is very busy. Is there maybe someone who reports into him that might be more available to have a quick discussion about ____?”
  • “I’m calling to speak with Mr. John Smith. Could you tell me if he still holds the responsibility for ____?”

Additionally, the switchboard operator will often provide a direct extension for the contact when transferring so that in future attempts they can be reached directly.The downside to mainline numbers is the occasional “screen” from the switchboard operator. The switchboard operator holds all the power in determining which calls get through and which do not, and are often under strict instructions to filter out any unexpected calls.

This “call screening” can be avoided by using a direct line number for the contact. Direct lines are helpful especially after determining that the person you are trying to reach is in the correct role for the conversation. These numbers are most beneficial for follow up conversations or scheduled appointments. It is also a quick and easy method for getting a voicemail to your contact without having to go through the operators.

However if you only have a direct line to the contact, you may find it more difficult to engage in the initial conversation. Today’s workforce is exceedingly mobile and contacts are spending more and more time in the field rather than tied to their desks. If the only means of contact for reaching your prospect is through a direct line number, you may find yourself making more attempts to reach them.