Marketing? Some boy telephoned…

Some boy telephoned

…and he’s wishing he hadn’t.

The phone rang. I answered.

Me: Hello, Marian Dougan speaking.
Caller (male): Hello, can I speak to the Managing Director?
Me: Who’s calling, please?
Caller: I’d like to speak to the Managing Director.
Me: Yes, but who’s calling?
Caller: It’s a business call, I’d like to speak to the Managing Director. Is he in?
Me: …………[= frosty silence]. I am the Managing Director. Can I help you?
Caller: …………[= oh, s**t, I’ve blown it]. I’m phoning to see if you’d be interested in corporate hospitality. At the Stuffy Old Buffers Golf Club.
Me: Thank you so much but I don’t think we’d be interested. Good-bye.
Caller: Mumble, mumble. Click.

If I’d had more time, instead of being busy running a business, I’d have given this inept caller some tips on how to do a sales/marketing call. I realise that the following will be preaching to the converted, but just in case…

Doing your homework

  • Do your homework.
  • What size of business are you dealing with?
  • Who are the key people?
  • What are their names? Use them.
  • Don’t assume that you need to speak to the managing director (MD). If it’s a small business, that may be the case. But for bigger companies you might be better speaking to the marketing manager, international/external relations office, or the MD’s personal assistant (PA). (PAs and other “gatekeepers” often have a lot of influence in big organisations. They’re worth cultivating).
  • Is the business likely to need the service or product you’re offering? If not, don’t waste your and their time. Or else tweak your product to suit them.

Making the call

  • Introduce yourself. Immediately. Don’t wait to be asked. And if you do have to be asked, answer immediately. You’re the one that’s intruding on someone else’s time.
  • Ask if it’s a good time to speak. You’re interrupting someone and you’ve no idea how busy they are or how urgent their immediate task is.
  • Explain what you’re selling, framing your pitch as appealingly as you can. Suggest an appointment to discuss further.
  • Do – NOT – for – one – second – assume – that – the – Managing – Director – is – a – man.

Illustration courtesy of Lobstar 28.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

Join the conversation


  1. I have no time for callers whose sales tactic is to take the position that they know better than I do what my business needs. How dare anyone presume to tell me where my business is lacking when they don’t know the basic fact that I am all the departments they have been asking to speak with.

    1. Yes – they take up your time without doing the minimum preparation to find out who they’re actually speaking to. And it’s so easy to do the research – haven’t they heard of the Internet?

  2. come e’ vero! dovrebbe essere una questione di buona educazione prima di tutto e poi di professionalita’ con un minimo di “common sense ” ma, troppo spesso purtroppo, non e’ cosi.

  3. Another thing that bugs me: when I tell them I’m not interested and they continue to try and convince me of the benefits of whatever it is they are trying to sell me.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with this. No-one in business would normally put through a call to a colleague, senior or junior, without first asking who was calling. Surely the caller must have come across this?

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