The first rule in “Naming Your Prospect” is to ask for a title not an activity. Do not ask for “the person who makes the decision to purchase….” Making the “decision to purchase…” is an activity and may get you a name, however, it will most likely be the name of someone who is involved but not in a decision-making capacity.

A better approach is to figure out what department the decision is likely made in and then find out who is the head of that department. If, for example, you know that the decision to purchase whatever you are selling is made in the Marketing Department ask for the head of the Marketing Department. This could be the senior vice president, or vice president or director. If you are calling small companies the person you want to reach is most likely the Owner.

Once you have identified the appropriate title or titles (there may be variations from company to company):

1. Check the prospect company’s web site. This is the easiest way to find your prospect’s name. Thanks to the Internet, many companies today list executive and/or senior management on their web sites.

2. Ask the receptionist. Dial the company’s main number and ask the front line person who answers the line for the name of the person who has the appropriate title. Be prepared to throw out variations of that title as different companies may use different titles for the same type of position. When you are calling large companies receptionists do not screen calls. That question, “What is this in reference to?” is actually a request for information. Keep suggesting titles until one sounds familiar to that receptionist.

3. Call the Chief Executive Officer. The theory here is that Executive Assistants know everything. Call the CEO’s office and ask the Executive Assistant for some help, “I’m wondering if you can help me.” Tell the Executive Assistant exactly what you need and she will more than likely point you in the right direction.

4. Randomly change the general switchboard number extensions. If the switchboard number is 5000, call 5001, 5002… until you reach a human being. It won’t be the right human being, but that’s ok. Once you reach a human being ask that person to help you, “I’m wondering if you can help me.” Ask, “Do you have a company directory?” When asked, most people are very happy to help.

5. The made-up name. Sometimes companies will not give out information unless you have a name. In this case, make up a name and then ask for that person. The switchboard operator will tell you there is no one there by that name. You then say, “Oh, (Made up Name) used to be the (Title). Who has taken over for her?” Many times this will work to get you the right name.

6. Ask a sales person. Call the sales department and speak with a sales person. Say, “I’m wondering if you can help me.” Sales people will understand and if they can they will help you. Tell the sales person exactly who you are trying to reach. If they do not know the correct name ask, “Do you have a directory handy? Could you look that up for me?”

7. Ask Customer Service. Customer Service is there to help. Call them and ask for help, “I’m wondering if you can help me.” Many times Customer Service can give you the information that you require. Again, if the Customer Service representative does not know the correct name ask, “Do you have a directory handy? Could you look that up for me?”

With these seven ways of naming your prospect, finding the decision-maker should never again be an issue.

© 2009 Wendy Weiss

Author's Bio: 

Get the Free Special Report, “Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script,” at Wendy Weiss, “The Queen of Cold Calling,” is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Contact her at