By Ted Martin, Director Sales and Training, Vorsight

Last month I stood in front of a room of around 120 sales reps and ask them, “Raise your hand if you’d rather call your prospects on their direct lines vs. going through the switchboard.” I saw roughly 120 hands shoot into the air. Then I asked, “How does one even get a direct line phone number when companies practically keep those 10 digits under lock and key?” The reps were at a loss. Why you need direct lines

Simply put, you get more people on the phone with direct lines and here’s why:

  • Caller ID looks different – I don’t know about you, but I even hesitate before picking up a switchboard call, and I’m in sales!
  • Sometimes the dial-by-name directories turn off after-hours – precisely the time when you have a better chance of catching execs.
  • Call routing – you can always bypass the switchboard and sometimes even bypass the assistant.
  • Speed – when you hit that magic window of 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and you want to crank out a lot of dials (on a tool like the power dialer), the last thing you want is to fumble around with dial-by-name directories.

If you’re looking for more concrete examples for the power of direct lines, take a look at this data I pulled from Vorsight. We tracked six of our associates over three months on two key areas: percentage of direct lines on their call list and number of appointments completed that month. Though I’m no statistician, I do know what a straight line looks like when I see it.

Average meetings
per month (last three)
% Direct lines
on contact list
Pete Best 11 51%
Ringo Starr 12 45%
George Harrison 20 76%
Paul McCartney 22 74%
John Lennon 29 87%
George Martin 33 97.6%

The moral of the story: you can triple the effectiveness of your outbound-calling effort (or lead-qualification effort) if you double the number of direct lines on your calling list.

How to get direct lines

Now I can’t give you all of our secrets (you have to see one of our sales prospecting training workshops to learn it all), but I can offer two primary places to get direct lines.

  1. Calls into the account – For every professional gatekeeper trained to keep you away, there are 100 more people who have access to the employee directory and who have not yet been trained in the ways of the gatekeeper. Try calling into some of the following places and probing for direct lines:
    • Switchboard operators at different locations or different countries
    • Administrative assistants to more senior executives
    • The IT help desk
    • Sales and customer service lines
    • Random employees who really don’t care
    • The mail room
  2. Voicemail systems – if you have been in sales for any period of time, you likely have heard, “Your call is being answered by Audix.” Next time you hear that prompt, dial **6. It will say, “Enter last name followed by pound sign.” You key in M-A-R-T-I-N-# and, viola, you hear, “’Ted Martin: extension 4237.” Many voicemail systems have codes that take you to an automated directory that spits out direct extension numbers. You then need to determine the area code and the middle three digits – called the exchange – in order to put together that magic 10-digit direct line. Vorsight has identified eight voicemail systems with corresponding codes. Audix is your freebee.
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