I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things over my years in business, not the least of which is how to initially approach a sales prospect in a meaningful and non-intrusive manner.  It’s all about communication, of course, and properly setting the stage for continued discussions.

But this blog isn’t about prospect etiquette, or effective sales communication.  It’s about how communication is sometimes handled across generational lines.

During a recent call to a new prospect I was told by the company receptionist that he was out of the office.  She then proceeded to give me his cell phone number and suggested I try him there.  While tempted to immediately call my prospect on his cell, I held off as I do not typically contact someone for the first time on his or her personal cell phone without direct permission.  Besides, if he was in an important meeting, or driving somewhere, I would be interrupting him and not make a favorable first impression.  I elected to wait another day and try his office one more time.

On my second attempt the next day, the receptionist reported my prospect was in a meeting and unavailable.  Fearing I’d be offered his cell phone number again, I quickly asked for his voice mail, only to be told he didn’t yet have one (since he was new to the company).  I then asked if she would take a message for him.  After a brief pause, the receptionist informed me again – rather firmly – that he didn’t have a voicemail box. 

Here is where I took pause.  I actually had to ask her if she’d take a written message for her associate, to which she replied “I’ve never had to do that before!”  Yes, she actually admitted this to me.

Outside of one person’s opinion that employee training may not be what it used to be, and that many of us “boomers” tend to point out how the younger generations lack some of the social skills needed to succeed in business today, I had to laugh – with her, not at her.

I can only hope the hand-written message makes it to my prospect’s desk.  If he has one.  Guess I should have used that cell phone number.