How to win over the secretaries and executive assistants
Let’s face it, having the big boss’s name card and a well-thought out strategy of what to say if you get them on the phone does not mean a thing if you cannot even get them on the phone. And the reason is usually because you have to first get past their army of defensive secretaries and executive assistants. So how exactly do you get to the boss?
First, you got to make the secretary or executive assistant your ally and not your adversary. As Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone wisely pointed out, “Many executive assistants are their bosses’ minority partners. So do not think of them as ‘secretaries’ or as ‘assistants’. See them as associates and lifelines.”
Treat them well and they will return the favor. When you are on the phone with them, be polite and make their job easy. Be short and sweet in your introduction and remember to explain the purpose of your call. Even if you have the right to talk to their boss, do not sound pushy or aggressive. Here’s a simple trick to ensure you are at your best behavior. When you are on the phone with them, imagine that their boss is eavesdropping.
Secondly, understand this principle well – people buy people first. This applies to secretaries and executive assistants too. Before they buy your product or your organization, they need to buy you first. When they like you, they will start getting comfortable with you. This comfort will eventually lead to trust and trust gives you access to their boss.
There are many ways to get them to like you. Here are three.
(1) Be appreciative – always acknowledge their help and never take them for granted. Personally call or visit them to give thanks. Buy them flowers or little gifts. The key here is to let them know that you appreciate their help. It means a lot to them especially in today’s time where they have more responsibilities and are under more pressure. A little appreciation can go a very long way!
(2) Take time to know them – people do not care about what you have to say until you show them how much you care about them. So the next time you are waiting to see the boss, get to know the secretary or executive assistant. Find out about their family, their interests and their challenges. Simple questions like “What do you like to do in your free time?” or “What led you to become a secretary?” can lead to very interesting conversations. And the more attention you shower them, the more you make them feel important. You can be assured that this small gesture will reap bountiful returns like extra time with the boss, insider news or kind words about you during their conversation with the boss.
(3) Remember the little things – like their names, their children’s names, their favorite drink etc. You will effortlessly impress them if you are able to recall the details they have provided you because it shows that you bothered to listen. Say one of the secretaries shared with you about her keen interest in cooking and on her birthday, you sent her a cookbook. This will definitely leave a positive impact. If the secretary’s son is taking his PSLE the following month, send an email to wish her son blessings or even better, offer to link him up with capable tutors if she is looking for one.
The key here is to remember something that is seemingly unimportant and then reference it in the next conversation. This will set you apart from the 99.9999999% of the people who are mostly into themselves or their own agenda.
Thirdly, learn to flow with their style. Every secretary or executive assistant has their way of doing things. Some of them are very particular about punctuality so stick to deadlines and never be late for appointments, as they will cause them scheduling issues. Some of them preferred not to be disturbed in the mornings as they will be occupied with their boss. Respect that and call them at times where they are more available to help. Some of them do not like to be rushed hence never give them last minute instructions. And the list goes on. Here’s the bottom line. Take time to find out their working style and flow with it. They appreciate such thoughtful gestures and will return the favour by going the extra mile for you as well.
Ultimately it all boils down to this – recognize the importance of these gatekeepers. If you start treating them with love, kindness and respect, there will be very few gates that you cannot open.
About The Author
Eric Feng is a leading authority in the topic of public speaking and business communications. He is the author of four communications books including ‘Get To The Point ®’ which has sold 12,000 copies till date.
Well-known for his practical insights and humor, Eric has worked with many well-known companies like IBM, AIA, Pfizer, Credit Suisse, Shell and FedEx.
“Unlock Your Personal Charisma” is his signature program which has been attended by close to 5000 executives and salespeople from Singapore, Malaysia and China. Common results reported include reduced inertia to selling, doubling of sales production and improved relationships with clients leading to repeated businesses.
The principles that he will be sharing with you in this program has also helped him gain many unfair advantages in his career including being awarded the “JCI Ten Most Outstanding Young Person Of The World” title, “Business Week Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs of Asia” title and the “NUS Outstanding Young Alumni” title.