15 Tips to Get Past the Gatekeeper on Sales Calls

One of the most common frustrations I hear from sales clients is dealing with gatekeepers – You know, those occasionally irritable gremlins on the other end of the phone line whose vocabulary often seems to consist of just one word – No!

Despite your best efforts and extreme patience, you often struggle to produce the magic sequence that will unlock the gates to the executive suite in order speak to the person who can make decisions, and this means no sale!

Having experienced my own share of nasty gatekeepers, I went on a search for answers.

Getting Past the Gatekeeper – Secrets from a Gatekeepers Handbook!

I figured that there could be no better source of wisdom on this subject than an actual gatekeeper. So I tracked down my good friend Randi and convinced her to “go on record” with a few secrets from the gatekeeper’s handbook.

Randi was hired as an assistant to the CEO of mid-sized sales organization. Initially, her job was to just answer phones. During orientation, her mandate was clear – She was being hired as a “gatekeeper” and her boss didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially those with something to sell!

Talking with Randi about those first few weeks she said, “I knew that my job was to take messages, but more importantly to handle the responsibilities that I knew my boss didn’t ever want to hear about.”

As time went on, Randi took more responsibility and, as would expected of most people in a similar position, started to influence the day-to-day operations of the company. She had a voice in who was getting hired and promoted, she saw the books, and even acted as a sounding board for a number of significant company decisions.

Randi eventually confessed that during her tenure with that company she did let a select few callers through to the CEO! Since she is no longer “keeper of the gates” with that company, she conceded to sell out on her former position and divulge the secrets about those who made it through.

Suggestions to Help With Getting Past the Gatekeeper   

Her first suggestion was to make a good first impression.

Understanding the importance of first impressions and how difficult that can be over the phone, I asked Randi if she had any tips. She came up with the following:

1.    Tone of voice – Put a smile on your face. Pretend you are calling your mom.

2.    Be Respectful – Make it your first goal to acknowledge the gatekeeper and respect their importance to the organization.

3.    Don’t use a script on them – You wouldn’t call your friends or family with a script. Be personable.

7 Keys to Getting Past the Gatekeeper

As we continued, I asked Randi about the lucky ones who made it through.

“I’ll never forget Mike” said Randi.

“Mike was persistent, always friendly, made me laugh and was never pushy. The truth is that he was a competitor, but there was something about his approach that made it impossible for me to keep him out. Here are the 7 things that I remember most about his approach.”

1.    He used my name – I could tell he was listening and that he cared. I also knew that he actually had my name to begin with, which always seems to raise the stakes.

2.    Without saying it, he created the impression he knew the CEO or that the CEO should know him.

3.    He created a sense of urgency – He never lied but I felt that he had something time sensitive and important for my boss.

4.    He built rapport and made me feel important. He would remember things we discussed and bring them up during subsequent calls.

5.    He asked me for help – Unlike most, he realized that I have access to the information he is seeking. I even gave him some guidance on how to deal with the CEO, when to call, what not to say, etc.

6.    He was persistent – Eventually, I had to send him through because I knew he was going to be calling back. Not in a bad way, but he was just incredibly persistent and committed to speak with the CEO.

7.    He was likeable – He was genuine, happy, and seemed confident. It was obvious he had a good attitude and that made it easy to get along and maintain rapport.

5 Things You Should Never Say to a Gatekeeper

Randi admitted that Mike was an anomaly. Hundreds of others weren’t as lucky.

“There were a handful” recalls Randi, “whose attempts were horrific!”

After pressing her further, Randi shared a few memorable calls and offered 5 tactics that were almost certain to go up in flames:

1.    Talk about yourself and how important you are hoping to impress or intimidate the gatekeeper.

2.    Act like you are in a hurry and seem demanding.

3.    Lie to them or apply obvious tactics of manipulation.

4.    Act annoyed that you have to speak with the gatekeeper.

5.    Don’t poke the bear – Randi had to comment on this one, “You will undoubtedly encounter gatekeepers who are angry and hard to deal with. It would be best to look at it as making a few attempts to break rather than going for it on the first call. Leave a good impression and be persistent. Eventually you will win them over. Try to sneak around them or bulldoze through them, and you’ll never have a shot.

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