How to Get Past a Gatekeeper

In sales it’s inevitable – there is always a gatekeeper. Some people suggest making the gatekeeper your friend. The idea is that if they like you, they’ll put you through. In reality, the gatekeeper is not your friend. Be nice to them – don’t make them your enemy – but always remember that they’re out to protect the boss from interruptions, not to make a new buddy. Every caller sounds the same, and if someone is truly important, they’ll realize it and put the caller through.

Ways to Get Past a Gatekeeper

• Make it sound like a personal call. Be positive and confident — any hint of uncertainty or apology will kill you.

Example: “Hi, it’s John Austin, is Paul in?” (Prospect’s first name + your full name, but no company name — that makes it obvious that he doesn’t know you and you should be denied.)
Gatekeeper: “Can I tell him what this is regarding?”

• Don’t go into your pitch! If you start selling the gatekeeper, you turn them into the decision maker and you’ll always lose. They’ll either try to tell you they’re not interested, send you to someone else, or say they’ll relay the message — and that message will be 1% as powerful as when it’s coming out of your mouth. Instead, mention previous contacts (or attempts) you’ve made:

Example: “I’m following up on a prior conversation with Paul.” Or “I sent him some information and am checking in to see what he wants to do next.”
Gatekeeper: “Do you have an appointment / is he expecting your call?”
You: “He should be, based on the info I gave him.”

• If the gatekeeper is exceptionally tough or you don’t feel comfortable pushing the envelope, reach out to the person via personal email, a letter or a referral from a mutual contact. That way you can honestly say “I’m following up / I’ve been referred by so-and-so.”

• Never leave a message. He’s never going to call you back and you lose strength when you leave unreturned messages. Instead, find out when he’ll be back and then call back.

• And finally, if you keep calling and keep getting the “he’s not available” spiel, here’s a last resort:

Example: “Listen, I’ve called a million times and know I’m driving you crazy. How does Paul decide who he talks to?”

At this point, be willing to cut a deal with the gatekeeper. “If I send some information to you, would you walk it in and hand it to Paul? If you promise you’ll do it, I promise you’ll only get one more unsolicited call from me — to find out whether he’s willing to talk.”

In summary:

1) Make it personal
2) Never sell to the gatekeeper
3) Be confident
4) Take ownership of the next contact

Submitted by: Christi Sherman

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