By Robert Gonye
IF you are in sales, chances are you have encountered plenty of situations in which you are trying to reach a Chief Executive Officer or C-level executive to pitch your product or service only to be stopped by a gatekeeper.
Gatekeepers who are typically executive assistants, receptionists, or office managers — are the people who stand between you and the decision-maker with whom you are hoping to make a sale.
But experienced sales reps know that gatekeepers do not have to be a roadblock in your sales process. Instead, a gatekeeper can (and should) be used as an opportunity to win the prospect’s trust.
Here, we will share some industry tips you can use when you find yourself up against a gatekeeper.
How to get past the gatekeeper when cold calling
1. Treat the Gatekeeper as a resource, not an Obstacle
Consider gatekeepers less an obstacle, and more a resource when trying to reach a decision-maker. “If it’s a receptionist or an assistant, they hold so much power in what the decision-maker’s day-to-day looks like — so lean into that. If they are not in a rush to get off the phone, take some time to ask how their day is going and get to know them.”
It might seem simple, but treating the gatekeeper as a human is an important and right tactic when trying to reach executives.
When you do this, gatekeepers will usually open up a bit more, and are more willing to give information as to when you should call back or the best way to reach the decision-maker.
2. Name-drop a connection.
Two strategies that work well when getting past a gatekeeper.
First, “Name-drop someone they are likely to know (for example someone in their sphere/market, or someone who works for a bigger brand name.)
When met with gatekeepers and using this approach, I would say something like ‘Oh, I’ve been working with John in your market, who knows. He wanted me to connect — can you put me through to help make that happen?‘”
Alternatively, if you do not have a strong connection to the decision-maker, consider how you might name-drop a publication related to their work.
You might say something like, “I’ve been watching some decision-maker’s, The Market Watch, and as a speaker in multiple industry publications myself, I’d like to connect to discuss these topics further. Can I speak to them about that now, please?’“
It does not hurt to do your research. The more you know about the decision-maker, the easier it is to connect on a personal level with the gatekeeper and demonstrate you are not just another cold caller.
3. Be Polite and Exude Confidence
It might sound simple, but in practice, it is a little more challenging. Perhaps it is the end of the month and you have not hit quota yet. As a result, you might come across as exasperated or frustrated when speaking with a gatekeeper. But that is not what you want.
Instead, ensure you sound respectful and courteous. It is not fair to convey your stress to the gatekeeper — they are just doing their jobs, too.
4. Do not use the decision-maker’s last name.
The key to getting past the gatekeeper is sounding confident over the phone. Additionally, success is found by asking for the decision-maker by first name only. Never use the person’s full name. If you are talking to a friend, would you address your friend by first and last name? No.
If they ask for the last name, of course you should give it, but never lead by addressing your prospect by their full name.
5. Do not lie
One thing that could break the gatekeeper’s trust — and ruin the success of a deal? Dishonesty.
When interacting with a gatekeeper, there is one rule do not lie. Align the call with your email cadence content — lead with the truth and be firm but humble in your approach.
Ultimately, even if a lie might work in the short-term, it is likely to backfire in the long-run. If your decision-maker finds out you have lied to her employees to reach her, she will hesitate doing business with you. If you lied about that, what else might you be lying about?
6. Have some background knowledge about the gatekeeper
Sales reps need to do their research on the gatekeeper so as to stay ahead of time.
This can be can be done by checking out their LinkedIn. If the gatekeeper is slightly higher up and might be someone who has used software similar to yours in the past, look up their prior companies and see what tech they are using.
This might trigger memories of negative experiences in the past with software they were not fond of, or positive experiences with your software, that you can bring up on the call and show that you have done your research and you are not there to waste their time.
7. Don’t try and get past gatekeepers…align with them.
Finally, when you cold call a business and reach a gatekeeper, consider how you might create rapport and build trust with the gatekeeper before you push for the C-level executive.
Gatekeepers are humans and they are charged with protecting the time of their executives. So if you are a time-waster…unfortunately you will not get past the gatekeeper and will have to resort to pushy, sales-y tactics to bypass the gatekeeper.”
However, Gatekeepers can be extremely valuable if you win them and align with them as opposed to ‘getting around’ or ‘bypassing’ them. This is one area where a modern seller can differentiate from a legacy seller.
That’s all well and good. But how do you align with the gatekeeper? Watch out for the next instalment in the Feb edition.