4 Tips to Get Past the Gatekeeper

BY Rachel Cagle
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How often have you called a prospect and gotten straight through to them? Okay. You can stop laughing now. A hard truth sales reps have to face is that in order to reach the higher ranking decision-​maker, you need to get past the gatekeeper first. That’s right: the dreaded receptionist, office manager or executive assistant who is aggravated by people trying to reach their boss and has heard it all before. But don’t just cross your fingers and pray the next time a gatekeeper answers the phone. Instead, try these tips from Caroline Forsey, writing for HubSpot, to get past them.

How to Get Past the Gatekeeper

Tip 1: Only use the decision-maker’s first name

When was the last time you referred to someone you know personally by their first AND last name? Unless they’re one of the few people out there who prefer that, probably never. Forsey says that you should have the same mentality when asking to be directed to a prospect. To get past the gatekeeper, simply ask something along the lines of, “Is [Anne] in today?” That will imply you have a connection with the decision-​maker. Of course, if there are multiple Annes in the office and the gatekeeper asks you to clarify who you mean, then say both names. But until then, stick with first names only.

Tip 2: Don’t treat the gatekeeper as an obstacle

Instead of only thinking about what you can do to get past the gatekeeper, imagine the wealth of information they could give you. They know:

  • The best contact method to reach the decision-maker
  • When to reach out
  • Potentially, what they’ve been stressing out about

Wouldn’t all of that information come in handy for when you finally connect with the gatekeeper’s boss? But how do you get them to share this information? Forsey says to start by treating them like the human being they are. Ask them how their day is going. Strike up a conversation to get to know them. If you develop rapport with the gatekeeper, it will be much easier to get their help both that day and in the future.

Tip 3: Name-​drop a mutual connection

If they don’t know you, it’s going to be difficult to get past the gatekeeper. That is, unless you know someone they know. When you did your research on your sales prospect, you checked their LinkedIn page for mutual connections, right? Or maybe one of your colleagues or current clients recommended you reach out to this new prospect. Either way, bring them up during the call. If the gatekeeper recognizes the name, they’ll likely transfer the call to the decision-​maker or let you know when you can reach them. If they don’t recognize the name, they may take it down in a message that will actually get to the boss. Business is all about who you know.

Tip 4: Never lie to the gatekeeper

You know what will get you hung up on faster than almost anything short of cursing out the gatekeeper or blasting obnoxious music straight into the receiver? Lying to them. You can’t get past the gatekeeper by being dishonest. Don’t tell them you have a meeting with the decision-​maker if you don’t. (They likely have access to the decision-maker’s calendar or at least know when the decision-​maker is expecting a phone call. They’ll know you’re lying.) And definitely don’t call and claim something wild like you’re calling about one of the decision-maker’s loved ones who is in a crisis and needs them. Even if you do make it past them with that kind of fib, you will only anger everyone involved and never have another shot at making a sale to anyone in that company. So, keep it simple and be honest.

For more tips on what to research before you make a sales call, check out our free e‑book: The 7 C's of Pre-​Call Intelligence.

Photo by fizkes