Get Past a Gatekeeper With Soft Skills

past a gatekeeper

Getting past a gatekeeper can be a challenge for sellers, especially as businesses vary in their levels of organization. A gatekeeper can take many forms, from an administrative assistant to a mid-​level manager. Each person represents a roadblock to reaching decision-​makers, and sellers must effectively make it past these gatekeepers – or risk losing a potential sale.

Developing a skillset for dealing with B2B gatekeepers is essential for every salesperson that works with these types of leads,” writes Alexandra Suarez for LeadLander​.com. “One way of developing that skill set is to eliminate the habits that could cause you to fall flat when interacting with a gatekeeper in business.”

Don’t do this to get past a gatekeeper

Suarez explains that there are do’s and don’ts when it comes to dealing with a gatekeeper. One of the biggest mistakes sales reps make is trying to pitch to the gatekeeper. These employees most likely have no authority to make decisions. And they probably don’t have any involvement in that aspect of the company. You will not only be wasting your time, but also theirs, which you don’t want to do when trying to make a good impression.

What reps should do instead

To get past a gatekeeper, soft skills can be successful. "Soft skills are the combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along and work harmoniously with other people," writes HubSpot's Sophia Bernazzani.

Awareness of the importance of soft skills in sales is growing, and it makes sense to employ these skills at every point in the process. 

First and foremost, sellers must be friendly. Genuine warmth and respect can do more to get you through than anything else. “Even if the decision-​maker is open to meeting you or receiving your call, not speaking well with a gatekeeper compromises your chances of being able to do so,” explains an article from the DealsInsight Team. “When thinking of ways on how to get past the gatekeeper, remember that they’re your only bridge to the person concerned and trampling over them could mean more hurt for you than otherwise.”

Pursue a relationship

Suarez agrees, pointing out that reps should consider forging a relationship with a gatekeeper. Sales are relationship-​driven, so it makes sense that every touch point can be a jumping point for a connection. “Your conversation with the gatekeeper can completely determine the message they pass on to their associates,” she writes. “The tone you use can determine whether or not you get a chance to make your pitch and make a sale.”

If you want to start nurturing a relationship with the gatekeeper right away, Suarez recommends doing the following:

  • Show that you understand the value of the gatekeeper’s role in the company. Show that you respect their position and their time.
  • Listen to what they have to say. Quickly dismissing or rushing them won’t do you any favors. Instead, whether in person or over the phone, use active listening to show you care about what they have to say. For tips on how to demonstrate active listening, check out these posts.
  • Be polite. It may seem like something sellers do automatically, but unfortunately, that’s not reality. Basic manners, like saying “please” and “thank you,” make a big impact.

Other tips to move forward

Suarez shares other ways that sellers can boost the chances of getting past a gatekeeper. Always be honest, even if you think the gatekeeper doesn’t want to hear that you are a salesperson. You will damage your credibility instantly and pretty much ensure your call won’t be forwarded.

Instead, be open and direct (while still being polite and warm). “Gatekeepers are good at detecting salespeople who side-​step tough questions and just aren’t entirely honest,” she writes. “You’re not going to be able to talk your way out of rejection if they decide to end your sales efforts. So, you don’t want to give them an extra reason to reject you.”

 And, as with any interaction in sales, empathy works. Think about the interaction from their perspective and how many times they have to engage with other sellers’ efforts. Really think about what they want to hear and then deliver.

These are just a few of the tips that Suarez shares, and each one can easily be incorporated into the sales process. Getting past a gatekeeper is a critical success, so it makes sense that doing so will take some thought and conscious effort. For even more advice on engaging with gatekeepers, check out our past advice.  

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision-​makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.