Busting through: getting past the gatekeeper
In most companies, a gatekeeper guards the decision maker. Typically it’s a receptionist or PA, and often the wall between you and the person you need to talk to feels impenetrable.
But having a plan to get past the gatekeeper is a vital part of a sales call and you’ll never make a sale unless you get yourself in front of people who can say yes to you.
Gatekeepers hold the key to CEOs, marketing managers and senior executives; those who can make decisions and they are protective of their charges. They are often well trained in answering with “we do not accept these types of calls” or “he’s in a meeting” and the line quickly goes dead.
Before you call, do some research and find out who the decision maker is. Sounds simple, but if you can confidently ask for the person by name, you are more likely to be put through. If you can’t find the person’s name, ring and ask with a question like “who is responsible for purchasing your consumables?” Then on your next sales call you’ll know who to ask for and make sure you pronounce their name right!
With the huge number of unsolicited sales calls being received daily, it’s not surprising that receptionists and PAs are defensive, but there are several techniques you can employ to improve your chances of getting access to the right person. And it all starts with handling the gatekeeper.
A receptionist is simply doing his or her job and they deserve to be treated with respect.
Using a confident tone in your voice whilst on the phone helps give the impression of an authority figure, which in turn allows for the gatekeeper to undertake the impression that you are of relative importance, thus it is more likely that he or she will transfer you to the relevant contact.
Build a rapport
Always listen to the gatekeeper and build rapport with him or her. They can be a great source of information regarding the personnel and current situation of the company.
Use their first name
Most receptionists will answer the phone with their name so use this to your advantage. Everyone likes being called by their name so just by saying “Hi Anne, how are you today?” you have already broken the ice.
Always remember to remain calm on the phone whilst talking to a gatekeeper as anger or nervousness will transfer through the line in your voice.
Act almost as if you already know the contact you are looking to speak to. If you have the name of the prospect you require, say “can you put me through to John please”. It can give the impression that a relationship between you, and your call is more likely to be transferred.
Don’t give too much information to the receptionist
When trying to get through to the decision maker, give information sparingly as if you provide too much information about the purpose of the call this will give the gatekeeper an opportunity to say “no we wouldn’t be interested in that”.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best
If the gatekeeper is not willing to let you in after a few attempts, try calling at lunch time when he or she is probably at lunch.
Have a plan B
If the gatekeeper is still reluctant to put you through, it can be a good idea to ask to be transferred to the relevant party’s voicemail.
It’s all about maximising your sales team’s chances of speaking to the right person; the person who can make a decision and close your sale. It is up to you now to try them out and find the ones that suit best your personal style. Good luck!