Getting past the Gatekeeper


Last week I spent a couple of days with one of my clients who are looking to develop their customer base and get their products in front of new customers. But in order to do this it involved the dreaded activity of telephone appointment making. Many of the calls they needed to make were to companies who they had never dealt with before so the team doing the calls found it quite daunting! And it can be if you aren’t prepared for the rebuff you may get at the other end or you aren’t able to outsmart the gatekeeper!

But let’s think about it… If the receptionist were to put through all those calls to the buyer, director or whoever the decision maker is they probably wouldn’t have time to get on with the business of the day. The Gatekeeper is well trained to block these calls – they are only doing their job! The decision maker you are chasing is also a target for hundreds more companies all wanting a conversation or meeting in order to sell their wonderful product or service.

So… the task of not getting through to your target audience is not going to be easy. Let’s be ready for all those objections we’ll get thrown and let’s try and outsmart that gatekeeper if we can. Not every trick and ruse will work but I promise you if you are persistent and keep positive some of these tips will work some of the time. Believe me… I tried a few of them with my client last week and we had some success resulting in some new business appointments. And remember… that gatekeeper is sitting between you and your targets so if you upset her it’s at your peril!

10 Tried and Test Tips For getting Past the Gatekeeper

1. Look at the web site and gain valuable information. I would hope that you would do this anyway but even those companies who have a “No Name Policy” can often let themselves down by featuring a photo and name of the person you are after! So you now have a name.

2. Use the name with Authority. Whilst “Please can I speak with John Brown?” may be polite; you’ve a better chance of getting through when you put some assertion in your tone and say “John Brown, please”.

3. Ring first to get the name; on the pretext of updating your info, or sending through some information. Once you have the name, put the phone down and ring later with the “authority” approach as listed in 2.

4. “I wonder if you can help me.” Everyone likes to be helpful and this old but proven technique can work a treat. Ask the receptionist/ assistant a few questions and then ask for her advice as to when /what may be the best approach to speak with the decision maker.

5. Outside of “Normal” hours. Receptionists, assistant and PA’s often take their allotted lunch breaks and start and finish from when they are paid. (I’m not saying they all do and many work far and above their paid hours!). So… ring before 8.30 or 9, at lunchtime when the call will be answered by someone not as prepared to field you call, rig after 5.30 or 6! I’ve managed to get hold of many a decision maker whilst he’s answered his own call .

6. Trying another department. This is definitely one of my favourites and most successful. When the phone options offer several departments, chose the Accounts one or Customer Service for example. You usually find they are far more helpful in putting you through. Maybe because they just want rid of you so they can get on with their job!

7. Use LinkedIn. This is great if you ask one of your LinkedIn contacts to get you an introduction but there are other uses. On many “No Name Policy” calls I have looked up the Company on LinkedIn and at the right hand side there is usually names and pics of people who work there along with their job titles. This is a great start even if you don’t get your decision maker on there.

8. “Yes, we have spoken before” “Yes, he will know what it’s about”. You need to be confident and bold and ready to go into a little more detail if challenged. Do you think he will really remember a call that you supposedly made 6 months ago! (I’ve even had someone say they can remember my call when I didn’t even make one!

9. Put another digit on end of reception number. If it’s a large company you may find that the reception number ends in 0. So… dial the number but swap the 0 for 4 or 5 and see who answers! It’s not foolproof but I have had success with this. When the call has been answered by whoever I’ve just apologised and asked them to put me through to who I want! Success- sometimes!!

10. Be persistent without being pushy. Keep trying ! Try another day, time. The Gatekeeper will may be go on holiday, be of sick or leave if you are lucky so if you never try again it’s your loss!