Getting Past the Gatekeeper

6 minutes

Getting Past the Gatekeeper

If you've ever prospected before, chances are you've had some difficulty getting in direct contact with decision makers from the beginning. This especially the case for executives and upper management who are likely to have receptionists or assistants screening emails and calls to ensure their bosses aren't wasting time.

Many salespeople hate gatekeepers and it sometimes gets to the point where they become so frustrated that they try to experiment with little tricks and schemes to get around them. Regrettably, these schemes have a negative impact on both parties which is why so many gatekeepers would rather have their teeth pulled out than deal with a salesperson.

The reality of the situation is that you are going to have to deal with gatekeepers often and there's no way to avoid it. There aren't tricks or secrets that'll help you get past a gatekeeper and through to your target prospect.

So in this article, we're going to best practices and tips along with different strategies that'll give you an edge when dealing with gatekeepers. For these to be effective, it's important to first put yourself in the shoes of a gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers are there to ensure their managers are not wasting their time on useless activities. They protect their manager's time. Now, just like you, gatekeepers have emotions, worries, motivations and a job to do. Because of this, your success in getting through the gate depends on a combination of good manners, likeability, and being people-savvy.

Seven Keys for Dealing with Gatekeepers

1. Be Likeable

Project a positive, cheerful and outgoing personality if encountering a gatekeeper by phone. Treat them with respect and be polite as being rude and pushy is unlikely to get you anywhere. After that phone call or email, you want to ensure that you've left a positive impression on the gatekeeper.

2. Say Please Twice

Mike Brooks wrote a book back in 2010 called 'The Real Secrets of the Top 20%'. In his book, he analyses and explains the 80/20 rule in the context of sales teams - why does 80% of revenue typically come from 20% of the sales force? One thing he learnt along the way was that the best sales people would use 'please' twice when it came to dealing with gatekeepers. For example, "Hi, this is Joseph from Fide. Would you please connect me with John Smith, please?"

3. Be Honest and Transparent

Don't beat around the bush at the beginning. Introduce yourself with your name and who you want to speak with. By doing this, you sound trustworthy and professional enough to consider being passed through.

4. Connect with the Gatekeeper

Remember that gatekeepers are real people just like you and like you, they like people who are interested in them. If you speak to a gatekeeper often, be sure to ask about how they're doing. Make note of their tone of voice and play it all by ear. Fide has numerous clients of its own that were secured by cold calling and interestingly enough, there are many examples where our salesperson will have a stronger relationship with the gatekeeper than the boss. These strong relationships have a secondary effect which allows us to be prioritised over others when it comes to booking in the calendar.

5. Don't Use Schemes or Tricks

These don't work and are not worth it. You may get lucky but you're likely to burn many bridges in the process. They'll harm your credibility and impression of your company and get you straight on the do-not-answer list. As mentioned before, be honest about who you are and why you are calling. Always ask for what you actually want and don't beat around the bush. Although you may not get through the first time, your honesty will be appreciated which will increase your chances of opening the gate in the future.

6. Ask For Help

More often than not, an honest plea for help will get the gatekeeper on your side. Being a bit humorous along the way can also make a difference. A great way to do this is by asking "Jane, you know John best so what do I need to do to get 15 minutes with him?"

7. Change the Game

Sometimes the best strategy is side-step the gatekeeper and there are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Call early or late - the boss tends to be in the office earlier than the gatekeeper and stay later.
  2. Leverage other channels - gatekeepers typically have access to calendars and email but not LinkedIn. Sending an InMail or connection request bypasses the gatekeeper and gets your message straight in front of who you want to speak to.
  3. Meet them in person - attend conferences, networking events and trade shows where you know the prospect will be.
  4. Use a handwritten letter - emails and phone calls can easily be screened by a gatekeeper but letters addressed to the decision maker won't. Be sincere, add something of value or congratulate the prospect on a recent achievement.

In the event none of the above help and the gatekeeper is unwilling to give you a direct line to the gatekeeper, here's our favourite hack.

Bonus Tip: Call A Salesperson

If you can find the contact details of a sales rep online or get in touch with them via the main number, we suggest you give it a go. Speak to a sales rep and tell them exactly what you need and why. For example, "Hi Jim, my name is Joseph. The reason I'm calling is because I've been trying to get in touch with the person in your company that runs your advertising. I wasn't having much luck going through the switchboard and I thought a fellow salesperson could relate and give me a hand."

Calling a salesperson is an effective way to get your foot in the door. It has worked time to time for us and here's why:

  1. Salespeople are excellent at picking up their phones so there is a very high probability that you'll get an opportunity to speak to a likeminded person.
  2. Salespeople know who is who at their organisation and how to get in touch with them
  3. Salespeople understand what you're going through and have been in your shoes before. They know exactly what it's like to deal with gatekeepers and hit a brick wall.

As long as your respectful, honest and polite plus bring some humility with you, you'll find that most of the time they'll open up the doors.

Be Persistent

There will always be prospects that are hard to reach and this is especially the case for high-value prospects. The more valuable he account, the more likely the prospect is guarded by gatekeepers. These are the prospects that are always in meetings, don't return calls, don't respond to emails and don't accept connection requests on LinkedIn. These hard-to-reach contacts may seem impossibly elusive but guess what, that's the B2B sales world for you. At the end of the day it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to get in front of high value contacts and decision makers.

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