How to get past gatekeepers and reach prospects

How to get past gatekeepers and reach prospects

For those who actively prospect for a living there is one thing that turns even the most robust of us into ‘quivering jelly’.

The dreaded gatekeeper!

A gatekeeper has either the authority or ability to control access to decision makers in their organisation. Sometimes that authority has been specifically given, other times that authority has been assumed.

Their goal is not, as most would have it, to stop you going through. Their goal is to ensure that only relevant calls, get to the relevant people, at an appropriate time.

When you are prospecting you know that you should always be calling at the top of the organisation. Even if you normally deal with the buyer, you should always start at the highest level in a business because it offers some major advantages.

Gatekeepers at the higher levels handle calls that fall into one of three categories:

  • Personal calls – friends and family
  • Customer and potential customer calls
  • Calls from salespeople

Now one of the above list of three calls is unlikely to be put through: the salesperson’s call.

Many gatekeepers operate on autopilot and work to a well-rehearsed script. They spend so much time fending off salespeople that they drop into that mode almost as soon as they hear ‘hello’.  They know just the right questions to get a salesperson to reveal their real intent. Their script often sounds a bit like this:

  • What’s this call about?
  • Will he know what this is about?
  • Where are you calling from?
  • What company are you with?
  • Is this a sales call?

All delivered in a tone which feels like your parent asking you questions when you had been up to no good as a child.

Here are some basic principles for getting through to your prospective contact.

  • Always call at the top of the organisation (you will be surprised how few do)
  • Do sound like you are known (friend, acquaintance, business associate, customer)
  • Do not sound like a salesperson (no How Are You Today (HAYT) crimes
  • Do interrupt the gatekeeper’s pattern of dealing with salespeople

Rather than strong-arming the gatekeeper, use a strategy that magicians have employed successfully for years – redirection.

There’s nothing up my sleeves

There are some basic techniques you can use to redirect the gatekeeper’s attention.

You could give an answer that creates a sense of urgency. Sounds a bit like:

Salesperson: “I am trying to get through to Brian before he leaves the office. If he’s not tied up in a meeting, would you tell him that Dave is on the line?  Thank you.”

Gatekeeper: “Will he know what the call is about?”

Salesperson: “I’m calling with some information I wanted to get to him right away. If you can put me through I’d appreciate it.”

Or try the reverse questioning technique, answering their question with a question:

Salesperson: “It’s Danny Jobson. Can I speak with Sarah please?”

Gatekeeper: “What company are you with?”

Salesperson: “I’m sorry. Is Sally not available right now?”

Above all else, remember the gatekeeper is not your enemy, they are simply doing their job.  Know their name and address them by it. Focus on building a relationship and rapport with them. They can quickly become your staunchest ally and personal advocate when they are treated with respect and consideration.

Remember, the gatekeepers are often at the centre of their organisation. They know everybody, they know where everybody is, they know how everybody is, they know everyone’s preferences.  Ask them for advice and guidance, value and respect that knowledge.

If all else fails call outside of hours, when there is less chance of finding a gatekeeper blocking your path to success.

Find out more about Artesian’s approach to sales prospecting or if you want something more meaty – is sales prospecting dead?