Gatekeepers are an unavoidable part of the sales process. Sooner or later, probably often, you will run into those people whose job is to keep you from getting to your prospects. This might be a secretary, a receptionist, a personal assistant… It is likely someone who fields dozens of sales calls daily. Getting through gatekeepers and making contact with a prospect can be one of the toughest aspects of sales. How do you get someone whose job involves rejecting calls like yours to be on your side and pass on your message? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the following tips can certainly help you or your sales reps to navigate past gatekeepers.
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The best way to deal with gatekeepers is to not deal with them at all. If at all possible, you should try to bypass them altogether by doing the research to find the contact info for the executives you are targeting. Go straight for the decision-makers! Though this may seem like a bold approach, your chances of making a sale are actually much greater if you target the heavyweights directly. Decision-makers usually don’t get as many sales calls and are not as desensitized to them as gatekeepers, who are practiced at rejecting them rapidly.
You always need to be prepared for the possibility of encountering a gatekeeper on your calls. Ideally, you would do some research about who might actually be answering the phone and tailor your strategy to them. For example, finding as much as possible about who the gatekeeper reports to directly can help you appear more clear and informed in your communication. The more you can find out about the company, the decision-maker you are trying to access, and even the gatekeeper and their specific role, the less generic your pitch will be, which is always a good thing!
Gatekeepers deal with sales calls all day long and become desensitized, so the last thing you want to do is sound overly scripted and salesy. People can always tell when your pitch is too rehearsed, and this will lead the gatekeeper to immediately classify your approach as a ‘sales call’ and dismiss you. The antidote to being too scripted is flexibility. You want to be adaptable and adjust to whatever attitude the gatekeeper takes.
Your best bet is engaging on a human level and having an actual, straightforward conversation, which is impossible if you are reading or rehearsing a script. So keep your interaction as natural, relaxed, and spontaneous as possible. Prepare for the call by doing breathing exercises to put you in an alert yet relaxed state.
Gatekeepers are used to fielding sales calls and will be quick to lump you in with all the other annoying callers they get, so you want to try to stand out at all costs. A good way to do this is by establishing credibility from the get-go. You can do this by mentioning other companies you service or mentioning an important name connected to the company you are targeting, if that is a possibility.
Whenever possible try to make a personal connection with the gatekeeper. Instead of coming across like another impersonal sales caller, you should seek to make a human connection whenever possible. A simple way t do this is ask for their name early on in the call, and then remember it! People like to hear the sound of their own name, so use it as often as you can without it sounding gimmicky. You could also ask them how their day is going and make cordial conversation.
You could even acknowledge that you know they get a lot of sales calls, but ask them just to hear you out for a second and pass on the information you are providing. Make it clear that the call will not make much time. Feel free to crack jokes and adopt a friendly tone, if and only if you feel that the gatekeeper is receptive to a more informal conversation.
It is important to strike a delicate balance during your interactions with gatekeepers: this balance consists of being assertive and persistent on the one hand, and polite and adaptable on the other. You should never come across as timid, hesitant or unsure of yourself, as this is just making it easy for the gatekeeper to reject and disqualify you. But you should also have a polite and respectful demeanor at all times. If the gatekeeper is being difficult or intractable or even rude, you should keep your cool and respond with politeness. It can be helpful to acknowledge their concern and irritation. Quite often, if you retain a respectful and friendly attitude, a conversation that started off aggressive can turn around completely.
You should have a list of common objections at hand that you often hear from gatekeepers. Try to come up with responses to each of these and field test them regularly. After a few weeks of doing this, you should have ready answers to almost very common objection a gatekeeper could throw your way. Learn more about handling objections here!
If you have success with some of the steps above, you might be getting along great with your gatekeeper by now! If you think that you have started to make a personal connection with them, feel free to try to get as much information as possible from them, without being pushy. Gatekeepers are often a trove of information about their company and its needs! They can let you know the best way to get in touch with decision makers and what problems they are trying to solve.
If you are getting along particularly well, you can even ask them for advice or find out what steps they would take if they were you. Aside from the helpful information this can elicit, this kind of question can make the gatekeeper feel like they are helping you out and you are on the same side, which might make the more likely to pass you on to the higher-ups. The key is not to treat gatekeepers as an obstacle, but to get them on your side.
Gatekeepers can be frustrating and hard to get past, but there are a few strategies you can try. Research the company’s website for information about their team members so that when you reach out, it feels personalized. Develop credibility by offering testimonials or case studies from previous customers with similar needs to theirs. Don’t use scripted responses because this will come across as inauthentic. Try connecting on a personal level if possible. Be bold yet polite in your approach and have some objections ready to counter any problems they may throw at you before they do!
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