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How to Get Past Gatekeepers So You Can Close Sales with Decision Makers

sales gatekeeperThere’s a lot of strategy that goes into a good cold calling process.

One of the tougher parts of the process is getting past the gatekeeper or receptionist, and earning the opportunity to speak with the decision maker.

Let’s say you build websites for lawyers. Here’s how a typical cold call might go if you’re not prepared:

Them: “Hello, this is the office of Smith & Smith, how can I help you?”
You: “Hi, this is Avery and I specialize in developing websites for lawyers.”
Them: “Oh, we’re not interested at this time. Have a nice day, goodbye.”

Remember, it’s the job of the receptionist – or whoever is answering the phone – to filter calls. They handle what they can, dismiss what they can, and pass along only the most pertinent calls to the decision maker.

So, how do you get filtered into that last category? How do you get past the gatekeeper? Here are a few techniques that will help.

Be Likeable

It’s important to view gatekeepers as an ally, not an obstacle. This mindset shift changes the way you speak to the gatekeeper, and makes you more personable and endearing.

If they say their name, address them using it. Write it down. It might help in either your current conversation, or the next one. A gatekeeper is far more likely to put someone through that they like and have a rapport with.

The more engaging you are, the less skeptical the gatekeeper will be. Act evasive, and you’ll never seem like someone who is supposed to be put through.

Be Someone They Can’t Say “No” To

To get past the gatekeeper, you don’t necessarily need a “yes” reaction. Sometimes all you need is to be someone that they feel like they can’t quite say “no” to. The gatekeeper is not a decision maker. Try to find an angle that leaves an element of uncertainty that earns you a pass.

Using the Attorney Website example above, perhaps you previously emailed the attorney about some issues on their website.

Them: “What’s this regarding?”
You: “I’m just following up on some website issues I alerted John about.”

By taking this approach, you can stop their knee-jerk reaction of saying “no”, which the gatekeeper is used to saying. It allows you to cut through the pattern and get better results.

Do Your Research

The more you know about the decision maker, the more likely you’ll be able to get past the gatekeeper. Being able to reference a LinkedIn Group that they’re a part of (or that you are both a part of), a shared associate, a competitor of theirs that you’ve worked with or spoken to, etc. can do a great deal to help you reach your target.

And that same piece of information can work wonders as a “foot in the door” when you do get connected to the decision maker.

Call at the “Right” Time

In our post on Moneyball Sales Techniques, we learned that the best time for sales calls is between 8am-9am, and 4pm-5pm. While there are undoubtedly several factors contributing to the success of these time ranges, it’s interesting to note that the former is outside of typical “9 to 5” hours when most gatekeepers work – and the latter is at the tail end.

Another – albeit more informal – study tested a similar hypothesis by breaking up sales people into two teams. One team only made calls during the typical “9 to 5” workweek, while the other made calls outside it (7am-9am, 5pm-7pm, or on Saturdays). Not only did the latter group have more live conversations with decision makers, they also had far fewer gatekeepers to contend with.

Looks like sometimes getting past the gatekeeper is as simple as calling when they’re not there.

Have a tip of your own to share? Let us know what works for you and what doesn’t. Tweet us or let us know in the comments below!

  • Great article. We just had a webinar at LegalShield about this same topic. We all have qualities can use, discover, learn and create to talk to decision makers. The wider our prospect base is, the more likely we get through. Referencing a shared contact or just visiting their website for a couple of minutes in advance of the call increases success. See what they posted recently in their media section works for conversation topics. PhoneBurner is essential.

    • pbbizdev

      Great comment. It’s all about building rapport. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust!

      • Nnetta

        I agree with this completely!

  • I do a lot of small b and I find a line I use warms them up quit nicely when having a hard time catching them at location.
    “So( insert prospects name ) seems to come and go like they own the place.”

    Usually gets a chuckle followed by a good time to get them.

    • Nice tip. That’s an interesting approach. Good work. Thanks for the comment.