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Getting Past the Gatekeeper

Casadee Wilson - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

So what exactly is a gatekeeper?

The term Gatekeeper refers to any person that you need to speak to before getting to a Decision Maker (DM). They can be receptionists, PA’s, EA’s or even husbands or wives to the DM!

Over the years I have heard some truly shocking suggestions about how to speak to them and how to trick them in order to get to who you need to reach. If you ask me, anyone who manages to use rudeness or trickery to get to a DM is in for a rude awaking themselves. After all, we are calling these people out of the blue, asking for them to trust we are who we say and that we do what we do, so who are they going to trust more – the receptionist they have worked with every day for who knows how many years telling them we lied or were rude to them, or the stranger on the phone? Would you even take that call?

In order to show you what a good gatekeeper method looks like, I want to show you a few of the WORSE examples I’ve heard.

Here is what to NEVER do to a gatekeeper:

  • Tell them it’s a personal call and/or an emergency

This is not only one of the most common ones I’ve heard but surely the most stupid. What on earth are you going to say to the poor panicked DM when they take this call? There is NO way you could bounce back from that without ruining your brand and becoming untrustworthy.

  • Intimidate the gatekeeper

Pretend, in your voice and tone, that you’re someone more senior than you actually are – be forceful and make them feel bad about not putting you through.

Well this is a great way to make a first impression. Remember most people buy on emotion, and again, you never know the relationship between the gatekeeper and the DM.

The Gatekeeper is too often thought of as merely an obstacle, and MUCH too often taken for granted. So how do you get them to put you through? After all, it’s their job to keep your call out, and it’s your job to get your call in.


Preparation

In any part of a sales conversation, we need to come across as the expert in order to make the prospect feel comfortable with the decision they are making. The same logic applies with getting through the Gatekeeper.

Preparation is key

So readers, do you have a script to get through the gatekeeper?

I am a firm believer that although conversations cannot be scripted, responses can be prepared. So have a think on the questions you are mostly likely to be asked by a gatekeeper and how best to answer them.

Things to keep in mind with this is that the more you tell a gatekeeper, the more they feel justified to say no, even if it’s not their decision to make –  so keep it simple.

We find we come across the below 5 questions from nearly every gatekeeper, no matter the campaign.

  1. Who is calling?
  2. Where are you calling from?
  3. What is it in regards to?
  4. Have you spoken with them before?
  5. Are they expecting your call?

These five questions, almost as if scripted, will come up as part of the standard procedure in their attempt to block your call. If the gatekeeper’s can ask the same questions, why should we have to alter our responses?

Now before I start giving you examples of how best to answer those, lets first go through ways we can help avoid being questioned too hard by the gatekeeper in the first place.

Remember its ok to imply, but NEVER lie!

So instead of asking for permission such as “May I speak to” or “would you be able to” where we give our power away to the gatekeeper (who’s mind then goes into work mode and triggers the questioning) we want to keep it friendly and simple.

Try changing it to “Hi there, is Tim in today?” This does a few things.

The first is that it gives a sense of familiarity – it implies (without lying) that we know Tim because we are only using his first name, and the light and friendly manner further suggests and implies familiarity. The second thing it does is subliminaly changes the thought pattern of the gatekeeper from Can I/Should I put this call though to answering ‘are they working today’ – taking them away from a negative towards a positive. Now this alone will be enough for some gatekeepers who will simply say yes and put you through, but for most its only the starting point.

Another one to try is (again keeping it friendly and light) “Oh hi (gatekeepers name), I don’t supposed Tim’s around? I have the worst timing when I call him - can you check if he’s in today?“ Now this one gives more of a sense of familiarity, and as such really needs the confidence in your voice to pull it off. When my best agents use this they rarely get questioned. It also adds 2 extra elements - rapport by connecting with gatekeeper through the very simple statement of having bad timing with your calls – after all, who hasn’t experienced how frustrating that is right? And secondly it asks them for help, taking their thought pattern down a how can I help them road, not how can I avoid them road. And, the best thing is that as it is such a broad statement, even if later the gatekeeper finds out it’s a cold call, is still makes sense for you to have said.

Ok so now you know what to ask first, lets move on to what comes next.

Remember with preparation, comes confidence and with confidence comes results. Having a set of stock standard responses ready for these questions will help you achive both.

GATEKEEPER: “Good Morning, FMG - Carly speaking”

YOU: “Hi Carly,  I don’t supposed Tim’s around? I have the worst timing when I call him - can you check if he’s in today?

GATEKEEPER: “(usually has a small laugh at that) no worries, can I ask who is calling?”

YOU: No worries Carly, Just tell him its Greer from Easy Lead

Now if said well, this statement this is usually where a lot of calls get connected because again we are implying, NOT lying that we are familiar with the Decision Maker. The result is that the gatekeeper feels a bit silly questioning you further and simply puts you through.

Now not all gatekeepers are this easy to get past, for a lot it will keep going into something like this:

GATEKEEPER: Is he expecting your call?

YOU: Actually to be honest with you Carly he wouldn’t be expecting my call just now, I was just hoping I might be able to catch him as I had a free moment myself. Is he around today?

OR it could go something like this

GATEKEEPER: And whats this in regards too?

YOU: Well Carly my boss wanted to me give Tim a call to arrange a meeting. I was just hoping I might be able to catch him now for a quick chat as I had a free moment myself. Is he around today?

OR

YOU: Its actually in regards to a business proposal. Is Tim in today?

You’ll notice a similar pattern here. You give a short anser that they can relate to, then regain control of the conversation by wrapping up with a question of your own. Always try and redirect the focus of the conversation to where you want it to be - Getting through to the Decision Maker.

The Power of the Gatekeeper

Very rarely will you find that the gatekeeper is the end decision maker for your product or service, therefore making any attempt to provide them with further information does little to increase your chances of getting through. On the contrary is does quite the opposite as it give them more information to object to.The gatekeeper only has the power to say no.

The more information that you provide, or the more you try to sell to the gatekeeper, the higher the chance that they will use that information to make the assumption that the decision maker will not be interested in your product  or service. Always remember that the gatekeepers job is to screen calls that they believe will not be of interest to their colleagues.

With all this in consideration, we cannot be deceitful or come across as rude as this will not do us any good either. The trick is to be friendly, polite, and confident.