If there is one type of person every salesperson has more than a few pain-filled stories about, it is the gatekeeper. Relax! I’ve experienced my share of this too. You can’t make too many sales calls of any type without encountering one.
You don’t have to think that the gatekeeper is the person waking up in the morning with the sole intent to keep you out. No, they’re just doing their job. Let’s first look at who is the gatekeeper. Although it may appear that they have the same job, their duties can vary significantly.
The first thing we need to do is to get rid of the name gatekeeper and view them more as a “door-opener.” You probably think this is lame, but if you start viewing them differently, you will treat them differently.
Secondly, see them as coming from two different positions. One type of gatekeeper or “door-opener” is the traditional receptionist or person merely tasked with answering and routing calls. No, their job is not to block calls. That’s just what happens when we don’t give them a good reason to move the call forward. The other type of gatekeeper is the administrative assistant. Many times, this is a very powerful person helping others use their time more efficiently. Again, these people are simply doing their job by blocking you if you don’t create enough value to warrant the other person’s time. The problem is that you don’t know which role they play until you talk with them.
Both types of “door-openers” should be addressed with respect. Understand that they are doing the job that they’ve been tasked with. When I call and a “door-opener” of any type answers, I assume that they want to connect me. First, I state the person’s first name that I want to speak with. (If you don’t know who you want to speak with, we’ll get to that later.) When asked what it is in reference to, I will say one of the following:
“I’m following up on some emails we’ve been exchanging back and forth.” I will only use this when we have clearly been exchanging emails. If the person has not responded, but I have sent them an email, my response to the door-opener is: “I’m following up on an email I sent over for him/her to look at.”
If the person I’m looking to talk to is someone I have had even the slightest contact with at a conference or event I will say: “I’m looping back from when we talked at _______ last month.”
If the person is someone I have not had any contact with I may say: “I’m wanting to connect with her to discuss ___________.” The key here is the subject must be something of relevance to the person I’m calling. Another approach is: “I’m looking to get feedback regarding _________.”
If the person blocks me, I will then say: “Could you help me out? I’m looking for an answer regarding _________.” What I am doing now is asking the gatekeeper the same question(s) I would ask the decision maker that I’m trying to reach. I like this approach because it does two things: helps the door-opener feel important and allows them to see me as someone with great questions. They now begin to see me as someone with value. When using this approach, I am amazed at the number of times the door-open makes the connection with the decision maker for me. This method helps you understand the role that the door-opener plays in the company. The admin assistant will many times answer the question and give you great information.
When you’re making calls and you don’t know who to ask for, be straight up when calling the number the first time. Do this by asking to speak to whoever can help you the most with what you have to offer. It’s ok if you’re rebuked the first time. Simply try calling back at a later time or day and just phrase your question a little broader. For instance say, “Hi, can you connect with me with the _______ department?” Then, if the door-opener says they don’t have that department, say something like, “What department handles _______? That is who I should speak with.” What you shouldn’t do is back off just because the gatekeeper is doing their job. It’s about asking them another question or making a second attempt at a later time.
You’ve been trying to turn the gatekeeper into the door-opener, and so far you’ve been unsuccessful. Don’t get discouraged; there are different paths you can take. First off, call the same number and ask for sales. Trust me, they will answer the phone! Be upfront with why you reached out to them. If you agree to help them, it’s amazing how quickly they will connect you to who you want.
Another approach is to call an alternate number that you find on their website, or simply call a number a few digits off from the number you’ve been calling. Both of these are easy approaches that will many times yield great results.
Finally, never forget that the easiest method is to call before 8 AM, after 4:30 PM or during the lunch hour. Remember the door-opener does not work 24/7 and frequently, the person filling in for them handles calls in a far more relaxed manner and may connect you right away.
Copyright 2019, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results