The gatekeeper – friend or foe? I’m asked about this every day by our inside team or are clients! The gatekeeper can be your best friend. I’m here to tell you how you can turn gatekeepers into your advocate and ally.

Today, most gatekeepers have absolute power over the phone, e-mail system, calendar, and marketing automation system, and they leverage that gap between you and your sales target. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Operator

First of all, gatekeeper seems like a bit of a brash name – so let’s put a face to the name.

The Operator: Most large companies have many operators on staff that will transfer you to a contact without question. Here’s is the kicker: you must have a name. If you are doing some serious tele- or e-mail or prospecting the operator probably won’t be your best bet.

The Receptionist: A receptionist plays a very important role in the office. Although they may not have a direct relationship with your ultimate target, they have control over whether or not they can put you through to their executive assistant, or the target themself.

Another Employee: At smaller companies, employees may answer the phone. You may also come across this if you are transferred to the wrong line. Use this to your advantage – most employees tend to be very helpful. Ask for direct numbers and extensions!

The Executive Assistant: The executive assistant or EA handles your target contact’s day-to-day activities. The EA is where you will be transferred from the operator or another employee (if you don’t get a direct number). They are in charge of scheduling appointments, knowing your target’s schedule inside and out, and handing e-mail activities. This can sometimes leave you at a disadvantage if you are not receiving a call back from your target contact.

Now that we have the definitions set,  how do you get past them to achieve your ultimate goal of talking to your target contact? First and foremost…

Be Respectful

The gatekeepers are answering phones, among other duties, all day. They receive hundreds of sales calls a week. Here are some experiences I have had and how to get past them.

Target: John Smith, CEO, Company ABC.

Phone call #1: Operator transfers to receptionist, who then transfers to EA. EA asks what the call is in reference to (let’s say we’re pitching a new brand of pens – and we know this is the contact we must speak to). EA transfers me right into voicemail. I gladly leave an upbeat message with a follow up e-mail. A few days later, no return call and no e-mail. This is no surprise, as the EA possibly checked his voicemail and statistics show that CEOs receive over 130 e-mails per day. Follow up with…

Phone call #2: I call back into the EA and explain I am following up the e-mail that I sent a couple of days ago. The EA does not remember me, and puts me straight into voicemail again. I do not leave a message this time.

Phone call #3: I call back into the receptionist and ask who the best person to speak to about pen maintenance is. The receptionist directs me to Jane Doe – the CFO of company ABC, and a direct colleague of John Smith. She transfers me to Ms. Doe. Luckily, Ms. Doe answers and we have a meaningful conversation.

Phone call #4: I call back into the EA and ask to speak to John Smith, noting that Jane Doe referred me. The EA gladly transfers me to John Smith.

Takeaways from this call:

  1. Use referrals – they will get you past the gatekeeper. When gatekeepers hear the same script every day, something needs to stand out for them to not hang up or put you into voicemail. If a credible name can be attached to what you are selling, it builds trust.
  2. Always remember the goal you have in mind. Can you leverage the gatekeeper to help you with information on your target contact?
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Are they really the right target contact to sell pens to? Sometimes you have to go through a few influencers to get to the top.

Data! Data! Data!

Another experience I have come across that can be very helpful when calling is having the proper list. What type of list are you using? Is it bought? Is it self-entered data? The data that you are calling on is very important. If a contact’s name is Robert, but actually goes by Bert (not Bob) – this can be very important information to know. Some people actually enter fake data when downloading a whitepaper, webinar or important call to action. If this data gets into your CRM, it can be quite embarrassing when asking the EA for a name that doesn’t exist. This can be avoided by ensuring you are researching where you are buying your lists from.

If you are a smaller company and planning on entering data yourself, while this will save you money, it will also be time consuming. It would be helpful to clean and scrub the lists first (calling the operators and receptionists and confirming the contact’s information) before adding to your list. Remember employee turnover rate is 30%.

Always remember to be respectful, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and remember the target goal when you are speaking to gatekeepers. Their main goal is to keep the wrong person away from their boss and allow the right person in. So if you do have a good enough pitch, that may just get you there!

Good luck, and happy calling!

Marlene Keay, Senior Manager, Business Development | |