How to Get Past Gate Keepers

Joe Weinlick
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For sales professionals, business gatekeepers are a constant concern. They stand as the first line of defense, protecting crucial decision-makers from unwanted advances. By refining your sales strategies and understanding potential clients, you can get past gatekeepers while maintaining a positive reputation.

Business gatekeepers hold a variety of roles within a company. In larger companies, they may be receptionists or personal assistants. In other businesses, administrative assistants protect executives from distracting calls. The list goes on to encompass middle managers, department operators and secretaries. Each person acts as a filter, preventing time-wasting calls from taking up their boss's time. Business gatekeepers often have specific instructions about who to let through and who to defer. Unless the company is looking for a specific product or vendor, sales professionals may be on the "defer" list.

One way to get past business gatekeepers is to act as though the decision-maker is expecting your call. Use a confident tone and say, "Hi, this is John Smith calling for Paul." By using the person's first name instead of his full name, you can establish the impression of a personal relationship. Take care to remove all traces of your typical sales-pitch tone from your voice, and try to sound like you would when calling a colleague or professional contact. Depending on how busy or in demand your target is, this strategy may get you through.

Experienced business gatekeepers often ask deeper questions when they are screening calls. Being prepared for these questions can help you maintain confidence and composure, therefore, reassuring the gatekeeper that you should be put through. Common questions include, "Is he expecting your call?" and "What is this call in reference to?" In both cases, you can explain that you emailed information, and you are calling to get his thoughts. By keeping your cool and refraining from offering specific details, you may be able to convince the gatekeeper that your call merits attention.

When you are calling without knowing who the decision-maker is, business gatekeepers can be useful resources. If you sense that the person is not in the mood for casual conversation, ask the question in a straightforward manner: "Who is the person in charge of purchasing office supplies?" Alternatively, act as though the gatekeeper's boss is the person you are looking for. When he realizes your mistake, he may correct you and automatically offer the name of the correct person; in some cases, he may even connect you.

Gatekeepers often feel like the enemy — and in many cases, they are treated as such by sales people. In reality, administrative assistants and other gatekeepers hold a great deal of responsibility within a company. No matter which strategy you use, set yourself apart by treating them with respect and professionalism. Be genuine and take care to avoid the overly smooth compliments of a stereotypical salesperson. When you do get through, comment on the gatekeeper's professionalism to the decision-maker. These small efforts can make it easier to get through in the future.

Getting past business gatekeepers is no easy task, particularly when you are selling to high-level executives. By keeping your cool and staying away from sales stereotypes, you can demonstrate professionalism and increase your chances of getting through to decision-makers.


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