Speaking with gatekeepers is actually simpler than you think

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Even the term “gatekeeper” can make you feel queasy, and a tad bit hesitant. 

It’s got a medieval tone and puts you in a defensive mode before you ever pick up the phone.

Or before you attempt to make any sort of contact.

cold calling gatekeeper

What is a gatekeeper, and how do you work your way around them?

First of all, getting past the gatekeepers is not that hard.

Trying to get to the right person to speak to can get frustrating because every business seems to have one. 

And it’s frustrating for a reason: the gatekeeper is doing their job. 

The gatekeeper is someone who is trained to keep you away from the prospect. 

It’s usually a receptionist, secretary, or assistant. Their job fills many roles, and many times the most important one is to protect the decision-maker.

Different ways for getting past the gatekeeper

Deals get done every day.

The gatekeeper lets some people speak to the appropriate person.

One approach that has worked in the past for The Advisor Coach James Pollard is bulky mail. 

He sends a package with an item inside, like a book.

“The gatekeeper rarely throws lumpy mail away,” Pollard said. “From there, if your prospect doesn’t call you as a result of the lumpy mail package, you can give a follow-up call and say something like: ‘I’m the guy who sent you the book last week.’ That tends to get people through.”

It’s not uncommon to confront a gatekeeper. 

It’s actually quite common as the majority of decision-makers are hit with pitches on a daily business.

One of the keys is to be non-intrusive. 

People calling from specific cold-calling backgrounds think pressing is effective. 

It is not. 

Instead, always ask if it is a good time, and offer an alternative time or tell them you’ll call back at a later date.

“The first key is to try and establish a reason for connecting with a specific person at the company,” said Casey Hill of the Hill Gaming Company, who also says that that portion of your call should be done in advance. 

“If you want to connect with the engineering manager for instance, but you are getting support, say something like, ‘Hey Sarah, is John available? I’m looking to chat with him about our work on X.’ If pressed, don’t lie about your position or reason for calling. It’s fine to invoke familiarity with something like the above response.”

It’s important to remember, too, that the gatekeeper is doing their job. 

Start everything off by showing them respect, listening to them. Be friendly and build rapport. If you show respect, they are more likely to pass you through.

You must also be compelling and brief. Don’t try to oversell and don’t be long-winded. 

Explain the value of the service to the gatekeeper in simple words. Add value to them, make them look good in front of their boss.

This could very likely lead the gatekeeper to engage the decision-maker, who, if your presentation is concise and compelling, will allow you to get transferred to the decision-maker.

But some strategies skip the gatekeeper altogether. It may sound too easy, but consider the hours the gatekeeper is working.

Let’s say that the gatekeeper is an administrative assistant for a Vice President. The reality is that the administrative assistant works traditional hours. A traditional 9 to 5 job.

If you call right before or after the traditional hours, you have a high chance to speak to the Vice President.


It works, and it’s not the only way to skirt around the gatekeeper. 

Successful salespeople will often reach out to the decision-maker via social media.

Decision-makers often handle their own accounts directly.

In the end, as with everything else in life, it’s all about being respectful and honest. 

Always be polite and honest when speaking with the gatekeepers.

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