Sales workers the world over are constantly grappling with one of their most difficult tasks: getting to the person they need to speak to. Closing a deal for your product or service is always a tough process, and the first step of getting past the company gatekeeper can often be the hardest.
Experimentation, flexibility and outstanding communication skills are the backbone of any sales caller’s repertoire. And while you have to draw on all of them to get to who you need to speak to, there are a number of things you most certainly should avoid if you don’t want to find yourself blocked by the gatekeeper.
Gatekeepers like receptionists and assistants fend off unsolicited calls offering a variety of services every single day. The chance the caller has to make themselves stand out from the crowd is slim, and that leads to some adopting alternative methods.
In a recent article from TollFreeForwarding on the subject, lying about the intent of the call, or the identity of the caller, or fabricating scenarios about the person they are trying to speak to were all found to be regular tactics among sales callers.
In a number of real-life examples sourced from people in sales, the following examples show how far some people are willing to go to get past the gatekeeper:
- Pretending you’re calling from a local radio station. Taking on the role of the DJ, you let the gatekeeper know the key decision maker has won a recent competition.
- Impersonating the school principal, asking the gatekeeper to pass you on as you need to speak with the decision maker regarding their children.
- Entirely fabricate an embarrassing or sensitive scenario in relation to the decision maker, such as debt collection.
While inventive, these underhand tactics are never advisable. Without even considering how you’d dig yourself out of your recently made hole if you managed to make it past the gatekeeper, you’d likely inflict lasting damage to your long-term relationship with that business if the truth were uncovered.
2. Act in any way rude.
Sales is an infinitely frustrating job, and with every passing rejection, that frustration can continue to grow. As a result, you can be forgiven if your tone becomes a little stretched towards the end of a long day. But if you want to get past the gatekeeper, you can’t afford to be rude with someone who holds the key to your success in their hands.
Kindness can go a long way in all sorts of life situations—and that includes interactions with gatekeepers. Be generally polite without taking it too far. Saying lease and thank you is always nice, but compliments might look disingenuous or be misinterpreted. Strike a balance.
3. Lack generosity.
Sometimes, you might need to go the extra mile in order to make that all-important step beyond the gatekeeper. A common tactic used by sales and marketing teams on existing clients or prospects is gift-giving—and you could transfer this across to boost your chances of getting to the right person.
Particularly useful if you’re pursuing a top-echelon target, gifts can show a gatekeeper a level of appreciation and personalization they are rarely afforded in a role such as theirs. If you have any insight into the personality of the gatekeeper, you could use this to your advantage and make the gift something they’d really appreciate—increasing your chance of success in the process.
Ultimately, if kindness can take you a long way, generosity can take you even further.
4. Bring a script.
With sales callers churning through a list of phone numbers, and gatekeepers churning through a list of callers, you can see how both quickly begin to just go through the motions.
But for those in sales, this is a recipe for disaster. You can take all the time in the world refining a script and agonizing over every single word you utter, but by the time you say it for the 100th time, it becomes impossible to deliver with the same level of vigor.
For that reason, a script can be a sure-fire way to quickly disillusion a gatekeeper with your approach. Clearly, it’s no good to come to a call unprepared, but this can come in the form of a few bullet points to refer back to. Lean on the outstanding communication skills you use every day to deliver a conversation that feels fresh and genuine every time.
People in sales will know this as well as anyone, but drawing out your points, engaging in long, tortuous monologues and just generally talking too much or too fast is on page one of the bad communication handbook.
Still, it’s worth reiterating it here. When you’re desperate for that all-important contact who you feel is vital for a big sale, a natural reaction can be to talk too much. But keeping your points as concise as possible will help you appear authoritative and professional—building a picture for the gatekeeper that should be someone to pass over to the decision maker.
This is also true of voicemails. Keep your message sharp and succinct. Otherwise, you risk losing the gatekeeper before your message has even finished.