It’s the age old question that each and every sales person wants a definitive answer to – “How do I get past the gatekeeper?” As a telephone answering service working on behalf of a number of businesses across the UK to field their telephone calls and take relevant messages we are the toughest gatekeepers you will ever come across. So, today we reveal some secrets and give you 7 tips that will help you to get through to a decision maker.
1 Treat with respect
You may be under pressure to reach targets and are therefore keen to get through to the decision maker, but you will not succeed unless you respect those that stand in your way, i.e. the gatekeeper. You may see them as the person who merely puts calls through to decision makers, but this is not the case. Often many decisions involve the gatekeeper in decision making processes and even if they don’t the gatekeeper will know how the business operates and will field sales calls so as not to tie up the decisions maker’s time. The best advice is to find a way to work with the gatekeeper and show them respect for their position within the business.
2 Totally unscripted
Please don’t use a script… If you have a strategy that works well with a number of gatekeepers then rehearse it so it is totally natural. You need to show intelligence and responses written in scripts often don’t match what has been said on the other end of the phone. Your delivery of those responses will also be less than convincing. At Message Takers I would say that around 70% of the sales calls we take are scripted, we spot it quickly and have to close down the call fast in order to get to the next one. Be prepared, know your strategy and use your personality to make it work for you. Typed or written scripts won’t work. By attempting to read a script and making it sound credible will take full concentration and this means you won’t be concentrating on the call.
3 A healthy serving of empathy
The challenge of time that you face to reach targets is not dissimilar to that faced by the gatekeeper. They are in a reactive position where their time is tied by the telephone calls that come into the business. The gatekeeper needs to make fast judgements and deal with each call accordingly. This doesn’t give you very much time to create the right impression, but it will help you if you show some empathy to their position. The gatekeeper will often be busy and if other telephone lines are ringing whilst they are speaking to you, they will naturally be assuming that these could be calls from important clients. Be courteous, if the gatekeeper appears to be under pressure work with them, you might even go as far to suggest that they put you on hold whilst dealing with another call. The most important thing is to think outside the box, show that you will give them some space, but don’t lose focus on what it is you want them to do for you either.
4 No room for frustration & negative reactions
As frustrating as it may be to be told the person you wish to speak to is unavailable or won’t take your call, it is not advisable to show any frustration, anger or react negatively towards the person on the other end of the phone. Remember each time you call the business it’s likely that they will be picking up the telephone and often they will recognise your voice and recall your previous frustrations and you will never get any further.
5 Avoid tacky repetitive questions & obvious insincerity
At Message Takers each of us instantly become aware when a colleague has picked up the phone to a sales person, because we’ll hear our colleague greet the caller and then within seconds say “I’m fine thank you” in a very resigned and fed up voice. Most sales people respond to our greeting with “Hello, it’s… from …, how are you today?” It’s plainly obvious to us that this is a sales call, because this method of greeting is never well executed at the point of the “How are you?” question. It just completely lacks a feel of genuine concern or sincerity to us.
Our main job is to field calls for customers, so those that are this blatantly obvious will be written off very quickly and our gate keeping barriers will lock. Whilst we spend a great deal of time fielding sales calls, those making each call have also been making call after call after call, so how can they possibly maintain or sound genuinely concerned for our wellbeing when their greeting is one of repetition.
Rather than spending hours on rehearsing and perfecting emphasis on a less than genuine question, it might be better to give your greeting some more thought. How about trying something like “It’s …. From … I wonder if you can help me?”
6 Fountain of knowledge
Yes, your focus is to make a call to ask for a decision maker, but if the path to get put through to them is less than straightforward it is time to ask questions. This is because you will be speaking to the person who sees more than most within the business being at the front end and knowing who walks in and out of the office, the whereabouts of management, when meetings are taking place and so much more. You don’t want to be too pushy, but you can find out a lot about the decision making processes and determine the best route through to the correct decision maker by working with the gatekeeper using all previous tips.
Use the gatekeeper as part of your important research process. It may take more than one phone call, but build a profile of the business and a knowledge base that will give you information to use from the previous call. Make sure you records are accurate and make notes that are relevant to the business. To ask someone if they had a nice holiday can often come across incorrectly, so do be careful about what information you choose to use on subsequent calls.
7 No sales pitch here
We would always advise you to be honest about the reason for your call, but at the same time the gatekeeper will not need to hear your sales pitch. Often sale people are so keen to pitch to anyone that will listen, but you should try to hold off until you speak to someone who is high up within the businesses. They may then refer you to those that are middle management, but this will be done on their authority, which means you are almost being referred to the business by them. Have these thoughts in mind whilst you speak to the gatekeeper, ask them how you could possible arrange a short telephone conversation with a director.
We hope these tips are useful to you – As a team of telephonists answering calls for many businesses throughout the UK we speak to high numbers of sales people each day and from our experience these 7 tips should help you to make progress in getting past the gatekeeper.