Anyone who has ever tried to get in touch with someone over the phone in a business situation knows that unless the person already knows you, there is a high probability that you may get blocked from speaking to that person. Particularly in the call centre (cold calling) world we refer to this as trying to get past the gatekeeper.

Let’s first of all look at who the gatekeeper is:

“A Gatekeeper is someone who guards a ‘Gate’, or in this case access to the person who we want to speak to directly. Typical Gatekeepers are receptionists, personal assistants, secretaries, and other managers.”

When thinking about gatekeepers, one should always bear in mind that all gatekeepers will also be separated into 2 categories:

  • Permanent – PA’s, secretaries, administrative assistants and receptionists. Typically their job is to block communication between you and the real decision maker. You will typically run into these when prospecting.
  • Situational – Middle managers, the spouse. This person has some degree of influence over the buyer: Make recommendations and suggestions, for example. They also give opinions.

Indications of being blocked by the receptionist:

  • You don’t have access to the real buyer
  • You find yourself directed to a low level person who has no influence over the buying process

Indications of being blocked by the situational gatekeeper:

  • No access to the real buyer
  • Inability to influence decision criteria
  • Inability to influence the timing of an opportunity. Gatekeeper controls the situation
  • A moving finishing line resulting in the deal being lost

Here are 10 techniques for getting past the gatekeeper:

1. Friend Method: Gatekeepers are not your enemy. If you can go as far as to befriend a P.A. or receptionist in a large company then you will most definitely get to find out how to reach the decision maker you are looking for. Charm them!

2. I-am-a-Peer Method: If the gatekeeper is reluctant to help then try saying politely, but confidently, “Our firm only works with [Insert the Executive’s title] and our clients include Company X, Company Y, and Company Z. That’s why I called Mr/Ms because he/she is the [Insert their title again].”

3. The Bribe Method: If you have failed after multiple attempts to pass the gatekeeper, send something to them with an inscription that says you thought they might find it insightful and if they have time, you would like to chat. Then call again and talk to the gatekeeper about the possibility of speaking with their boss.

4. Pain-Reliever Method: When a gatekeeper tells you just to send your information, tell them that many of your relationships are personalised, based on the nature of your business and you do not send generic information (that’s why you called to chat with their boss, to find out what their needs are).

5. A Brochure Request by the Gatekeeper: As a rule, you should never send a brochure to an Executive – they will not read it. Instead, send a one page unfolded letter with short paragraphs and bullets on how your offering can help the prospect (or send an email in the same format). Then call two days after they get it and then ask the gatekeeper to help you set up a meeting.

6. I-Only-Work-With Method: Be careful – this is a very aggressive approach – but it can work as a last option to get through. If the gatekeeper asks you for details on what you do (so they can make a judgment call for their boss), speak firmly and respectfully and say that you don’t mean to be rude, but you only work with [Insert Executive’s title].

7. Lunch Time Method: Phone when the gatekeeper is not in the office. Out-of-hours, early in the morning or later at night. Remember, lunchtime is often when cover sits at the desk…

8. Get Creative Method: Some people like to bamboozle, this may not be effective. Try explaining the benefits of why it’s a good idea that you should get a chance to pitch to the buyer.

9. Be Honest Method: By not lying and being honest you could attempt to pitch to the gatekeeper. In 2000, a study showed that 91% of buyers valued the opinion of their P.A. – who is usually their gatekeeper.

10. The Assumptive Method: If you call into an office of a current client, supplier or even friend and get to the gatekeeper, you will assume that they will let you past. Thus the language and tone changes slightly, even if you do not notice it. So, simply assume that you are going to get past the gatekeeper and treat it as a matter of fact. Small things like saying “thank you” instead of “please” when asking for someone can make a huge difference.