Sales Tips: How To Get Around Gatekeepers
There is a good reason why receptionists and secretaries are often called gatekeepers. Just as the sentries of old, they are the first line of defense against unwanted visitors. Gatekeepers are tasked with keeping the decision makers of the company from being disturbed by irrelevant or unimportant distractions. In doing so, gatekeepers answer hundreds of phone calls every week on top of the office work they have to do. They are busy too, and we need to be respectful of that. With the short time they are lending us, we owe them at least a pleasant and meaningful call, not a waste of their time.
That being said, as a salesperson conducting a cold or warm call, being able to get past a gatekeeper could be the difference between a deal or a dead end. A salesperson might find themselves thinking, “if only I could talk to the decision maker, I can close this deal.” So how does one actually go about achieving this objective?
Here are some tips that may help:
1. Be polite and conversational
Simple conversation about the weather, sports, or weekend plans are always safe small talk topics. Being able to initiate a smooth conversation can take you far in the sales process. Humor can also be a powerful tool in making a positive impression, if done correctly.
Smile while speaking. The person on the other end of the call can “feel” the smile. Since it’s telesales, there is no body language to gain trust; therefore, that trust has to be built by being pleasant on the phone.
Above all, be polite and positive. The point is to leave a favorable impression and a comfortable atmosphere that will create a memorable interaction. They don’t have to recall exactly what you said, they just have to remember that talking with you was pleasant and enjoyable. Remember, being polite is free, but the pay-off for it could be huge!
2. Do not be just another sales call
The last thing that you want to do is play “fill in the blanks” with gatekeepers. Gather as much relevant information as you need. This will help your conversation flow nicely. An easy way to prepare for a call is to review the company’s website prior to calling. These are some of the things you should look for on a company website.
- Company size and type. Is it a big corporation? A smaller business? Is it local? Is it a government agency?
- Who you need to call. Having a name of the person helps a lot. Of course, there will be times when you won’t have a contact name. In this case, you should at least have an idea as to which department you need to be directed to.
- The company newsletter. This will give you a good idea what is currently happening within the company. Is the company expanding, going international, in the process of looking for a CEO?
LinkedIn is also another great tool during the entire sales process. You can check out the company page before making your first call to gather some general information. After you have your decision maker name and title, you can go to their personal page for more detailed information. You may even have a mutual connection to help introduce you, making a warm call out of a cold call scenario.
3. Notes, notes, notes.
If you are going to speak with the same gatekeeper for a second time, don’t you think you should tweak your talk track? Well, the only way you can remember what you talked about is by taking notes throughout the conversation. The more notes you take; the more leverage you will have the next time you call. Be sure to take down any names, titles, extensions, even the name of their dog! Whatever you think could be a point of connection/reference is worth writing down.
4. Keep it short and simple
It is important to be conversational with gatekeepers, however sometimes the best thing to do is to keep it short and sweet. Your main focus should still be on getting in contact with the decision maker, because that is where your sale will happen. Since gatekeepers are also busy people, sometimes straightforwardly asking for who you need to talk to is enough. Be confident and direct. Odds are you will be able to get through just fine.
5. Ask for an email right away
Some companies have strict policies against giving out email addresses. But, you will never know until you ask. Typically, business email addresses contain either their full first or last name as part of the address. Great information when trying to personalize your sales pitch. Plus, now you have a direct line of communication with the decision maker.
6. Practice active listening
This is not just a relevant tip for sales calls, but for life in general. Salespeople are notorious for talking too much. Their focus is on getting to say everything they want in a short amount of time. There is an 80-20 rule of active listening. Salespeople should try to listen 80% of the time to gather important information, so the 20% of the time you’re talking, you’re using the information you gathered to ensure a smooth and flowing conversation. Your professionalism will add value to your call. Plus, on the emotional level this shows that you care.
As part of any sales process, getting around gatekeeper is an essential skill to master. These helpful tips can aide you in getting through to your decision maker faster and more consistently. But ultimately, they are meant as guidelines to help you create a style that works for you.