One of the least appealing aspects of cold calling is getting stonewalled by gatekeepers. Here are some expert tips the authors of SOAR Selling. For more insight on this topic, download our latest report, Prospecting: How to Help Salespeople Get Past Gatekeepers.
Tip #1: Realize that gatekeepers are just doing their jobs.
When they screen calls and take messages, gatekeepers are just doing what they’ve been hired to do. They’re not the enemy. They’re just responding to you the way they’ve been trained to. Their goal is just to make life easier for their bosses.
However, many salespeople believe that gatekeepers are actively trying to hold them back. This is a negative and dangerous way to think, say David and Marhnelle Hibbard, Sales 2.0 Conference speakers and coauthors of SOAR Selling: How to Get Through to Almost Anyone (The Proven Method for Reaching Decision Makers). As they write in their book: “When salespeople believe that the receptionist is out to block them, they end up creating that result.”
If you want to get past gatekeepers, hold in your mind the belief that they’re simply doing a job. Yes, their questions or trained responses might pose challenges for you; however, it’s important to have faith that, with the right technique, you can get through gatekeepers and gain access to the executives you’re trying to reach.
Tip #2: Don’t give up so fast.
According to the Hibbards, many salespeople make the mistake of giving up too soon. The moment they hear some version of “no” from a gatekeeper, they simply hang up and dial the next number on the list. Know that a simple willingness to explore the situation on your part is often the key to unlocking access to the decision maker.
Tip #3: Hang up and call back.
The Hibbards say that gatekeepers sometime use certain keywords that indicate that it might be possible to get through to the decision maker — even if what you seem to be hearing is “no.” For example, “He’s not available right now,” is usually met with successful results if you pause and ask the receptionist to qualify what “available” means.
As the Hibbards point out, “not available” doesn’t mean the decision maker isn’t in the office. It could mean that the gatekeeper simply hasn’t yet seen the decision maker that morning, or that the decision maker is out getting coffee. If you hear the word available, try to gain clarity on what that means. If the executive you’re trying to reach is simply roaming the office, then ask if it’s possible to page him or her rather than being sent to voicemail.
Tip #4: Don’t give more information than necessary.
One of the questions gatekeepers ask most frequently is: “What is this regarding?”
Based on conducting thousands of cold calls using the SOAR Selling technique, the Hibbards say the key to moving forward is to 1) decline to give more information, 2) restate your name and desire to speak to the decision-maker, 3) echo the gatekeeper’s language.
In other words, for a salesperson whose name is Joe Smith, the correct response is, “Please let her know the call is regarding Joe Smith.” (Note: the salesperson should be sure to mirror the word “regarding,” as that’s the word the gatekeeper used initially.) Even if the gatekeeper pushes back (for example, by saying, “And she’ll know who Joe Smith is?”), you can simply repeat your name and express confidence (for example, “I’m sure if you mention Joe Smith, it will be fine.”) Almost one hundred percent of the time, say the Hibbards, this approach prompts the gatekeeper to pass the salesperson through to the executive.
There’s nothing magical about getting past gatekeepers. Just approach the experience believing that these techniques and phrases will work — and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying far better response rates.