Ah, the classic dilemma for Enterprise sales development reps. You’re trying to call a VP or C-level prospect but you have to get through their assistant first. Gatekeepers (AKA executive assistants, receptionists, or office managers) are hyper-trained to keep cold callers at bay. They’re used to persistent SDRs and can smell a sales pitch from a mile away.
Unfortunately, there’s no magical formula to get past the gatekeeper on the phone and pitch to your prospect – but there are some techniques that will boost your success rate. Let’s jump right in and learn how to get past the gatekeeper like a pro.
In the context of sales, gatekeepers refer to the individuals who control access to decision-makers within an organization. These are often administrative assistants or receptionists who are tasked with screening calls and managing appointments for higher-level executives.
Gatekeepers play a crucial role in sales as they can either grant or deny access to decision-makers. They are responsible for filtering out sales calls and emails that they deem irrelevant or spammy. They also prioritize requests based on their perceived importance and urgency, often based on the relationship they have with the salesperson.
To successfully navigate gatekeepers, salespeople need to build a positive relationship with them. They need to understand their role and show respect for their time and position. Overall, gatekeepers play a critical role in sales as they can significantly impact a salesperson’s ability to close deals.
Successful salespeople understand the importance of building relationships with gatekeepers and using effective tactics to bypass them when necessary.
At the end of the day, gatekeepers are just trying to do their job. Be respectful of their time and treat them with the same reverence as you would your prospect.
Additionally, the more knowledgeable you are about the company and gatekeeper, the better chance you have for making a connection.
Try doing a little LinkedIn research on the gatekeeper. Is there something you have in common and does it make sense to use it as an icebreaker? Review the decision-maker’s profile as well. Use background information to let the gatekeeper know you understand what’s important to the decision-maker, and that your solution will be an ally to them.
Or brush up on the company’s social media accounts. Did they just close a funding round? Congratulate them. Change in leadership? Let them know you’re excited to see what innovations they bring to the table.
And of course, don’t forget to say thank you, use their first name, and remind them that you know their job is important. Plain old good manners can go a long way in building rapport.
Don’t forget to say thank you to the GK, use their first name, and remind them that you know their job is important.
Gatekeepers know most of the tricks in the book, and lying to them will likely make your job harder. Try leading with confidence and let them know the purpose of your call is to discuss a solution with the decision-maker.
Gibran Quezada, Sales Enablement Team Lead at Predictable Revenue advises, “Be honest with the gatekeeper and tell them this is a cold call about your value prop (and you’re not trying to sell them a magazine subscription) and ask if your prospect sets aside time for relevant cold calls. Chances might be small on the ICP actually having time set aside for cold calls, but your honesty might make the gatekeeper more inclined to help you out with the next best thing.”
But if you’re going to tell a little white lie, make sure to back it up with proof. For example, try sending the DM an email with CTA that ends with “I’ll give you a ring tomorrow at 12:00 to discuss this further”. Your follow-up call with the gatekeeper could go something like this –
“You: Good afternoon, (decision-maker) please. This is (your name)”
“GK: What’s this regarding?”
“You: We were supposed to talk about (your solution’s value proposition) at 12:00.”
“GK: They’re currently in another meeting.”
“Oh, I hope I’m not mistaken on the hour. Do you happen to know when they’ll be available? I’m also happy to hold.”
Stay friendly and confident, but if they ask any direct questions like “Is this a sales call?” – be honest. Let them know that you have been in touch with the prospect and that you are only calling because you truly think that you can help their company.
When asked “What is this call regarding?”, don’t jump into a pitch. Gatekeepers aren’t your target persona, and they don’t have any interest in your product or service.
But that doesn’t mean you should cut the conversation short. Make sure to mention any prior contact you’ve had with the decision-maker and try and get as much additional information you can. Try to find out the best time to call or even verify a (*cough* invented) email address.
Now that many offices are fully remote, gatekeepers have even more of an excuse to send you away. If you keep getting told “I can’t transfer you through because so-and-so is working from home” – try calling your prospect’s colleagues.
Our Senior SDR Seb Sanders elaborates – ”A little trick that I’ve been trying throughout the last few months, is contacting people around the targeted buyer persona. If you’re trying to speak to a certain Ideal Customer Profile, there will obviously be other people in their department close to them.“
“And whether you’re completely honest about it, ‘I’m looking to speak to this person’ or you’re a little bit more sneaky about ‘Oh, sorry I thought this was, (your prospect’s) number, don’t suppose you could forward me to them?’, it works.”
Many times this tactic will get you names, email addresses, and even phone numbers of decision-makers. Or maybe you’ll even make a champion out of the person you speak with.
Remember, not every department or prospect has a gatekeeper. And one especially helpful department is Human Resources – they know everyone in the company. So if you’re looking for a prospect’s contact info and you can’t find the number anywhere, perhaps give HR a ring.
Sales is another department that’s always happy to pick up the phone. Build rapport from sales rep to sales rep, and maybe you’ll get a phone number, or even a referral, out of it.
If you’re looking for a prospect’s contact info and you can’t find the number anywhere, try another department like HR, or the sales team.
This is one of our most successful getting past the gatekeeper cold call tactics that we use here at Bloobirds – but it requires a good amount of follow-through.
Incorporating prospects into your content strategy not only helps your marketing team create more relevant editorials but can also help SDRs get their foot in the door. For example, start a content series called Best Practices From (Insert Your Buyer Persona Here).
All you need is a Google Doc with a few details and a couple of key questions. For example, try sending the DM an email or LinkedIn message asking the prospect to participate by filling out a few questions. Next, try out this intro as a cold call script –
“You: Good morning, (decision-maker) please. This is (your name)”
“GK: What’s this regarding?”
“You: I’m supposed to have a quick 5-minute interview with him for an ebook titled Top Tips From Sales Operations Experts.”
“GK: They’re currently in another meeting.”
“Oh, no worries. We are on a tight editorial deadline – would you happen to know when they’ll be available? I’m also happy to hold.”
This is also a great tip for moving from chatting with a champion to building a relationship with a decision-maker. Creating relevant content and building trust and rapport with potential customers are positive side effects of this jump-the-gatekeeper sales tip.
To circumvent the GK completely, try to call before or after the usual working hours. Decision-makers often arrive early or stay longer at work.
And when it comes to emails, try scheduling your message to hit their inbox on Saturday morning. Lots of execs wake up on their day off and check out emails before relaxing for the weekend.
This strategy can be reserved for after you’ve finished the full cadence or outreach sequence, or if you haven’t been able to surpass the GK in any of the attempts. Success with this tactic will also depend a lot on the market you are calling and their usual working hours.
Chatbots help businesses to convert website visitors. But in even better news – they can also help you convert prospects into customers.
In general, the marketing team runs the chatbot. And while they might not necessarily be more open than gatekeepers, they’re definitely less trained in blocking SDRs.
So, try your luck and see if you can get referred from the chatbot. Or at least try to make a friend and find out more information about your decision-maker.
Getting past a gatekeeper is tough – but not impossible. Using a combination of these calling techniques and a sales engagement platform is your best bet for contacting decision-makers.
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