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When you try to reach a prospect, your call is more often than not diverted to a receptionist, secretary, or an assistant. They are called gatekeepers, and it is their job to filter sales calls. And yes, gatekeepers are the wall between you and your sales target.
“I hope I reach the prospect this time.”
“Wait, what if I don’t?”
“This is the fifth time I am calling, and the secretary just won’t let me through.”
“I know! This time, I’ll talk the assistant into at least giving me the prospect’s email address.”
While you lose your head over how to get past the gatekeeper, precious time slips by. That’s why we’ve put together this list of actionable techniques (with scripts too!) you could use to convince the gatekeeper to give you what you want.
But before we get into that, let’s cover our bases about the gatekeeper.
You may think that a gatekeeper is someone who sits by a desk and answers calls all day, but their work is far more complex.
Between sorting the priorities of the CXO, coordinating with different people for internal and external meetings, and handling their inbox, gatekeepers hardly get a breather in between their unpredictable schedule.
And when you are greeted by a gatekeeper, you are interrupting them while they work on other tasks that should've been completed hours before. So yes, they’d want to shut you out as soon as possible.
But don’t worry, we have your back on this one.
The main reason why getting past gatekeepers can be challenging is that it is difficult to establish trust in a cold call. Unless they know that you will add value to their business, they won’t let you through.
But, when you are referred to by someone they know, 84% of them will trust you. It also significantly increases the buying decision of the prospect.
“Referrals are very important. If they come from a reliable source who knows what our business is, we trust them and are willing to hear what they have to say ”
-Uma Bagavathiraj, Program Manager, Freshworks Inc.
When we spoke with our sales team about this, they felt the same. Pratheebha Gurusamy, a business development representative from Freshworks, uses referrals to get in touch with prospective clients. She has noticed that prospects are more likely to pay attention to you when someone they know has referred them.
“I use referrals a lot. Pretty much most salespeople do. It helps start conversations with prospects. And it is much more likely to get a response compared to a completely contextless cold call or cold email. If a conversation is going well with prospects, even if they are not interested, you can ask [them] if they know someone who would be [interested].”
Here are some ways you can get referrals
And when you are stopped by the gatekeeper, you can say something like
Sales rep: “Hi Jane, I am calling because I was referred to you by John Sampleton from Sampleton solutions. I had previously worked with him to streamline their sales process. And he tells me that our product will be a perfect fit for your business on the same lines. I was hoping to talk with Mr.Smith regarding this. Could you please put me through?”
Or, if you have the email address of the prospect, you could bypass the gatekeeper and directly email the prospect.
Here is an email template that you can use -
Subject: James Sampleton told me to reach out to you
I’ve worked with James Sampleton in streamlining the sales process in his company, and he felt our services would add value to your business as well.
I recently finished working on digitally transforming companies like <other customers in the industry>, and here’s what we offer -
<Features and Benefits of your product>
John, I’d love to have a 15 minute chat with you regarding this. How about <day and time suggestion>.
If the gatekeeper does not let you through to the prospect, ask to leave a voicemail. Make sure to follow-up and find out if the prospect had a chance to listen to the voicemail.
Sales rep: “Thanks, Jane. I understand that I cannot speak with Mr.Smith at the moment. May I please leave him a voicemail, so that he can listen to what I have to say when he finds some time? It would be of much help if you could pass this along.”
Warm calling is when you’ve already set context with the prospect with an email or on social media before making your first call. The stronger the connection you have with them, the more receptive they will be, as opposed to cold calls.
But, don’t get disheartened if they don’t respond to your first email/InMail. They receive hundreds of emails each day, and yours may have gotten buried in their inbox.
“Apart from promotional and sales emails, a CXO also receives organizational emails such as progress status from the teams he/she handles, meetings with the board, approval requests, etc. And for them, keeping track of what happens within the company takes priority. So, amidst this struggle with the inbox, it is very difficult to get the attention of a CXO.”
That’s why it is crucial to have an eye-catching subject line about their pain point. The minute they relate with the subject line, they are likely to open the email. Make sure that the email is to the point but, at the same time, kindles the emotions of the prospect by addressing their challenges.
Once you get to the gatekeeper, you could say
Sales rep: “Hello Jane, this is Rebecca from ABC Pvt limited. Mr.Sampleton and I have been engaging over emails/InMails about your company’s current sales process. I’d like to get on a quick call with him regarding this. Could you please put me through?”
Or, if you just want to follow-up on the email you sent, you could say something like
Sales rep: “Hello Jane, this is Rebecca from ABC Pvt limited. I have been communicating about our services with Mr.Sampleton over email. I would like to follow-up with him on the information I had previously shared. Could you please put me through?”
During your first phone call to them, it is essential that you sound familiar. This will likely bring their guard down.
An introduction like
"Hi Jane, my name is Rebecca. I’m calling from ABC Pvt limited."
makes it obvious that you don't know them, and you are calling for the first time. It would not just scream out "SALES CALL", but also raise sales defenses.
Instead of introducing yourself formally, try to sound familiar by saying
"Hi Jane, it’s Rebecca from ABC Pvt limited."
Most salespeople would want to sneak past gatekeepers. But such an approach is likely to backfire and will definitely blow off your chance with the prospect.
A more effective approach would be to treat the gatekeeper as an extension of the decision-maker. So, before you call the prospect, try to establish a connection with the gatekeeper by
Connect with them on LinkedIn or send them an email about you and your product, explaining how you can help improve their business. Once you convince them that you don’t want to sell, but want to add value to their business, they’ll let you pass.
Gatekeepers are the best source for first-hand information about the prospect. So if they turn you down, try to make the best out of the call.
“Gatekeepers would easily keep you out by quoting GDPR (in Europe). But, never cut the call without gaining some information from them”
-Rekha Rajendra Prasad, Freshworks Inc.
So, if you are on a call with a gatekeeper who won't let you through, here are some techniques you can try -
1. Ask for their help
Although the gatekeeper keeps you from getting to the prospect, they will help you out in other ways. So, if they don’t let you through, you can say "perhaps you can help me out” and ask some questions about the company and/or the person you are trying to reach. Even if the information is intended to push you away, it is still good intel that can help you when calling another person in the company.
Here’s how Dana Nikoloulis, a cloud sales executive at PGi, uses the information she receives from gatekeepers-
“The type of info I like is when they think they are giving you objections, but actually the info is super helpful. The replies I get would be like 'we are so short-handed' or 'too many projects going on because we are planning a lot of acquisitions this year'. Perhaps that is exactly why they need my service, and I can use that info in a future conversation or email I send to the executive to let them understand I know about their pains.”
You could also find out if you are talking to the right decision-maker for your product, and if you aren’t, you could request them to route you to the right person.
As a last resort, ask them what you need to do to get a meeting with the prospect. In most cases, they’d ask you to email them with the details and set you on a path to follow-up till you get a meaningful response.
2. ‘Confirm’ their email address
If you have a template of the company’s email address, frame the prospect’s email address based on it, and confirm with the gatekeeper if you have the right one.
For example, if the prospect works at Sampleton Solutions, you’ll be able to get their generic email address from their Contact Us page, say email@example.com. Using this, you would be able to draft the prospect’s email address and validate it with the gatekeeper.
Sales rep: “firstname.lastname@example.org - this is the email address I have. Could you confirm if I’ll be able to reach him with this?”
3. Find out the prospect’s schedule
Find out when the prospect is available by asking the gatekeeper about their calendar.
Sales rep: “I have been calling Mr.Sampleton for the past week, but haven’t been about to reach him. If you have access to his calendar, could you please tell me when is the best time to reach him?”
CXOs generally have a mountain of responsibilities that need to be attended to. So more often than not, they’d work late into the night, or will come into work early morning. But most gatekeepers tend to stick to their work timings. If you find that it is almost impossible to get past the gatekeeper, try calling outside of the gatekeeper’s work hours. The gatekeeper might not be around, but the prospect sure will.
In SMBs, the decision-maker is often the CEO, while in mid-market and enterprise businesses, the decision-maker varies with the department. So, while prospecting, get in touch with a variety of people in the company. If you catch the attention of one CXO, there is a good chance that they’ll put you in touch with the right decision-maker.
If you are unable to reach the decision-maker, try a bottom-up approach, and get in touch with the lower-level executives of the company. If your product is valuable to them, they will promote it to their managers and bring it to the attention of the decision-makers.
Bob McLeod, CFO & Chief Marketing Officer, McLeod & More, Inc. sums this up effectively-
“One of the best ways to get past the gatekeepers is to have a mutual relationship with one of the buyer’s colleagues. They can often make an introduction for you but it has to be a genuine relationship, not just a vague LinkedIn connection. In short, network.”
These methods help you bypass the gatekeeper all together and you can achieve this by using various sales prospecting tools.
Although gatekeepers shield the prospect from you, they can also be your greatest allies. Do your research about them, treat the gatekeeper with respect, greet them first when you start the conversation, ask, and use their name during the entire conversation. When they feel respected, they will definitely help you out.
Juber Shaikh, Manager Sales from Oetiker Group has found this trick very useful.
“Usually every person would like to be respected and hear their name. When the gatekeeper feels respected, they will surely help you. I usually do cold calls and found this trick helpful to reach my aimed person and also got the most useful information about the prospect.”
When it comes to cold calling and getting past the gatekeeper, the success rate might be unpredictable. But, don’t get discouraged if you fail. Pick up the phone and make another call. The more you do this, the better you will get at it.
About the Author: Nivedita is a Japanese Enthusiast | Watercolorist | Writer at times; Wanderer sometimes; Wonderer always
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