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14 Proven Tips For Getting Past The Gatekeeper

getting past the gatekeeper

Getting past the gatekeeper is really frustrating our reps – in most cases, these gatekeepers know nothing about the business or org chart and wont transfer to a direct name.

As a result, our Enterprise SDRs are hitting a wall when calling into their target accounts. 

I don’t want to just rely on email campaigns to the individual prospects.

Thoughts on how you approach prospecting enterprise accounts like these?”

Before we begin, let’s first look at just who a gatekeeper is in business.

Who Are The Gatekeepers In Sales?

A gatekeeper in sales is someone who intercepts marketing and sales experts before they speak with a company owner or leader. They commonly feature in major firms and corporations, where they listen to a salesperson’s material and determine whether it will benefit the company.

Once approved, they then either organize a meeting with the business owner or gently inform them that the company isn’t interested. Gatekeepers are usually the first people salespersons contact, either through phone or email.

They include:

  • Receptionists
  • Personal assistants or secretaries
  • Spouses or relatives

Is Gatekeeping Bad?

There are two ways we can look at this situation:

Gatekeeping may be deemed a stumbling block when the individual you’re dealing with isn’t adequately trained on how to do their job. They could be the most recently employed employees who are unfamiliar with the company’s organizational structure. These gatekeepers may also be unfamiliar with the company’s vision, mission, values, and brand, making your job as a salesperson more difficult.

On the other hand, gatekeepers act as a screening tool, carefully sifting out any deals or interactions they deem non-viable to go through to their seniors. They act as a shield, keeping away any unwelcome distractions or potential time wasters that would otherwise divert their attention away from their primary obligations. They are the ones who establish a positive or negative image and the subsequent customer experience.

How Do I Get Past The Gatekeeper?

Here are some helpful pointers in getting past the gatekeeper:

Be Respectful

Respect the receptionists, assistants, and phone operators. They are the first contact with sales teams, so it’s essential to be polite. Getting angry or nasty will blow your chances of getting the sale. Be kind and express your gratitude for their assistance, whether or not they connect you with their supervisor.

Be understanding

Show them that you understand and relate to where they are coming from. The best way to get anyone to open up is by making them feel at ease and that they can trust you! Show some empathy. You do this every day when studying and trying to understand your target prospects better. Therefore, it shouldn’t be challenging to do the same with gatekeepers.

Refrain from pitching to them

Even if you think you’re not going to get through,don’t try to pitch to the gatekeeper. They are not likely to be involved in the purchasing decision. If they are not dealing with the same difficulties as the decision-maker, they are unlikely to understand the value of your solution.

Research is your most potent weapon

Thanks to the rise of technology, clients and salespeople can now communicate directly through social platforms such as LinkedIn. It also happens to be a gold mine for information that will benefit you when dealing with the gatekeeper in sales.

Use a specific data tool that can compile all of the information gathered during your task and distribute it in an easy-to-consume format. Then, organize your meeting around your study, come up with statistics to impress your prospect, and get past the gatekeeper.

Confidence is key

When you sound apprehensive or stressed, you send out warning signals right away. Maintain a relaxed demeanor, speak slowly and authoritatively,and provide only the information required. If the gatekeeper thinks you’re important, they’ll be less likely to pry for information.

Take control of the situation

Maintain control of the conversation by providing the information a gatekeeper requires before they ask and making your goal clear. Provide the information that the individual answering the phone requires before they even ask for it, in addition to guiding them in the direction of the action you want to take. Let’s have a glance at what specialists have to say about getting past gatekeepers in sales and marketing.

14 Actionable Steps For Getting Past The Gatekeeper

We share more actionable tips for your gatekeeper strategy:

  1. Establish trust by mentioning something learned in your research of the prospect.
  2. Avoid the gatekeeper altogether – try another avenue!
  3. Go above them! You’ll most likely get a decision maker.
  4. Try social engagement – LinkedIn In-mail, Twitter, etc.
  5. Use your network and try to get a referral.
  6. Don’t call. Introduce yourself on LinkedIn instead.
  7. Be Assertive
  8. Keep your responses ready
  9. Persistence – it will eventually pay off!
  10. Use their knowledge to your advantage
  11. Always be truthful
  12. Practice makes perfect
  13. Cut the small talk- Be direct
  14. Request to leave a voicemail

And! Six sales managers give their best advice on getting past the gatekeeper, so don’t miss their tips either!

Jeffrey Gitomer Explains How To Reach Decision Makers With Stealth




1. Establish trust by mentioning something learned in your research of the prospect.

Ilan Kopeckly, Sales Development Leader at Talkdesk, Inc.

Love this topic, as there’s no magic bullet for getting past the gatekeeper. That said, I’m going to challenge the assertion that the gatekeeper knows nothing about the business or org chart.

How are your reps opening the conversation? Are they referencing their outreach attempts to target organizations within the company, for example?

If they are simply asking, “who’s the best person for this conversation?”, that EA gets 50 of those calls a day and doesn’t want to feel like a switchboard.

The C-Level EA, I’d argue, is one of the most knowledgeable people at the entire company, but expecting them to just hand you information without first establishing trust is damn near futile.

Establishing trust by mentioning a strategic initiative or something learned in your research of the executive you’re trying to contact should yield better results.

2. Avoid the gatekeeper altogether – try another avenue!

Patrick BuckleySenior Manager, Sales Development at Twilio Inc.

If you are getting blocked out by a gatekeeper, who is frankly doing their job, try another avenue.

This is where a combination of approaches, email, calls, inMail, and referrals will give you the best odds of success.

Much like getting a job in a competitive market, getting a referral is your best shot.

Think about how you can grab the attention of a C-Level in a short email to gain a referral down to someone who will then have more of an “obligation” to engage with you. Sometimes, email is the best way to do that. If not, try calling after hours when your gatekeeper has gone home.

Jessica Erven, Sales Development at ClickTime

I think it’s (most of the time—not always) pointless to try to get past a gate-keeper that is just doing their job well. Instead of vague advice like “charm them,” I say if you can’t get past them, you find other points of contact. period. What other options do you have? Well….

3. Go above them! You’ll most likely get a decision maker.

If you go above, and you make contact, you’re golden. Top-down is how you sell faster anyways. If you contact the person below them, you have a champion.

That person can be greatly valuable in not only gaining direct access to their boss, but in also getting the company interested in your product internally. Remember, enterprise companies are huge. There is ALWAYS someone else to reach out to that can be just as valuable in the sales cycle.

4. Try social engagement – LinkedIn In-mail, Twitter, etc.

Gate-keepers generally aren’t monitoring social profiles of their bosses. Engage with them through Linkedin In-mail, Twitter, etc.

Personal communication: It’s not that hard to find personal emails and/or phone numbers these days. This is a very risky choice, as it’s not all that professional (in my opinion) to reach out to someone about business not through business resources, but it is a last resort. It is possible.

Lastly, no matter who it is you’re galvanizing—the CEO, the Manager or the CEO’s EA—know who you’re targeting in regards to your product and be prepared to pitch it to whomever you can make contact with. You might find a champion anywhere if you are smart about it.

5. Use your network and try to get a referral.

Kristi Goth, former Enterprise Sales Development Manager at Influitive

Use your network and try to get a referral. Enterprise SDR’s should have experience. If you are throwing new kids in there they probably won’t have much success, but if you get an SDR who has worked for a couple of companies and has built a network …..that goes a long way.

Also for messaging…. have them follow those leaders on Twitter and all different social media communities, etc, so they can make a real time direct comment about what those prospects are tweeting, talking about.

One more quick thing is to have them using a yesware/toutapp type of solution so they can see when their emails are being open and jump on the phone right as they are. Timing is of the essence.

Phill Keene, Account Executive at Octiv

Start by treating them like a person.

Remember their name, use it in a sentence…note it in CRM for when you call them again.

Honestly, it’s all about the delivery. Be up front and honest with them about why you are calling. Let them know it is a cold call, and you need help reaching the right person.

Their job function is to be a face of the organization when people call in, and be helpful. Contrary to popular belief, they want to help, not block you from reaching someone.

6. Don’t call. Introduce yourself on LinkedIn instead.

Tim Stanton, Sr. Strategic Account Manager, Salesforce

How about not cold calling? Find your key contact on LinkedIn and reach out to them directly. Start with a 3 sentence introduction (they are likely reading it on a mobile device) and follow up by phone after, Your success rate will skyrocket.

Sales isn’t a numbers game unless you are struggling and putting pressure on. Lastly, start with client referrals-ask your best clients for 2-3 each (draft an intro email they could use on your behalf).

And there’s more! Let’s look at some additional tips to guarantee you success when dealing with gatekeepers in B2B sales and marketing:

7. Be assertive.

Maintain a pleasant tone and keep the conversation light, but be firm in your request to talk with their manager. Being aggressive to a gatekeeper is one of the quickest ways to get blacklisted. You’ll blow it if you’re highly aggressive or try to bully them into putting you through.

8. Keep your responses ready.

Begin by compiling a list of the most common arguments and reasons you get from prospects and gatekeepers for why they can’t take your call right now. Then, for each one, jot out your best responses. You must organize these responses ahead of time to know precisely how to respond in a range of settings – which raises your confidence and demonstrates to the gatekeeper that you know what you’re talking about.

9. Be persistent yet polite – it will eventually pay off!

To be successful in sales, you must acquire a thick skin. If you give up after just one attempt to contact your prospect, you will never reach anyone with purchasing power. Persistence is essential, especially given that the average transaction requires at least five follow-ups to close. Don’t be dismayed if it takes several trials to persuade the gatekeeper to let you speak with their boss.

10. Use their knowledge to your advantage.

Consider each gatekeeper a resource rather than an impediment. Phone operators, receptionists, and administrative assistants have access to vital information. They are aware of your prospect’s location, their schedule, their phone number, and much more.

Learn about the gatekeeper and utilize this knowledge to your advantage. Inquire about critical issues. This will assist you in developing a relationship with the gatekeeper and provide you with extra information to prepare for your conversation with the prospect.

11. Always be truthful.

Gatekeepers can tell salespeople from a mile away and are always on the lookout for lies and half-truths. Remember, there will be consequences if you lie to get past them. Give your real name and company name, as well as a brief explanation of why you’re calling (if they ask you). You are less likely to encounter opposition if you choose to tell the truth.

12. Practice makes perfect.

Constant practice will help you perfect the art of getting through to gatekeepers. Try recording and listening to your talks with gatekeepers in the same way that you should record and listen to your sales calls.

13. Cut the small talk – be direct.

When speaking with a receptionist, be direct, answer inquiries honestly, and state your intentions clearly. Being evasive will immediately raise red flags, and the person on the other end of the call will not trust you.

During your discussion, keep your remarks brief and to the point. Practice before your meetings, get the assistance of a coworker, and determine whether you’re using too many words.

14. Request to leave a voicemail.

Accepting that you won’t speak with your target prospect straight away is sometimes the only way to get through to a gatekeeper. You can, however, assure that you will be able to in the future by requesting to leave a voicemail—an excellent strategy for when you’ve attempted to contact the gatekeeper multiple times with no success.

Final Remarks

Having a gatekeeper repeatedly deter you can be annoying. However, it is crucial to remember that they, just like you, are doing their job. To establish a relationship with each person who answers your phone, be kind and professional. Then, employ the strategies outlined above to reach out to more prospects.

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      @Chuck Hamman
      ( 0 POINTS )
      5 years, 2 months ago

      My first job out of college was a sales manager’s assistant. I was a gatekeeper. I was good at it.

      I could tell in 2 seconds if the call was getting through or not. I’ve never understood why, but the pitch in a salesman’s voice is always the same. I would plug people into the voicemail so they can get deleted within seconds.

      I thought most salesmen wasted a tremendous amount of time.

      I’ve found a few ways that work to get through. I think it’s helpful for other salesmen. It’s too long to write about here in this response, so I posted it as an article, https://www.littlebookthatsells.com/article-library/2016/8/15/how-to-get-past-gatekeepers

    • 0

      […] of the biggest reasons cold calling can be frustrating is that it can be a struggle to get around gatekeepers. Ideally, this is where your previous outreach via LinkedIn or email can be helpful with name […]

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