There are many tips for getting past the gatekeeper, from the powerful through the logical down to the downright unethical.  Having run a course recently in Leicester, one day training in appointment setting for field sales  I thought it may be useful to share some of the tips we came up with.

I’m not suggesting these are the only 10, or indeed the only 10, but they are the ones we came up with in our I.T. company training. They could all help. You have to use them selectively of course.

  1. Use jargon or technical language to help carry authority. Frequently the receptionist just simply wants to get you off THEIR phone. After all that’s what they’re paid to do. What they don’t really want to do is get involved in a lengthy conversation or discussion, or even to think perhaps.
  2. Ask for the decision-maker by name. This helps it sound less like a cold call.  Even if you don’t have it, it often works best to find out the name and then call again later to speak to them. Many telemarketing agencies do it this way.
  3. Ask for an alternative method of contact. E-mail, fax (possibly), post, sending a brochure may all work in getting your message through to the decision-maker. You will often find some decision-makers respond better in writing than over the phone. Or vice versa. Have templated emails written for this type of situation. We do, and it means you can e-mail someone in around 2 minutes, so it doesn’t take up much time.
  4. Be persistent. Be prepared for the long game. In many B2B markets an order or more significantly an account can reward you with £’000s over a period of time. So don’t give up after 2 or 3 unsuccessful attempts. You will often find you gain new business by hanging in there and persisting longer than the next guy.
  5. Refer to previous conversations you’ve had with the decision-maker. As soon as you start quoting bits of a previous conversation with the receptionist, it will prove that there has been some previous contact. And at that point, they will ALWAYS go off to find out if they can put you through. Keep it light though for goodness sake. Don’t risk compromising your contact by revealing contentious facts about the business or worse still the people in it. So something like “….I was looking to catch up with Sarah who said she might be interested in talking to me after you moved buildings back in June.”
  6. Find a ‘reason’ for the call. If it sounds like there is a reason to talk to them, the call has more perceived value and therefore they’re more likely to put your through. It is also more imaginative than the bog standard cold call. Something like  “I just wanted to update him on the recent change in legislation which now means that  …….”
  7. Be nice! A friendly human being! People respond better to people they like, so be likeable! Keeping your communication light and friendly with a drop of humour all helps. The more they like you, the more likely they are to help you aren’t they? There is a fine line though. Being overfriendly, smarmy or inappropriate will be counter-productive of course.
  8. Ask for the best time to get hold of them. Sometimes it helps to simply ask the advice of the receptionist, P.A., or assistant. If you’ve tried a few times and never seem to be able to get through to the decision-maker, ask for help. They like this. Something like “I appreciate that Jayne is generally pretty busy, so tell me when’s the best time to get hold of her do you think?”
  9. Be bold, be assertive. You’re a professional person, doing a professional job professionally, wanting to talk to a professional person, so there’s no harm acting in that way. Ask for your contact by name in a clear, confident voice and keep the introduction short. “Good morning can I speak to Teresa Green please?”
  10. Talk about compliance, legal angles, using the fear close. This one is dependent of course on your industry sector. You may be able to use this one a lot, or never. If you sense you are being blocked, you can leave the impression that the gatekeeper will be taking a risk by not even telling the decision-maker you’re on the line. “….. to speak to him because the government has recently introduced much larger penalties for companies who don’t  ……………” It is easier for them to put you through than take the risk.

Certainly in our one day course for appointment setting over the phone we had a lively discussion about dealing with gatekeepers : P.A.s, receptionists etc. Try and build rapport with them because they hold the balance of power. THEY decide whether to put you through or not. You may not like this, but it doesn’t alter the fact that it is nevertheless true.

There are other posts on the To Market  website about dealing with gatekeepers. It is after all a hot topic, and one that comes up for discussion a lot.

This topic is covered on some of our follow-up telesales courses and is available to businesses across the East and West Midlands. It’s been covered in Birmingham, Coventry, Daventry, Rugby, Lichfield, Solihull, Bedford, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Loughborough, Oakham, and wider parts of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Contact us on for more details.