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Theresa Merrill

How To Get Past The Gatekeeper

by Theresa Merrill

Technology has not replaced the gatekeeper.  When cold-calling C-suite decision makers you will inevitably encounter one.  Sure you can charm them, but their job is to block accessnot give it.  Try these six steps to successfully reach decision makers.  Remember you goal is to obtain an appointment. 

1. Assume the close.  Gaining access has to do with your conviction and belief that you should be put through.  Tone is key.  Speak crisply and confidently.  Dont ask, but tell.

2. Never take no from someone who cant say yes.  Even though I have my 30 second elevator pitch on why my company, I try to reserve it for the person who can schedule the appointment.  The decision maker and the gatekeeper are usually not one in the same.  

3. Dont divulge your hand.  By stating why you want to speak with the decision-maker, youre providing the gatekeeper with a reason to stop you, Thanks, we already do business with XYZ.  Less is so much more here.  Lets role play.

Seller:  Good morning, may I please speak with Ms. Jones?
Gatekeeper:  May I ask whos calling?

Seller:  Yes, Theresa Merrill. (Do not provide your company name, unless they ask.  I find when I just state my name with conviction I often get put right throughagain I sound like I should be.)

Gatekeeper:  What is this in reference to?
Seller:  Ms. Jones remarks at ad:tech last week.
(Heres where doing your homework comes into play, use a relevant response as to your knowledge of the prospect, be somewhat vague)

Gatekeeper:  Is she expecting your call?
Seller:  I certainly hope so! 
(Said with a smile) 

Okay, I can hear the cynics saying thats misleading.  When I cold-call someone Im prepared and psyched because Ive already determined the prospect has a problem/need for which I can provide a solution/benefit.  So when I say I certainly hope so its the truth!  My response is disarming and often met with a laugh by the gatekeeper. Originality is rewarded.

4. Never leave a message with the gatekeeper.  If the decision maker is on the other line, or heading into a meeting and cant take your call right now, thank the gatekeeper and ask when would be a good time to call back?  When was the last time you cold-called, left a message with the gatekeeper, and got a return call? 

5. Control the call.  Its your dime (dating myself) you should be in charge.  Rehearse and psych yourself before dialing.  Have a script.  As a public speaker, I never get up in front of an audience without rehearsing over and over and over again.  Why do so few salespeople practice how to get past a gatekeeper?  Dont use my technique, if youre not comfortable with it, but find what works for you and deliver it with finesse.  Selling is an art.

6. Pleasantly Persist.  Nothing works all the time, but its the seller who stays the course and keeps forging ahead that gets through.  When a gatekeeper says no, I take it as nofor now and make a note to call back in a few days.  Eventually I get through, and when I do it is because Ive demonstrated to the gatekeeper that Im not easily deterred and I have something of value to share.  Im always polite and pleasant, but terrifically persistent.

I look at getting past the gatekeeper as one of the many objections youll encounter on the sales cycle.  Its a challenge, and sets the stage for your relationship with the prospect, so it needs to be a positive experience.

(12/19/2011 10:27:33 AM)
And when they don't let you through to talk with Mr. / Ms. Decision-Maker after nine calls, just politely say, "You know, I talk to GOD everyday, so I don't understand why I cannot talk to Phil-In-The-Blank!"

And then of course shut up! It's her turn to talk.

- David Aamodt

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