4 Ways to Get Past the Gatekeeper (No Tricks Required)

Are you tired of talking to people without any decision-making power? Wouldn’t you rather walk straight into the corner office and speak with the person who’s actually in charge? Of course you would. So why is your outreach still cold?

It’s tiresome reading about how to get past the gatekeeper with duplicitous tactics — they make my blood boil. These tactics are insincere, unprofessional, offensive, and a waste of sales time. A waste of your time. And who has time to waste?

Respect the Gatekeeper

Gatekeepers—receptionists, administrative assistants, and executive admins—are valuable to the executives whose time and energy they protect, but not to you, at least not until you’ve developed a relationship with them. And certainly not when you cold call.

Newsflash: Most of CEOs do not respond to cold calls or emails, and neither do their gatekeepers.

One assistant told me many cold callers lie and tell her the CEO asked them to reach out. Most are cocky; others are downright rude; and some try to lay on the charm. A lot of them keep calling, hoping to eventually get past her. But no matter how suave they think they are, they never get through to her boss.

Gatekeepers are good at their jobs. They can smell phoniness a mile away. Think you’re getting away with cold calling and pretending you’re best buddies with your prospect? Think again. You’re not fooling anybody.

4 Ways to Get on the Gatekeeper’s Good Side

So what’s the fastest way to gain entrance into the C-suite? When you receive referral introductions from people your prospects know and trust, they (and their gatekeepers) will happily take your call.

Here are four key strategies to get you in and out with a deal in hand:

1. Dump the Script

We’ve all had to make calls from a script at some point in our sales career. State your name, explain why you’re calling, and then relay some brilliantly simple benefit statements about why the prospect would want to schedule a meeting with you as soon as possible.

When you prospect this way, you’ll probably get sent to voicemail and have to leave a message, which (let’s face it) probably won’t be returned. How can you stay fresh and upbeat leaving voicemail messages all day long and hoping a live person will actually pick up? Why would they? My clients tell me they rarely, if ever, answer their office phones. They know it’s a pesky telemarketer calling. Their friends, colleagues, and clients always call their cell phones. In fact, one of my clients publishes his office phone as his “official” number so that it’s the one to appear on any calling lists. When you call it, the recording says he doesn’t answer this phone and that you should call his cell number…if you have it. You’ll only have it if he has given it to you or if you’ve exchanged emails and seen it in his signature.

Cold calling from a script, or even winging a cold call, doesn’t cut it. Ever. Consider the opposite sales approach. When you receive a referral, you don’t need a script. Your referral source has pre-sold you and your capabilities. All you need to say is who you are and who referred you, and then schedule a time to talk. Because you have been introduced by a terrific, trusted resource, your prospect wants to hear from you, and the gatekeeper will happily patch you through.

2. Get the List That Counts

The Web 2.0 world promises to increase your prospecting productivity by delivering qualified leads to your inbox at the prospect’s time of need. We’re all familiar with “bought” lists. But take a closer look: Are these really qualified leads, or are they just names?

Until you qualify them, names on ‘bought’ lists are not sales leads. A list will get you to the gatekeeper and no further.

You might also get so-called leads from your website, special offers, email campaigns, direct mail, trade shows, advertising, and conferences. But until you qualify them, names are not sales leads. A list will get you to the gatekeeper and no further. The fastest and least expensive way to meet the people you want to meet and who want to meet you is to receive a referral. The gatekeeper knows who you are and facilitates a personal introduction.

3. Stop Cold Calling

A sales call is either cold or hot. Here’s my definition (make it yours): A cold call is when you reach out to someone who doesn’t know you and doesn’t expect your call. Salespeople delude themselves into thinking they are making “warm calls” when they’re still just cold calling.

Consider the following situations. Cold or hot?

  • You contact someone whose name came from a colleague or friend who did not actually introduce you to your prospect. Cold!
  • You contact someone and then follow up with a letter. Colder!
  • The person’s name came from a specific list. Still cold!

Even though you think you’ve avoided sounding like a telemarketer in these situations, your call is still cold. The same goes for sending emails or LinkedIn messages to people who don’t know you or expect to hear from you. You’re just doing the digital form of cold calling. And make no mistake, the gatekeeper sees every email. Even if you do manage to slip a message through on social media, the delete button will still keep you from your prospect.

4. Referrals Are Your Golden Ticket

In a survey of 125 senior executives, Responsibility Centered Leadership asked respondents why they would take a meeting with a salesperson. The top two reasons:

  1. A referral from someone within their companies
  2. A referral from a trusted source outside their companies

Selling by referral shortens your sales process. You arrive pre-sold, gain the trust of the prospect, eliminate the competition, and attract new clients more than 50 percent of the time. There is no other sales prospecting strategy that can claim these results. Get the referral introduction and walk right into the C-suite. The gatekeeper has left the building!

Joanne Black

With decades of experience across multiple industries, and companies of all sizes, Joanne Black’s simple message about using referral selling as the primary driver of sales is one that resonates with sales and marketing audiences around the globe. As both a keynoter and breakout speaker, Joanne provides a compelling and interesting counterpunch to the increasingly “tech-dependent” mythology of sales 2.0. Every day sales people around the world hear stories of phenomenal success achieved exclusively through status updates and tweets. So the question becomes why isn’t it working for them? A splash of cold water At many conferences Joanne’s contrarian approach goes against the prevailing winds, and even the philosophies of other speakers sharing the stage with her. Joanne’s energetic presentation style and actionable-content provide audiences with a foundation to challenge what they hear in the blogosphere about how technology is changing how they should connect with prospects. Joanne’s first book No More Cold Calling™ is still the sales bible for many successful salespeople – with it’s process driven approach to increasing sales by turning friends, clients, and colleagues into your own private sales force!

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