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5 Rules to Get Past the Gatekeeper and Close More New Clients


One of the hardest parts of the sales process is getting in the door. And one of the toughest parts of getting in the door is getting past the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper’s job is to keep you out; it’s what they get paid to do.

But with some helpful techniques, you can increase your gatekeeper success rate and get in front of more decision makers. Here are 5 fundamental rules of dealing with gatekeepers:

Rule #1: Never be rude to the gatekeeper. They are just doing their job and following orders. Being rude to them will only make your odds of getting through to a decision maker worse.

Rule #2: Never argue with the gatekeeper. Gatekeepers will likely never help make the decision to use your services, but they can always make the decision to NOT use your services by never letting you through to the decision maker.

Rule #3: Make friends with the gatekeeper. Gatekeepers can be a wealth of information. Plus, consider this: At one time in their life, every decision maker was a gatekeeper, clerk or assistant. Not every gatekeeper will end up being a decision maker, but you don’t know which ones will, so be nice to all of them.

Rule #4: Never give the gatekeeper more information than they actually need. Only give the information that is asked. If you add extra information, you’ll only talk your way out of getting through. Listen to the gatekeeper more than you talk. Many sales people lose business because they volunteer too much information and don’t know when to stop talking.

Rule #5: Never, ever sell to the gatekeeper!! The gatekeeper can’t communicate the value of your service as well as you can. Selling to the gatekeeper and hoping they will relay your pitch to the decision maker is like the children’s game of telephone: the message at the end will never be as compelling as the original. If the gatekeeper asks who’s calling, don’t open your mouth and let your whole sales pitch fall out. Again, only give the basic, factual, information that is needed.

Answering Their Questions

Now let’s look at some specific phrases gatekeepers use and techniques to break through to the decision maker.

“What’s this in reference to?”

Similar to rule #4 above, you want to give a short, factual answer with no extra information. For example: “Our IT consulting services” or “An open position at your company.” Never volunteer extra information to someone who doesn’t make a decision. They can’t say yes, they can only say no.

“They wouldn’t be interested in that.”

One technique in this case is to make the gatekeeper second-guess their decision to not let you through, without being rude or arguing. An example of something you could say is: “Would they say that if I had the opportunity to ask him/her myself?”

“That sounds great, we really need that.”

Some salespeople are overjoyed when they hear this from a gatekeeper. They think it’s an automatic in, but it’s a trap. Avoid engaging or you’ll end up breaking rule #5 and selling to the gatekeeper. Reply with enthusiasm, but still refrain from selling and ask to speak to the decision maker. Your phrasing could look something like: “Thank you! That’s great. Can I please speak to xyz?”

“They’re not available, but you can leave a message.”

Always leave a voicemail, not a verbal message with the gatekeeper. Again, it’s unlikely that a message relayed through a gatekeeper will make it to the decision maker exactly as you’ve intended. Voicemail allows you to tell the prospect exactly the message you want them to hear. On the voicemail, leave a brief reason for your call and include one single benefit that explains how you can help them make money, save money, save time or make their life easier. But keep your message to only one benefit.

“Can you send information?”

This request has become more and more common and often it’s unavoidable. In reality, a request to send information is better than a no. So if you must send information, follow these steps:

  • Only send information to the decision maker, not the gatekeeper
  • In your email, include a specific time and date you’ll be calling to follow up. Something like “I’ll reach out to you at 10am next Wednesday to discuss this information with you” would suffice.
  • When you make your follow up call, if you encounter resistance from the gatekeeper, say “He/she is expecting my call.”

If none of these techniques for getting past the gatekeeper work, consider calling when the gatekeeper is less likely to be answering phones. Generally, gatekeepers work a normal 9-5 schedule, but decision makers come in early and leave late. You may even consider calling on Saturday. It is unlikely that a gatekeeper would be answering phones on a Saturday, but many executives and business owners work on the weekend. Plus, it’s unlikely that other salespeople or recruiters will be trying to get through on a Saturday, differentiating you from your competition.

The content from this article originally appeared in a People2.0 recruiter training webinar called Winning the Staffing Sales Game. To view the full webinar, click here.

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