Reach More Decision-Makers: How to Align with the Gatekeeper

Improve your conversation rate with decision-makers by aligning with the gatekeeper - not trying to overcome them.

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Cold callers never want to be turned away from speaking with a decision-maker. It feels like failing before you even get the chance to share your offering. But most sales reps don’t have a strong strategy for gatekeepers other than to just “get through” them. 

Gatekeepers are smart. They know all the tactics and are ready to turn away your cold call if it doesn’t seem valuable. While there isn’t a magical answer for getting past every gatekeeper, there are some things you can do to improve your success rate and have more conversations with your decision-makers. 

Cold Calling and Gatekeepers

In cold calling, gatekeepers are typically the first person you speak with when trying to contact a decision-maker or stakeholder about your offering. 

Their role is to help vet, distribute, and filter information coming through the organization to better assist those with financial or resource-decision-making power. In most cases, they can control the conversation, delay your transfer of information, or even refuse your access to a decision-maker or stakeholder altogether. 

Secretaries, receptionists, operators, and assistants are some of the most common gatekeepers you’ll encounter in B2B sales since their responsibilities generally include answering the phone, routing calls, or being stationed in the main lobby of the organization. 

Other times, the gatekeeper could be an undercover decision-maker, stakeholder, or influencer depending on the size of the company and its organizational chart. 

Gatekeepers vs Salespeople

It is important to shift away from the mentality that gatekeepers are automatically against salespeople. Maybe some gatekeepers don’t give you a fair chance at speaking with your prospect, but for the most part, a good gatekeeper isn’t there to turn down your call. 

They are simply there to limit distractions and manage the workflow of the organization. And because time and resources are always limited, it’s seen as arguably one of the most important aspects of their role. The more you can understand their positioning, the better you can tailor your strategy for getting past them.

A good gatekeeper: 

  1. knows the goals and priorities of their executive or leadership
  2. understands their schedule and cold outreach preferences 
  3. will ask you the right questions to better determine the value of your offering
  4. can control the situation and knows how to say “no”

If it feels like you are constantly running into unhappy gatekeepers, consider that most salespeople resort to lying and manipulation in order to reach their decision-maker or prospect. And if that happens, their boss’ time and resources can easily be wasted, likely ending in some sort of punishment. 

For a gatekeeper in this position, it can be refreshing to communicate as an expert, rather than as a subordinate. Keep this in mind the next time you make a cold call. Instead of keeping the gatekeeper vs salespeople mentality, look to make a good impression and improve your DM conversation rates with these top tips. 

Aligning With Your Gatekeeper

Conversations with gatekeepers are so important because they can be the difference between a high & low level of decision-maker conversations. Understanding whether to pass through or engage gatekeepers, how to work automated phone systems, and knowing back access ways to decision-maker direct lines can be the difference between hitting your goals or not. 

Rushing past the gatekeeper is a missed opportunity. When you consider them to be a resource and not an obstacle, you are able to get more information and build a better connection with them – even if only for a short moment. Here are some of the best ways you can align yourself with the gatekeeper. 

  • Build Trust

Just like you, gatekeepers are trying to do their job to the best of their ability. Sales reps should always be respectful of their time and treat them with the same reverence as the decision-maker. Building trust is key to every cold call, no matter who is on the other end of the phone. 

Clearly explain who are, who you’d like to speak with, and what the purpose of your call is. Learning and using their name while openly valuing their perspective and opinion can go a long way. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Speak with a relaxed and steady voice, talk courteously, show empathy, and smile while you’re conversing. The second you become rude, impatient, or dismissive, you have a good chance of losing the call and losing their trust.

  • Don’t Lie on the Cold Call

This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t ever lie to the gatekeeper. The more salespeople continue to deceive the gatekeeper, the more we all suffer. If your prospect doesn’t know you are calling – don’t tell the gatekeeper they are expecting you. Maintain control of the conversation by providing the information a gatekeeper requires before they ask, but don’t lie. 

One method for opening the door is to introduce yourself to the decision-maker via email. Then, when you make your follow-up call, you can honestly tell the gatekeeper you are following up on the information that was previously sent. Don’t say this if you haven’t actually sent something because ultimately, even if a lie might work in the short term, it’s likely it could backfire soon after. No one wants to do business with a liar. 

  • Perform Your Prospecting Research

Your chance of getting past the gatekeeper will improve if you know and understand the prospect’s specific pain points. Thanks to technology, you can often find important information that can help you make better choices on the call and speak more directly about those issues. Sites like Linkedin for example, tend to be a gold mine for information that will benefit you when dealing with the gatekeeper. 

Performing this research can also help you build more trust. If you learned about a strategic initiative or a specific issue the company was having, mention it in your quick pitch to the gatekeeper and it should yield better results. 

This research can also help you find other fast ways to engage or get in touch with higher-level members. These people are valuable in gaining direct access to their boss and they have a greater ability to internally get the company interested in your offering. Especially in enterprise companies where there is almost always another person you can reach that is just as valuable in making a decision. 

  • Practice Active Listening

When dealing with a gatekeeper, it’s important you listen – both for literal information and subtle hints that help you understand the direction your call is heading. 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. Repeat back important details, go off script and ask specific questions related to what the gatekeeper has shared with you. 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.

  • Don’t Sell to the Gatekeeper

Gatekeepers aren’t your target persona, and they don’t have any real interest in your product or service. But they do care about the issues their leadership is facing and whether or not you can help solve their challenges. Be friendly, but don’t get too personal or waste the gatekeeper’s time with idle chatter. 

Be ready to provide only the most necessary and valuable information. Many gatekeepers ask, “What is this regarding?” Prepare an answer that does not sound like a sales pitch. If the executive is busy or is out of the office, ask to be directed to his or her voicemail, especially if you have tried to call more than once. This will prevent you from bothering the gatekeeper time and time again. 

  • Avoid the Gatekeeper

If you are getting turned down by a gatekeeper, you can always try another avenue. Call your decision-maker during off business hours when the gatekeepers are not there, since most of them come in earlier or stay longer at work. Or try a combination or cadence of approaches like emails, calls, inMails, and referrals that will give you the best odds of reaching your decision-maker.

If you are calling larger companies you can also try to work the phone tree or contact another department that may be able to transfer your call to the right person. While they might not be more open to giving you any information, most times, they won’t turn you away. 

  • Know the Most Common Objections 

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, write down your best responses. You can use the details from these to test your cold call script and see which one has a higher success rate for reaching the decision-maker. 

  • Invest in Better Data 

Ever make a cold call and the gatekeeper tells you your contact hasn’t worked there in two years? To avoid that situation as much as possible, invest in clean, accurate, and up-to-date contact information through a B2B List Building provider. Here at Superhuman Prospecting, we have expert manual researchers who are able to source harder-to-source contacts and information. 

When it comes to cold calling and getting past the gatekeeper, the success rate might be unpredictable. But, don’t get discouraged. Remember, they are just like you - trying to perform at their job. Always look to build trust and credibility for your brand and organization. Be polite with every person you encounter because you never know who is an undercover decision-maker. 

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