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When Cold Calling, Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper

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When Cold Calling, Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper

I was talking with a client last week about some of his new employees. He told me that some of them are struggling to get through to decision makers, and he thought it was because they were “pitching the gatekeeper.” I listened to some of his calls, and he was right!

Here is the mistake: Many sales reps have never been taught the proper way to deal with gatekeepers, so after being screened out by them, they take the attitude that “If only they (the gatekeeper) knew how much this would benefit the (decision maker), then they’d put me through!” So they start pitching them….

How wrong that is…

Let’s recap the role of the receptionist/gatekeeper: The receptionist’s job is to answer calls and route them to the right person. They are trained to gather the information needed to give to the person they are transferring the call to, things like, name, company name, and sometimes, what the call is about.

Now here is something many sales reps misunderstand: The receptionist’s role is not to pry and grill and interrogate people who call in. They will only do this if the caller telegraphs him/herself as a salesperson. And many frustrated reps signal this by:

  • Only giving your first name and trying to trick the receptionist by pretending to be a “friend” of the person you’re trying to reach.
  • Not giving your company name. (May reps try to hide the fact they are calling from a company. This only arouses suspicion and raises a Red Flag.)
  • Not having a scripted approach to the question: “Will he/she know what this call is about?”
  • Not being polite and using the magic words: “Please” and “Thank You”
  • Not using an instructional statement.
     

Let me say this again: for the most part, receptionists, gatekeepers, etc., are not there to screen you out. They are there to capture basic information and then pass the call through. Notice I said, “for the most part.” There are certainly exceptions (in small offices, etc.) where they make it their job to screen you out, but you can still get past many of them as well if you use the best practice approach below.

Related: The Missing Ingredient to Top Performance in Sales

Here is the script I was using as recently as last week to get through to some high powered decision makers. It works:

Gatekeeper: “XYZ company, how can I help you?”

YOU: “Hi, may I speak with {first name}, please?” (Say this with a bright, warm smile in your voice. Be confident and friendly.

Gatekeeper: “And what is your name please?”

YOU: “Please, tell him that {Your first & last name} is calling, please.”

Gatekeeper: “And may I tell him the company you are calling from?”

YOU: “Yes, please! Please tell him {Your first & last name again} with the {Your company name} is holding please.”

Again, smile, be friendly and confident. If you follow this exact script, you’ll get through 60% of the time without any further screening.

If they ask: “And what is this call regarding?”

YOU respond: “Please tell him/her it’s about {whatever your call is about – ‘His/her lead flow’}, and I’m happy to hold, please…”

Did you notice the “pleases”? How about the instructional statements? Did you notice the exact order?

These techniques will get you past the gatekeeper – without any further screening – over 75% of the time. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week (not just one or two calls!).

What doesn’t work is pitching the gatekeeper. That only identifies you as a sales person, and in many cases you start begging them to put you through. And that’s the last person they will put through – a begging sales person.

So, make a commitment to yourself this week and begin using this proven technique. You’ll be surprised by how many decision makers you begin getting through to.

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