It may seem like a joke or something out of a fantasy movie, but companies seem to have gatekeepers. During a cold call, they will tell you that it is impossible to get a sale with them in not so many words. You cannot even talk to the manager or whoever is in charge of making decisions.
Many salespeople just let it slide. They leave without a sale and without ever getting past the gatekeeper. How do you know you could have gotten a chance with the decision-maker if you could not present your case to them?
Why are you having issues getting past the gatekeeper?
You cannot really blame them. After all, a cold call is unsolicited. You call or visit a company or individual selling goods and services they have not previously expressed interest in. Without an appointment, you will undoubtedly be met with some resistance.
Who usually serves as a gatekeeper?
The gatekeeper is any person who receives you at a private office or a company. So, you will likely have to deal with a receptionist, personal assistant, or another administrative professional.
Any type of gatekeeper ensures only those who have appointments can get past them. Their bosses are likely to be busy and would only be available to those they know can benefit their companies or personal lives best.
Do you give up after the gatekeeper sends you off? No. You don’t have to be rude, either. Here are some of the best ways to get past a gatekeeper on a cold call:
Request to talk to the person in charge
Discussing the matter with the gatekeeper can be a waste of time. You need to talk to someone who will make the decisions. The gatekeeper may be a fan of your product and they may not, but at the end of the day, they cannot decide to buy your goods or services.
Request an audience with whoever is in charge. You have not set an appointment. So, you must try to be as polite as possible. Acknowledge that you should have called earlier but that you have an urgent business proposal that will benefit the company or individual.
Return another day to talk to the decision maker
Sometimes, the decision maker cannot talk to you because they are occupied at the moment. After all, you came with no appointment.
So, be ready to come back another day if you have to. You can do this in two ways.
One, you can leave a message with the gatekeeper. You may have been trained not to trust them, but they are just doing their jobs. They also usually follow a particular script they have been asked to follow.
However, messages can be lost in translation, and a gatekeeper may decide to file your message under the non-urgent pile. So, you should also know the best time to call back. Tell the person that you may be busy with other meetings, and setting an appointment may not be a good idea. However, you are willing to come during the decision maker’s free time if you have no prior commitment.
Be clear about the gatekeeper’s qualifications and position
Before leaving the venue, find out the gatekeeper’s role and qualifications. Perhaps they have been given a certain autonomy regarding a few things.
Yes, they may still try to discourage you from pursuing your goal, but you can make your appeal to them, anyway.
On the other hand, you may be better off returning on a different day if you believe the gatekeeper’s role is simply that—as a personal assistant or receptionist. They may not have the power to make decisions at all, and further discussions between the two of you will waste your time and theirs.
Do not forget your gatekeeper’s name. They may not be the prospect, but you should show that they are important. How you treat people will say a lot about you and your goals with the company. Remember that some gatekeepers serve as business prospects’ most trusted right hands.
Don’t come unprepared
Even if you have a good history of winging it, do not try to do that for a crucial cold call. You already have one strike against you by not having an appointment and calling or visiting unannounced. So, you need to show why they need to engage with your products and services.
Being unprepared will present you as unprofessional and incapable. You don’t want that image if you are trying to persuade people.
Being prepared also does not mean you will sound very much like a stereotypical sales representative. Put some heart into what you are saying. You must show that you care for what you represent and not just narrate a script.
Use a script
Your gatekeeper is more likely equipped with a script to tackle cold calls. You need your own script to respond to their most common responses. Yes, you need a script but it must not sound like you are reading or narrating from one.
This way, you will not waste time figuring out what to say. You may only have a few seconds to make the speech that will land you an interview with the boss or decision maker.
A few of the responses you must be ready for are:
1. We don’t accept anyone without appointments or scheduled calls.
2. The decision maker is occupied and will not be free until a certain date.
3. You can leave a message. We will get back to you.
The above are just some of the more common possible responses. Still, there may be others, depending on the individual or company.
For any of the above, you can apologize and explain why there is an urgent need to come without an appointment. Then, offer to come at a later date.
Here’s the thing, though. Do not read the script from a piece of paper. It means you are not ready. It also suggests you are not sincere. You must rehearse all that you have to say at home or even with a few friends. The gatekeeper is also not your rehearsal buddy. They will not prep you for your appointment with their superiors.
Being that you are on a cold call, you have not set an appointment. So, you must understand why the gatekeeper is not particularly pleased with you.
You must remind yourself that you are at fault in the gatekeeper’s eyes. Be polite throughout and build trust between the two of you.
Establish rapport with the gatekeeper
Do your research. A simple LinkedIn search may land you on a gold mine of information. Yes, you need to get to know the gatekeeper.
Finding something you have in common may just establish some rapport between the two of you. You may have graduated from the same college or come from the same town. Of course, be careful with the way you use your information. You don’t want to come across as having questionable motives.
Listen to what they are not saying. What type of personality do they have? Respond to them accordingly. You will sense if they are the type to chat or the ones who would rather get off the phone quickly.
While you may want to establish rapport, keep things professional. Your communication should not go beyond what is necessary. Each of you is just doing a job, but doing so in a nice way.
To earn the gatekeeper’s trust, be honest about your purpose. Yes, you both know why you are calling. However, getting through by lying may get you in a lot of trouble. There goes the trust you were hoping to build.
Some gatekeepers may even be pleased that you got straight to the point. Of course, they may still put you on hold or offer to schedule you for another day, but at least you have become a little more familiar—not quite a stranger or a scammer. You came in with facts that they can easily validate, say, by calling your headquarters.
Being honest requires you not telling the gatekeeper that you know the prospect personally just to get an immediate appointment. That will result in a very awkward situation that may have you completely banned from the company’s premises. The best case scenario here is that you will be known for stretching the truth, which makes you unreliable.
Treat the gatekeeper as you would your original prospect. When they are talking, listen to them. Don’t think that you are wasting your time by listening. Listening to them respectfully is part of your persuasion. Of course, it would help if that comes naturally for you.
If you want respect, you must show respect. Even if the other side refuses to be respectful, you can at least feel good about your ability to stick with the values you believe in.
Speak to your target’s colleagues
Maybe your target’s colleagues are less busy and would be willing to talk to you. Go to them instead. It is possible that they don’t have their own gatekeepers. They may also be willing to talk if they think they are helpful to you or the decision maker.
Visit a different department
Another way to circumvent a conversation with a gatekeeper is by going to a different department. Other departments may not have receptionists or personal assistants guarding appointments with their superiors.
Of course, to know which department to visit, you must conduct adequate research on the company. Research is critical, whether you are setting an appointment with your prospective clients or not. That is part of your business plan.
Call beyond office hours
First, find out what the typical office hours are. Then, you can call a few minutes before opening or after closing. You can catch your prospective client without the gatekeeper answering the phone.
Most decision makers or bosses come to work before opening hours and may even stay beyond. Gatekeepers usually are at the office or establishment during regular working hours.
Of course, you may have a short period to engage the decision maker. So, hopefully, your pitch is interesting enough for them to give you their free time.
Get right to the heart of your call. You must also be ready for the decision maker to set your conversation for another time. The good news is that it means you are getting an appointment and getting it right from the big boss.
Try the chatbot
The worst-case scenario is that nobody is eager to talk to you. It can happen. After all, it is a cold call. Many people try to avoid conversations they have not prepped themselves to entertain. Imagine being at the other end. Would you like people coming or calling unannounced to talk about something important?
Don’t be disheartened. Another way of getting through is by using a chatbot. Chatbots have been programmed in a certain way. Yes, you may not be talking to a live human being, but chatbots are also pretty limited in their responses.
What does that mean? You are likely to get a straight, consistent response from the chatbot. This time, it is not affected by who you are and why you are calling. Your response will be the same as that given to another person cold calling the company.
Don’t burn bridges
If you do leave the premises unsuccessful and without a promise of a future appointment, do not take it to heart. Do not burn any bridges. What you offer now may not be needed, but who says if they will need you tomorrow?
So, leave your business card and be nice until the end of the transaction, successful or not.
When you visit your prospective client, a gatekeeper may prevent you from direct contact. Some may give up easily, but you should not.
This article has shown how you can seek further engagement with your target decision maker. The strategies combine product and service knowledge, good manners, and persistence. The latter will help you continue aiming for a sale even though your cold call may not have made an excellent first impression for you. Do not give up!
For more information, contact Verde Strategies.