Let’s start this article by defining “gatekeeper.” It’s anyone who picks up the phone who is not your direct prospect. That includes the prospects’ co-workers, staff, operators, receptionists, administrative assistants, and secretaries. And I’m now going to tell you absolutely everything you need to turn these gatekeepers into people who help you. That’s right: everything. You ready? Here we go…
Treat them nicely. Treat them with respect. Treat them the same way you treat your direct prospects. Read on for examples of how to do this, and a brief lecture on why schmoozing, manipulation and lying are not just wrong — they’re not worth it.
What Respect Sounds Like
One way to show respect for prospects is by telling them why you’re calling — the full reason — right upfront. Do the same thing with gatekeepers. When she asks what your call is about say, “I’d like to see if our services would be a good fit. Is Ms. Prospect in?”
If you’re asked whether the prospect knows you or is expecting your call, be honest: “We have not talked before.” One important tip here is to say just that and then be quiet — wait for the gatekeeper to say or do something.
If you’re asked whether this is a sales call, be honest: “In a way. It’s a prospecting call. Is Ms. Prospect in today?”
What Being Nice Sounds Like
Being nice is not about trying to chat with gatekeepers as if you’ve been best buddies for years. Being nice is about asking for help when you need it (rather than demanding assistance).
If you need help identifying who you should try to talk with — who your direct prospect may be — ask nicely: “Would you help me with something? I’m with a company that provides consulting services to new managers. I’d like to see if these services might be valuable to your company. Would you suggest who I might talk with about that?”
If you need help getting through to your prospect, ask nicely: “Would you help me out with something? I’ve been trying to reach Ms. Prospect for a while now. Can you suggest a good time or day to reach her?”
And if you need help figuring out how to pronounce a name, ask nicely: “I’m calling someone and I’m not sure how to say their name properly. Would you help me out? The name is…”
Being nice is also about saying “thank you” even when the gatekeeper tells you you’ll never reach your prospect, they don’t want what you’re selling, etc. (Though there are things to try in those cases.) Which brings us to a brief lecture on why dishonest, manipulative approaches are not worth the effort. You ready? Here is the full scoop: Those methods don’t work well.
Why Schmoozing, Manipulation and Lying Aren’t Worth the Effort
- Most gatekeepers see right through such baloney and will block you all the more.
- Gatekeepers work with your prospects, which means they talk with your prospects. Treat gatekeepers badly and they will say bad things about you to your prospects.
- Successfully fooling a gatekeeper often makes your prospect mad. The prospect may get mad at you (not good). The prospect may get mad at the gatekeeper… and so what do you think will happen when you need to be put through the next time?
- Gatekeepers may BE your prospect! They may be in charge of early scouting, involved in the buying decision or fully responsible for the decision.
Last but not least: If you cannot reach a prospect they are NAP – Not A Prospect. That applies to being blocked by a gatekeeper, too. Don’t let yourself get sucked into trying to ‘win’ that game.