Have you ever tried calling a decision-maker only to get blocked by a Gatekeeper? Well, you are not alone. Many people who try B2B cold calling get stuck because they don’t know how to get past Gatekeepers, the first people who pick up the phone and whose job it is to filter important calls from the unimportant ones. There is a plethora of reasons why callers get stuck at this stage including:
- Diving into a sales pitch when asked why they are calling
- Giving up too easily
- Being unprepared
How can you be sure that the next time you pick up the phone you will pass the Gatekeeper? Here are 3 sure-fire techniques you can use so that your call takes you to the next level of engagement with your prospects.
Tip #1 – Never pitch the Gatekeeper
The first thing to know is that you NEVER pitch a Gatekeeper. If you do, you WILL get blocked. That is a fact, not my opinion. There is a predictable pattern with a predictable result here, and when you put a sales pitch into the loop with a Gatekeeper, the boomerang back will ALWAYS be NO. Gatekeepers are trained to block unimportant calls, and only let the imperative ones pass through. Saying LESS to the Gatekeeper is MORE because any indication that you are making a sales inquiry will only lead you to a NO reply.
Many callers make the mistake of giving a long explanation to Gatekeepers of who they are, and why they are calling. They feel obligated to explain. It is much more effective just to directly ask for the person you want to speak to. Of course, this will need to be adapted to take into account cultural norms. In the US, it is culturally acceptable not to say hello to the Gatekeeper and simply ask for someone by their name (even if you don’t know them personally). However, in France or Germany, that approach is considered wildly impolite. Adapting your approach to take into account differences in culture is a must if you are contacting people globally. Regardless of where you are calling, keeping your time with the Gatekeeper short and to the point is a much better strategy than pitching them.
Tip #2 – Say something vague that sounds important
Of course, if you ask for someone by name without saying who you are or where you are calling from, you can be sure the Gatekeeper will ask you why you are calling. Getting into a long-winded explanation will not work in your favor as I explained above. So what can you do instead? Say something vague that sounds important. You want to say something you feel comfortable with that is truthful. Saying a flat-out lie such as, “I’m calling about our contract,” will only send you down a rabbit hole of untruths that will get worse by the minute.
I always recommend customizing the “something vague” for each individual prospect because there is no “one-way-fits-all” approach that is going to work every time. If you have already established contact with your prospect over email or LinkedIn, you could reference that by saying, “I’m calling in follow-up to an email I sent to (name) earlier this week,” or “I just had a quick question I wanted to ask (name) about his/her email from last Tuesday,” then bridge immediately to a question such as, “Would it be crazy to think that he/she is available now?” Bridging to a question is a way of lobbing the ball back onto their side of the court. If you think of the conversation like a tennis match, you want the ball to keep going back and forth until you are done. You know you are done when the Gatekeeper says, “Please hold the line,” and transfers you to your prospect. With a little practice, this technique should not take more than a minute or two tops for you to get through to the right person (if they are indeed available).
Tip #3 – Make it seem like you already know the decision-maker you’re calling
You don’t need to tell the Gatekeeper that you personally know your prospect to make it seem like you do. Saying subtle things like, “I was going to send (name) an email but I thought it would be faster just to make a quick call to him/her instead,” makes it seem like you already know your prospect and that you won’t take a lot of his or her time. When you clearly show the Gatekeeper that you are calm and confident, you will increase your chances that he/she will put your call through. However, when you come across as being nervous, attached to a particular outcome, desperate to be put through, etc., you will kill your chances of getting your call transferred to the decision-maker. The energy you bring into the call is everything. Any time we bring unrest into a conversation, we are going to subconsciously trigger the other person to shut the call down. When you get answers such as, “You have to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org,” or “We don’t accept sales calls,” you know that you need to change the energy you have brought into the approach.
Getting past Gatekeepers is the first step to improving your cold-calling outreach. It’s important to be yourself, sound natural, and be at ease when you call; while this is easier said than done, it is a skill set that can be learned and fine-tuned over time. Speaking to Gatekeepers with a direct, to-the-point approach along with a friendly demeanor will help you vastly improve the overall quality of your outreach. Not only will it enable you to speak to more decision-makers, it will likely make your time with those decision-makers more relaxed and enjoyable.