One of the daily challenges for any sales warrior is trying to manage the position of the gatekeeper. These trained professionals a.k.a. “The Sales Prevention Team” are highly skilled at keeping us from sharing our incredible value with some of the most important business leaders in our territories.
After much begging, pleading, cajoling, and water boarding (just kidding), one of our favorite gatekeepers agreed to share a small amount of her infinite wisdom on how we should treat those who stand between us and our decision makers.
-From Michele Doucette – Gatekeeper Supreme
Having been a “hardcore” Gatekeeper for over 20 years, I have been asked many times, How does one get past the Gatekeeper? So many sales types are expecting that there is some set of magical words or phrases that will make me abandon my responsibility of protecting my executives and grant open access to some of the most important people in our organization.
Well, that’s not happening.
However there are some key “do’s and “don’ts” that will determine if your company gets included in one of our multi-million dollar projects or if you burned the bridge so badly we wouldn’t include you on a RFP for urinal cakes.
DO. Before calling, find the company’s website and see if they have a “Management Team” link in their “About Us” section. This way you may actually discover the name of the executive you need to reach BEFORE you contact the front desk. READ THIS AGAIN, absorb it into your pores, maybe even write it down. There’s nothing more annoying than hearing a LAZY cubicle monkey ask, “Can I speak to whoever is in charge of making your (fill in the blank) decisions?”
DO. Do speak to us nicely, we have feelings, and more authority than you can even begin to imagine. We deal with awkward phone calls and harassment ALL DAY LONG. We take a lot of abuse from telemarketers, recruiting agencies, irate clients, and occasionally our co-workers. Ask us how our day is going, how the weather is, etc. TRY to sound sincere; it can go a long way in helping you get where you need to go.
DO. Be aware of how Caller ID displays your company name. “Sell Co.” does not have a chance of making it through. If you block the name of your company with “Private Caller”, I will answer, keep you on hold while I Google the name of your company, and then tell you that no one is available. Sasser once suggested we try for “Free Beer, Hot Sex” as our Caller ID Badge. He really does think he’s funny.
DON’T. Don’t bother lying. Saying things like, “I’m returning (fill in the blank)’s call, or “I spoke with so and so last week and they asked me to follow up” just might get you through. BUT, if we find out you lied (the people we are paid to protect WILL let us know of our slipup), you will be our enemy, for life (this life term will not expire, we will remember you and your company LONG after we’ve left our current employer).
The next time you call, we will utter the words every salesperson loathes to hear, “REMOVE US FROM YOUR CALL LIST.” Ahhh, two years of silence from your pathetic spiels. We keep lists of who you are (I personally have a separate folder in my Internet favorites of each offending company’s website bookmarked for future reference) and we WILL contact the Better Business Bureau, the FCC as well as the FTC to file a complaint.
DON’T. DO NOT try to intimidate us. Many a salesperson (both men AND women, SHAME on you women) will revert to Neanderthal intimidation tactics when confronted by a diligent Gatekeeper. NEVER, EVER utter the words, “You’re just the receptionist” in anger, for this will be your death knell. The silence will be deafening just before you hear the almighty “click” of your last chance at getting through. EVER.
In your frustration and fury at my boldness for hanging up, should you feel the urge to call back and wish to speak with MY manager to complain about being treated with the same level of rudeness you instilled on me, (the Gatekeeper reports to EVERYONE, I can pick and choose WHICH manager to send you to), remember this…be careful what you wish for. I have no qualms whatsoever about passing you through, he/she will likely tear you a new one harsher than I because now you’re wasting both my time and THEIRS.
EXTRA CREDIT. If English is your second language and I have a hard time understanding you, YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT THROUGH. The kiss of death is to call, speaking in broken English, then ask for “whoever makes the decision on <insert topic here>”.
However, this may be a personal preference, but if you can affect an intriguing accent such as British, Scottish or Australian accent, you have a better shot at getting through a female receptionist. American women LOVE a bit of the brogue! Use words like lass, blimey, bits, ta, crikey, toodle pip and cheers. You will hear our voice light up! This will make it easier for you to “bond” with her while trying to “fish” for pertinent information.
A deep Southern accent, with a lot of “y’alls” and grammar that reinforces the fact that Georgia ranks 50th in SAT scores will not help. Mention that you have a blog, and I will hang up on you.
Thank you for calling and have a nice day,
Michele the Gatekeeper
Michele is currently protecting her executive team at a software company based in Boston, MA.