Getting past the gatekeeper—the most daunting part of cold calling for many salespeople.
You dial a contact number of a decision maker from your prospect list, hoping to book a meeting. You heave a sigh of relief as the call gets connected. But, the person on the other side of the line—an executive assistant or a receptionist—isn’t the one you were hoping to speak to. They are gatekeepers, and they decide whether or not you can reach the prospect.
Encountering gatekeepers can be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for sales reps. If a gatekeeper picks the phone, it can seem like you’ve hit a 1000-foot-high wall. On the other hand, not engaging with them altogether means missing out on potential opportunities.
So, thinking of gatekeepers as Gandalf-like figures who yell “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” is not going to help you crush your quotas. They are a part of sales prospecting. Learning to handle them effectively is bound to help you in booking more meetings. As the wise say, the best way out is through.
As part of Klenty’s SDR X Factor series, we spoke to 8 top-performing sales reps from different industries selling to different audiences to get insights on how they sell. Each of them broke down their powerful strategies for cold calling, including how they approach gatekeepers.
Here, we’ve handpicked tactics that these 8 quota-smashing SDRs use to get past the gatekeepers and book more meetings in B2B sales.
- i) Have Accurate Data on Your Prospects Through Research
- ii) Be Vulnerable and Explain Your Position to Gatekeepers
- iii) Talk to Gatekeepers Like You’ve Booked a Meeting With the Decision Maker
- iv) Namedrop Employees From Other Departments in the Organization
- v) Build Rapport With Gatekeepers if They’re the End Users of Your Product
- vi) Request Gatekeepers To Inform the Decision Maker About Your Email
- vii) Develop a Sense of Responsibility in Gatekeepers To Pass Your Message
- viii) Call a Day or Two Later To Catch Decision Makers Directly
8 Proven Ways To Get Past the Gatekeepersused by Quota-crushing SDRs
i) Have Accurate Data on Your Prospects Through Research
Nanditha Menon, top BDR at G2’s APAC sales team, avoids gatekeepers at all costs.
How does she do this? Through her research, she gets quality B2B data for outreach—including the prospect’s accurate phone numbers. She chooses to circumvent gatekeepers altogether, as she found most of them don’t understand the value of a solution as decision makers would.
This might not be successful at all times, as the phone numbers might not be completely accurate at all times. In such situations, where she could reach the prospect only through the gatekeeper, she relentlessly follows up with the gatekeeper till they connect her to the right person.
ii) Be Vulnerable and Explain Your Position to Gatekeepers
For Metadata’s Ashley Dees, sounding kind and vulnerable is the key to get past gatekeepers.
When gatekeepers refuse to transfer her phone call to the prospect, she explains her need to contact this person, and asks for suggestions from them. She would tell them, “I wouldn’t ask you to do that because I don’t want you to get in trouble. But, my boss is asking me to reach out to somebody from this account. What do you think I should do?” This will build trust between the rep and the gatekeeper.
iii) Talk to Gatekeepers Like You’ve Booked a Meeting With the Decision Maker
According to Momence’s Sam Holeman, exuding confidence in your voice is crucial to get them to connect you with the decision maker. How confident? Like you’ve already booked the meeting with the decision maker.
This usually gets the gatekeeper to connect him to the decision maker, as he found most of them to be quite helpful. But, he avoids sounding like a telemarketer to gatekeepers, as they are trained to block any cold callers with an overt sales pitch.
iv) Namedrop Employees From Other Departments in the Organization
Nikita Solberg of Deel admits they’ve come across many frustrated gatekeepers in their career. So, how do they crush their quotas by getting past them?
If they’ve already reached out to another person in the same company and then encounter a gatekeeper, Nikita would name-drop the person’s name during the conversation.
They would say something like, “I recently reached out to so-and-so at this department; they said it was interesting and that I should reach out to this department.”
This provides the necessary social proof to the gatekeepers, which would help Nikita in getting the gatekeeper to connect them with the decision maker.
v) Build Rapport With Gatekeepers if They’re the End Users of Your Product
If your solution’s end users could be the gatekeepers you’re trying to get past, take a step back and build relationships with them.
That’s what Alastair Chamberlin, Zinc’s SDR Manager, did. During his previous stint as an SDR in the travel industry, he networked with gatekeepers—mostly executive assistants and personal assistants—as they were responsible for scheduling the travels of C-level executives.
So, many gatekeepers were willing to have a conversation with Alastair once he told them about his product, as the product addressed their pain points. And, they even let him connect to the decision makers, so he booked several meetings this way.
vi) Request Gatekeepers To Inform the Decision Maker About Your Email
One thing Joel Thomas from Almabase is clear about is that SDRs should tell gatekeepers that this is indeed a sales call and shouldn’t be disingenuous.
Usually, he would tell gatekeepers that he is going to send an email with a particular subject line to the decision-maker and would request them to drop a message to the decision-maker about the email. Joel would tell them something on the lines of, “I’m going to send them an email with this subject line to the relevant person and it will help me a lot if you could drop a message saying that they’re getting this email.” He also suggests noting down their name and email address so that you can follow up by using their name if needed.
vii) Develop a Sense of Responsibility in Gatekeepers To Pass Your Message
Once he reaches a gatekeeper, Vervotech’s Aamir Sohail convinces them that he had previously reached out through emails and persuades them to pass on the message to the decision maker. If the gatekeeper suggests to reach the decision maker through voicemail, he says: “That’s okay, you don’t need to give me the voicemail, if you can just pass this message on to him, that Aamir from Vervotech has called.” This way, he tries to “create a sense of responsibility” as the gatekeeper feels responsible to deliver the message to the decision maker.
viii) Call a Day or Two Later To Catch Decision Makers Directly
Most gatekeepers tend to ask details right off the bat like your name, your company’s name, and the reason for your call. Asatta Leggett from Smart 3rd Party feels giving the gatekeepers a lot of information could be unproductive, as they could claim to pass the message and mostly won’t keep their word.
As for gatekeepers saying they would pass the message to the decision maker, she’d politely decline and would call back in a day or two to catch the prospect directly instead of going through the gatekeeper.
These 8 tried-and-tested strategies used by top-performing sales professionals will be a welcome addition to your sales arsenal. Instead of working against gatekeepers, working with them will help you book more meetings.
Most importantly, constantly remind yourself to be respectful and kind to gatekeepers. They’re just trying to do their jobs by trying to save the decision maker’s time by blocking cold callers.
Do check out the stories of the 8 top-performing reps in the SDR X Factor series for more strategies on cold calling and cold emailing!
Interviewed and written by: Akileish R.
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