Gatekeepers are the bane of every salesperson’s existence. The assistant who answers every phone call you make to your CEO prospect; the administrator who repeatedly “takes a message” from you; the office manager who seems to guard your prospect’s schedule like a bank vault.
These dreaded gatekeepers can keep salespeople from closing deals with some of the most valuable prospects out there. Seemingly simple questions like, “May I ask the nature of this call?” can ruin an entire selling plan.
Next time there’s someone standing between you and a high-value prospect, remember these three techniques to get past the dreaded gatekeeper so you can dominate your competition in sales:
1. Avoid the gatekeeper altogether.
It might sound overly simplistic, but the best strategy is to go around the gatekeeper to avoid these difficult interactions altogether. So, how can you do it?
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Think about the typical schedule of a gatekeeper. Most executive assistants and office managers work 9-to-5 jobs. They’re unlikely to have bottom-line responsibilities that incentivize them to be in the office outside of those set hours. Your ideal high-level prospects, on the other hand, have plenty of bottom-line responsibilities. Their bonuses usually depend on the performance of the entire organization, so they’re much more likely to be in the office during odd hours.
To sneak around the gatekeeper at any company, try calling your prospect before 8:30 am, after 5:30 pm or even on a Saturday. At all of these times, you’re likely to find that the gatekeeper won’t be there. But there’s an excellent chance your prospect will be.
2. Show your authority.
If there’s no way to avoid the gatekeeper, it’s extremely important that you maintain a firm, authoritative manner during the interaction. Put yourself in their shoes: Gatekeepers have two competing responsibilities. First, they want to keep salespeople away. Second, they never want to accidentally block a call that their boss actually wants to receive.
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Use this knowledge to your advantage! Don’t back down when the gatekeeper pushes back at you. Instead of being “salesy” and trying to schmooze your way through to the prospect, do the exact opposite. Use a confident, authoritative tone and make it sound like the prospect has been expecting your call. When you don’t back down, you’re far more likely to get through to your prospect, and onto a successful sales call.
3. Vague gets through.
If you’re calling the CEO or VP of a Fortune 500 company, the gatekeepers are going to be pros at identifying and blocking salespeople. Even when you sound authoritative and firm, they’re going to ask tons of questions. You need to be prepared to answer them.
If a gatekeeper says, “May I ask where you’re calling from?” and you respond, “Oh, I’m with ABC company,” you’re dead on arrival. Instead, answer the question in a way that’s vague enough to throw off the gatekeeper. For example, when they ask where you’re calling from, simply respond by saying the name of your city.
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The less information you give to gatekeepers, the better your chances of closing more sales with high-value prospects at the end of the day.