Top 10 Gatekeeper Tactics for Sales Reps

Many sales and business development professionals feel that gatekeepers are the bane of their existence, but complaining about it — or worse, just quitting — is the wrong approach. Instead, the most successful sales professionals think of creative ways to get around the gatekeeper and sometimes even leverage the gatekeeper as a resource to help with the sale.

Over the years I have gathered tactics for working with gatekeepers from many of the sales professionals I have worked with. Here are the top 10:

1. Don’t sound like a sales person when you ask for the contact

This is the first mistake that most people make. If you sound like you know the person you are trying to reach, you are a lot more likely to get through without any questions.

Instead of: “Hi this is Bob for Acme Inc., I’m looking for Michael Ka…Kaplansky? Is he available?”
Try asking with confidence: “Hi, is Mike there please?”

The second approach will work much better, but you have to be confident, quick on your toes, and prepared to answer follow up questions like, “Mike who?” and “Who is this?”

2. Build a rapport with the gatekeeper

Make sure to get his or her name every time, and make a note of it for the next time you call – people like hearing their name, and it creates an instant bond. “Thanks Rebecca,” sounds a lot better than “Thanks, bye.” She will remember that touch the next time you call.

Match tonality and empathize with the gatekeeper. If he sounds like he is having a bad day, show empathy by adjusting your tone: “Gee, it sounds like you might be having a bad day, would it be better if I called back another time?”

Ask, “How is your day going?” Most sales people don’t do that. It will set you apart. Use humor!

3. Be friendly, brutally honest, and ask for help

“Ms. Gatekeeper, I have been trying everything to get in touch with Mr. Decision Maker over the last few weeks. I could really use your help. What would you suggest would be the best way to get in touch with Mr. Decision Maker?”

If you make the gatekeeper your ally, she will want to help you.

4. Treat the gatekeeper like a concierge, not a bouncer

A concierge is someone whose job is to provide people with the information they are looking for or accomplish a task. Use the gatekeeper to get other relevant info that can help you with the sale, such as:

  • Company info
  • Contact info for other contacts
  • Best time/way to reach the decision maker
  • Other people who might be involved in the decision-making process

Many gatekeepers will have access to their boss’s calendar – ask to get 15 minutes on the calendar.

5. Use flattery

“Gee Elise, I really like that name. It’s actually my daughter’s name.” This typically works better when the gatekeeper is of the opposite gender.

For really important deals, sending flowers, a bottle of wine or bourbon, or some nice cigars addressed to the gatekeeper with a note will almost always get you a meeting.

6. Leverage social media

Circumvent the gatekeeper altogether by trying to connect with the contact on LinkedIn or via an InMail. If they’re active on the platform, try sending a message via Twitter.

7. Ask to speak with accounts receivables

If the company you are calling has an accounts receivables department, it may be your best way in. Usually when people call into AR it’s to pay a bill, so gatekeepers will not usually filter those calls. Furthermore, most of the AR professionals I have met are extremely friendly, and would welcome any phone call in which they don’t have to negotiate with an angry client who doesn’t pay on time. Once you get them on the phone just explain why you are calling and ask for their help. You may be surprised by what you find.

8. Ask a technical question

GK: “What is this call regarding?”
You: “Well, I am putting together a proposal for Mrs. Decision Maker, and there were just a couple of other details that I needed from her to get this together. Do you know what the average daily site traffic and conversion rate is?

9. Send a calendar invite

Send a calendar invite to the decision maker the day before you call. Often, people will simply accept the calendar invite, so when you call the next day you can simply say, “I’m looking for Mike. He should be expecting my call. I sent over a meeting invite yesterday.”

10. Use an email return receipt

Send your prospect an email with return receipt turned on, so that you get a notification when they open it. When you get the notification you know that they are either at their desk or by their phone. That is a perfect time to call and get a hold of them.

There are plenty of great tactics out there. Please feel free to share some that have worked well for you in the comments. For more great tips on improving your sales strategy and growing your business sign up for the OpenView newsletter.

Ori Yankelev
Ori Yankelev
VP, Sales

Ori Yankelev is Vice President, Sales at Own Backup. He was previously a Sales and Marketing Associate for OpenView.
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