Getting past gatekeepers on a telemarketing call is an essential skill. It isn’t always the case though since some gatekeepers are simply there to provide a call forwarding service to take you to the decision maker. That’s often the case in smaller organisations but these types of gatekeeper are not what I’m referring to in this article.
This blog concerns b2b appointment setting calls and gatekeepers that are professional. These are the adversaries that often provide an impenetrable barrier between you and your cold calling goals.
My definition of a gatekeeper is anyone between you and the decision maker that has the capacity or job role to block you. If you can’t get through gatekeepers, chances are you won’t have a successful time making cold calls.
Below are my 5 tips for getting past gatekeepers on a telemarketing call
1. Put Yourself in the Gatekeepers Shoes
In large organisations, the gatekeeper has an important role in the company. Many gatekeepers have been in the department for some time and they understand the business, the workings of the department, the suppliers to that department and also the schedules of and pressures on the head of that department. They are also pretty busy individuals. With that in mind, how do you feel the gatekeeper will react when your cold call comes in? Will they welcome you with open arms or perhaps be suspicious or inquisitive? This is an interruption. There is also risk attached. Both for the gatekeeper and the business. If he or she chooses to put your call through, their credibility is at stake with their boss. Likewise, their boss has many other things to do and time is a precious commodity.
So, recognise this situation and consider very carefully your reason for calling and proposition and whether that is compelling and worthy of being put through.
2. To Build Rapport or Not to Build Rapport
This sounds like a daft question and it is one that vexes many professionals. It is a subject that is often debated in cold calling forums. And there is not one answer to this. My view is that rapport in cold calling is always essential. However, I take the view that, with professional gatekeepers rapport building at the start of the call is dangerous. Yes, a friendly and engaging tone is an asset. However, it is no substitute for a compelling reason for calling and regardless of this, if you allow the gatekeeper to know your stated objective right off the bat, they will make their own judgment call as to whether your call is worthy. Inevitably, that will be based on their knowledge and perception. Unfortunately, they are not in position to make those decisions and if you allow the gatekeeper to do this, you risk losing the opportunity with the real decision maker. Therefore,my preferred route is to keep the initial conversation with the gatekeeper short, to the point and assertive. You need to sound authoritative and professional and simply ask to be put through.
3. Be Prepared for Gatekeeper Questions
More professional gatekeepers won’t let you get away with a short sharp ‘John Smith please’ type of intro. The response may feel the Spanish Inquisition. You may be peppered with lots of questions. But this is where you need to keep your cool and prepare. A good cold caller knows how much info to divulge and knows that you only divulge the minimum amount of information with each question. The more information you provide at this point the more ammunition the gatekeeper has to shoot you with. Remember that professional gatekeepers are well versed in how the organisation operates. They most likely know suppliers and understand the time constraints of their boss. Therefore, if you provide comprehensive answers on the telephone to every question, he or she will once again judge whether your call is worthwhile. You need to keep calm, plan your answers and remain confident and assertive. After all, why would a gatekeeper put through a weak uninspiring caller with a poor proposition? And remember, most gatekeeper questions are standard in nature e.g. Name, company, reason for call etc. With that knowledge you can plan your responses.
4. Use Gatekeeper Techniques
This is a long subject and one that is part of cold calling training. It needs much more time than this short blog. However, a key technique that I use is called embedded commands. Simply put, this means that you make the call in an assertive manner, provide limited information and add the words thanks or thank you at the end of your sentence. For example,
John Smith Please
Yes. Who is calling? – yes it’s Barry White, thank you…
And which company Barry? – From GSA! Thanks….
And what’s it concerning? – Yes. Would you tell John, it’s with regard to……… Thank you.
The ‘Would You’ at the start of the sentence is not a question. It is a command and should be spoken as such. The ‘Thank You’ at the end of the sentence has the express aim of making the gatekeeper understand that you are ‘done’ with talking and they should put you through.
The above is a very effective ploy when dealing with gatekeepers but it only works when you say it with an appropriately authoritative tone.
5. Think on Your Feet
The above notwithstanding, a good cold caller needs to be able to listen and think on their feet. They need to skills to be able to establish what kind of gatekeeper they have in front of them. In a large percentage of cases, that’s possibly in the opening words that the gatekeeper uses. If the telemarketer listens carefully, they can pick up tonality, warmth, level of engagement and so on. It’s at that point that you need to consider approach. My preference is still the approach above. However, if the gatekeeper still blocks you, and that’s the case on several call backs, perhaps the next approach is to build greater rapport if this gatekeeper is more open. The pitfall is that they may still not put you through but a telemarketer can often tell just by the warmth of tone whether they will try. Either way, you still need a compelling reason for calling and to plan your approach.
Gatekeeper techniques are fundamental factors in your telemarketing success. Lead generation does not happen by chance. And where you want to do b2b appointment setting into large organisations for big ticket sales, training is essential and overcoming gatekeeper blocks is an essential part of the day job.
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Already doing telemarketing yourself but not getting the results you need? GSA can also provide telemarketing training for your existing staff, bringing them new skills, telemarketing tips, know-how or just a different approach. Also, check out our essential guide to telemarketing success.