Getting the Key to the Gate

Getting the Key to the Gate Parallax Image

When it comes to sales, decision-makers are the Holy Grail. Ultimately, that’s the person who decides who gets the business. The problem is, every sales person worth their salt knows this and that’s why these decision-makers are barraged on a daily basis by sales people and cold calls (just like yours).

Obviously they can’t respond to them all, so in order for them to get on with business at hand, ‘gatekeepers’ are put in place to protect them, screening all non-personal contact, especially cold calls. Whether it’s a receptionist, administrator or personal assistant, some get very good at their job – which is protecting their boss. So here are a few thing to bear in mind if you want to get to the decision-maker before your competitor gets there first:

Tips on getting past the gatekeeper

Know who you’re talking to – Start by doing your research and getting your facts. Find out what you can about the company and who makes the decisions. Don’t start out by aiming for the gatekeeper. Go as high as you possibly can. Unless you’re very lucky, sooner or later you will meet the gatekeeper.

When doing your research on the decision-maker, make sure you find out as much about the gatekeeper too. If you can get their name and title – even better. Make sure you remember it, because, make no mistake, you will be talking to them again!

You’re not selling to the gatekeeper – The gatekeeper has the power to connect you, so be polite and be specific. Let them know who you are and where you’re calling from. Above all, remember that you’re not selling to them; they don’t need to know about your product. You’re simply want to talk to their superior.

Imagine how many calls they have to deal with on a daily basis. Based on your knowledge of them and the company, is there anything you can do to stand out? Be confident and do what you can to sound senior. If they won’t put you through, ask how, where and when you can get in touch with the decision-maker. Aim to organise some form of direct contact whether that’s a meeting, phone number, or email.

Build a relationship - Whoever you talk to, always be polite and honest. Establish trust and build up a rapport, if possible. Try to find out things about the gatekeeper in the course of your conversations. You may be able to use these insights to your advantage. Always be cheerful and positive – that always brings out the best in people. For example, if it’s a Friday, wish them a great weekend. Let them know when you’ll call back.

Tools for breaking through

While the telephone should always be your first port of call being the quickest and most direct method, if that fails, an email costs nothing and can serve as a good introduction for a follow up call. If you can afford an experienced copywriter to create an email template for you, that could be money well spent, and a creatively thought out campaign can deliver a real return on your investment. Initially, however, go down the soft sell route. Start by introducing yourself, even tease the main benefit of what you have to offer. Follow up with a harder selling email later, perhaps with a discount or other incentive.

Direct Marketing (DM), such as a sales letter, postcard, or something more complex can break through the toughest gatekeeper, especially if it comes with a free gift or a unique creative twist. Likewise, an invite to an event will usually get through to the decision-maker, giving you more of a chance of getting through in person when you make a follow up.

Don’t give up

If after a number of attempts you’re still fobbed off, try calling out of hours, or during lunch, you might be put through to a stand-in, temp or junior who hasn’t been fully briefed on the role, or hasn’t the same gatekeeping skills.

Another option is to try to make direct contact through a social network platform. Finally, if absolutely nothing seems to be working, ask to be put through to their voicemail. It’s not ideal, but at least you’ll have the chance to make your pitch directly.

And remember, persistence does pay off. One study shows that it takes an average of 18 calls to connect to a buyer.

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