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How To Get Past Any Gatekeeper in Sales (+ Scripts)

Updated Mar 18, 2024
a woman is sitting at a desk talking on a telephone .

Navigating the role of gatekeepers in sales is crucial for reaching decision-makers effectively. Often seen as barriers, gatekeepers can actually become allies when approached with the right tactics. This guide provides a proven playbook, incorporating insights from industry experts, to help you master the art of getting past gatekeepers.

What is a gatekeeper?

In sales, a gatekeeper is typically an individual who controls access to decision-makers within an organization. This role is often filled by receptionists, administrative assistants, or other staff members who manage incoming calls and visitors.

Their primary responsibility is to filter out unnecessary or unsolicited interruptions, ensuring that only relevant and important communications reach the higher-ups.

Understanding and navigating the gatekeeper’s role is crucial for sales reps aiming to reach decision-makers and pitch their products or services effectively.

How to get past the gatekeeper: 5 effective strategies proven in the field

Successfully getting past gatekeepers requires a strategic approach.

Here are five proven steps to help you navigate this challenge and connect with decision-makers.

1. Recognize the gatekeeper's role and influence

Understanding the gatekeeper's role and their potential influence is essential.

💡 Technique:

  • Approach gatekeepers with respect and recognition of their pivotal role. Treat them as a key part of the organizational structure rather than as barriers.
  • Communicate professionally, acknowledging their position and authority within the company.
  • Marcus Chan, a seasoned sales professional, emphasizes, "Act as if you already know the person you are calling, which commands authority and gets you through." This mindset helps in projecting confidence and familiarity, making gatekeepers more likely to view you as an insider.

📔 Getting past the gatekeeper scripts:

  • "Good morning, I understand Sue has a packed schedule, and I appreciate your role in managing her commitments. I’m hoping you can assist me in finding a suitable time to discuss some potentially valuable insights about [topic]."
  • "I’ve been following [ACME Co’s] exciting roll out of [Initiative]. It must be a busy time for you! Given there is a clear emphasis on [Domain], I wanted to share some relevant findings with Ismail that could help amplify your roll out plans.”

Why this works: Recognizing the gatekeeper’s importance can transform them from a barrier to a conduit, facilitating access to decision-makers. By showing appreciation for their work and understanding their role, you create a rapport that makes them more likely to assist you.

2. Personalize your approach

Personalizing your approach can significantly impact your interaction with gatekeepers, making them feel respected and part of the process.

💡 Technique:

  • Listen attentively during your interaction to catch any personal details or professional cues. Use these insights to connect on a more personal level and build rapport.
  • Mention something specific about the company or recent events to show your genuine interest and preparation.
  • Always address gatekeepers by name, and if possible, recall previous conversations or details to reinforce familiarity and trust.

📔 Getting past the gatekeeper examples:

  • "Hello [Gatekeeper’s Name], I saw your company’s announcement about the new product launch, and it’s quite impressive. I believe the insights I have could complement your current initiatives. How can we arrange a brief discussion with Sean about this?"
  • "Last time we spoke, you mentioned the challenge of integrating new software. I have some ideas that might help streamline this process for your team."

Why this works: A personalized approach not only makes the gatekeeper feel valued but also increases the likelihood of creating a memorable interaction, enhancing your chances of getting past them.

Sabri Suby, a recognised business owner and sales leader, advocates for using the first-name basis technique, noting:

"Use their first name to slip under the radar, implying familiarity and urgency."

Sabri Suby, Entrepreneur and featured Shark on Australia's Shark Tank

This strategy reinforces the personal connection you are building.

3. Be direct but polite

Morgan J Ingram, a well known sales leader and advisor, recommends that reps "interrupt the gatekeeper's routine question pattern with a direct and quick request to increase your chances of being put through."

💡 Technique:

  • Be transparent about your intentions but ensure your tone remains respectful and professional. This balance can help in building a rapport while being straightforward.
  • Utilize the "direct approach" technique, where you state your purpose confidently and courteously, as if expecting to be put through.
  • Avoid using overly salesy language or sounding too rehearsed, which can signal to the gatekeeper that you are merely another sales call.

📔 Getting past the gatekeeper scripts:

  • "May I speak with Beth regarding a potential marketing collaboration? I’d appreciate your help with facilitating a connection on this."
  • "Could you please connect me Tony assuming he’s still overseeing your logistics improvements? I have some targeted solutions that could benefit Tony’s team."

Why this works: This approach reduces ambiguity and shows that you value the gatekeeper’s role in the process, promoting a positive interaction. Being direct but polite ensures the conversation remains professional and focused, increasing the likelihood of success.

4. Offer value from the start

Gatekeepers are more likely to grant access to their superiors if they perceive immediate value in your proposition.

💡 Technique:

  • Quickly articulate how your product or service can solve a current problem or enhance the company’s operations. Be prepared with data or case studies to back up your claims.
  • Incorporate the principle of authority by speaking confidently, demonstrating your expertise right from the start.
  • Explain briefly how other companies have benefited from your services, providing concrete examples that the gatekeeper can relay to the decision-maker.

📔 Getting past the gatekeeper examples:

  • "Our recent work with similar companies has led to a 30% increase in process efficiency. I’m eager to discuss how we could achieve similar results for [Company Name]. Who is the best person to speak to about this?"
  • "Given your focus on sustainability, our energy-efficient solutions have helped companies like yours reduce their carbon footprint by 15% within the first year."

Why this works: Providing immediate value and demonstrating authority in your field sets you apart from typical cold calls. This approach ensures that the gatekeeper sees the potential benefit of your call, making it more likely that they will connect you with a decision-maker.

5. Use strategic questioning

Strategic questioning can engage the gatekeeper in a substantive conversation, demonstrating your interest in the company’s challenges and your respect for their knowledge.

💡 Technique:

  • Ask questions that go beyond simple facts, inviting the gatekeeper to share insights about the company’s needs and the decision-maker's priorities.
  • Use questions that subtly assert your familiarity with the industry, thus positioning yourself as a knowledgeable and valuable caller.
  • Focus on open-ended questions that stimulate discussion and make the gatekeeper think about how you might be able to help, rather than closing off the conversation.

📔 Getting past the gatekeeper scripts:

  • "In your experience, what are the current priorities for [Decision Maker’s Name] in optimizing your operations? I have some thoughts on how we might be able to support those goals."
  • "How has the recent change in regulations affected your team’s strategy? I specialize in compliance solutions that could ease this transition."

Why this works: Engaging the gatekeeper with thoughtful, strategic questions not only shows respect for their role but also positions you as a thoughtful and knowledgeable resource. This approach increases the likelihood that the gatekeeper will view your interaction positively and facilitate a connection with the decision-maker.

As Chet Holmes, the popular author of the book 'The Ultimate Sales Machine,' emphasizes:

"Never pitch to the gatekeeper unless all else fails. Win them over first by establishing rapport and demonstrating knowledge."

Chet Holmes

This advice underscores the importance of using strategic questioning to build a relationship with the gatekeeper rather than overtly selling to them.

Pro-tips for getting past the gatekeeper when cold calling

Cold calling can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor when you uncover a working approach:

Here are some pro tips to enhance your cold-calling efforts:

  • Do your research: Before making a call, research the company and the decision-maker you are trying to reach. This will help you tailor your pitch and demonstrate your preparedness and genuine interest.
  • Prepare a strong opening: Your opening statement should be compelling and concise. Capture the gatekeeper's or decision-maker's attention within the first few seconds.
  • Practice active listening: Pay attention to the responses you receive and adapt your approach based on the feedback. Active listening shows respect and helps build rapport.
  • Follow-up: Persistence is key in sales. If you don't get through on the first attempt, follow up with a polite and professional email or call.
  • Stay positive and confident: Rejections are part of the process. Maintain a positive attitude and confidence in your product or service, as this will reflect in your communication and increase your chances of success.

Final thoughts

Effectively getting past gatekeepers involves recognizing their role, personalizing your approach, being direct yet polite, offering immediate value, and engaging with insightful questions.

By employing these refined strategies and respecting the gatekeeper’s position, you can enhance your chances of reaching decision-makers and fostering successful business relationships.