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Navigating Gatekeepers: Strategies for Getting Past the Initial Obstacles in Cold Calling

Learn proven strategies to overcome initial obstacles and reach decision-makers effectively. Elevate your outreach game with expert insights.
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Every salesperson needs to master the art of cold calling. Part of that mastery is knowing how to deal with obstacles that may come up during the call- such as the gatekeeper. A gatekeeper is a person who acts as a medium between a sales representative and the decision-maker at the company you’re pitching to- and is, in fact, one of the most common hurdles you can face when cold calling.

The Impact of Gatekeepers on Cold Calling

Though cold calling is a tried-and-true tactic for outbound lead generation and sales growth, most salespeople view it as a necessary evil. In fact, a survey by CSO Insights revealed that 42% of sales representatives felt unprepared for cold calls. With that information, it’s no surprise that many cold call campaigns tend to fizzle out even before the caller gets the chance to speak to an individual with purchasing power.

Gatekeepers are essentially a barrier and the person you need to speak to to close a deal. They impact your sales process by creating an extra step that needs to be completed before you can turn a lead into a paying customer.

Every experienced salesperson will have dealt with gatekeepers at some point. Knowing how to get past their objections and reach your ideal prospect separates average sales representatives from selling superstars.

How Gatekeepers Can Thwart Cold Calls

If you are going to bypass gatekeepers with ease, you must first understand what their role is within their organization.

“Know your enemy,” wrote Sun Tzu in The Art of War. Salespeople and gatekeepers aren’t meeting on the battlefield, but their relationship can be quite adversarial.

Gatekeepers are usually receptionists, executive assistants, or office managers. Since they handle the appointments for C-level executives, they must be protective of their time and avoid pointless meetings. This is the biggest point of conflict between salespeople and enterprise gatekeepers.

In addition to screening calls for their assigned C-level executive, they have multiple other responsibilities at work. To perform those duties better, they are trained to shut down unproductive calls. Your goal as a salesperson is to engage with the gatekeeper. Only after you have convinced them of your value will they allow you to speak to a decision-maker.

7 Tips to Get Past Gatekeepers While Cold Calling

Too many sales reps make the mistake of trying to reach a prospect by going around the gatekeeper. This can be counterproductive since the gatekeeper’s role exists for a reason. It is far more effective to meaningfully engage with gatekeepers and use them to get your prospect’s undivided attention.

Having the gatekeeper on your side lets the decision maker know your offer is serious since someone they trust is vouching for you. Put it this way: It’s much easier to stroll through an open gate than clamber over a pointy fence!

Here’s what you can do to win over your gatekeeper!

1. Do Your Research

Cold calling is more effective when you show the gatekeeper you are knowledgeable about their organization’s needs. Arm yourself with information about the company, and bring it up during your cold call to display your awareness.

Mention how you can help the company with its existing problems, and name-drop the decision makers on your leads list. If the gatekeeper is convinced you can provide solutions, they will likely let you through.

2. Don’t Sell to Gatekeepers

Most sales reps have a script for speaking to decision-makers. Using that same script on gatekeepers is a classic blunder. Gatekeepers are not your target demographic, so they won’t share the same pain points as your ideal customer profile.

The objective of any conversation with a gatekeeper is to convince them that you deserve a meeting, not to make a purchase. Tailor a script for dealing with gatekeepers that addresses their objections and concerns, which are independent of the decision maker’s.

3. Foster Familiarity

With diligent research, it’s possible to learn the gatekeeper’s name even before you call. Addressing them by their name when they answer your call can grab their attention more effectively than a bland introduction.

Take the time to speak to the gatekeepers since they may not always let you through on the first call. If you take the time to build a cordial relationship, the odds of them patching you through to a decision-maker increase with each successive call.

4. Bring Up References

One of the best ways to convince gatekeepers of your usefulness is to offer credible references. It’s always a bonus if the reference is someone within the organization whom the gatekeeper already knows. Since members of the same organization share a common goal, an internal reference is like a stamp of authenticity to gatekeepers.

References from outside the organization have value as well. Mentioning the name of an industry peer, especially one the gatekeeper knows, can act as the foundation for a connection.

5. Be Honest

Sometimes, the process of getting past gatekeepers can be frustrating. Salespeople can be tempted into attempting to pull a fast one now and then. But if you are dishonest with the gatekeeper, say by lying about having an appointment with your prospect, it can easily backfire on you.

Be upfront with your intentions. Clearly state your intention to offer a solution, and explain why it’s worth an executive’s time.

6. Use the 3 Ps: Patience, Politeness, and Persistence

There are three surefire ways to antagonize a gatekeeper: Being rude, failing to follow up, and losing patience. You should always engage with gatekeepers calmly and confidently since you might have to call them several times before you break through to your prospect.

The 3 Ps of cold calling, patience, politeness, and persistence, will keep your relationship with the gatekeepers positive and fruitful.

7. Call Outside Business Hours

Let’s be honest, sometimes a gatekeeper is just like a brick wall, and salespeople can’t bypass them no matter what they try. That doesn’t mean they should give up contacting their prospect, though.

C-level executives often work longer hours than their gatekeepers, coming in early or leaving late to catch up on their work. Try calling when you know a difficult gatekeeper might not be at work, and your target might just answer the phone themselves!

Use Verified Leads to Bypass Gatekeepers on Cold Calls

When you’re making cold calls, dealing with gatekeepers can be exhausting. Lead generation agencies like LevelUp Leads can arm you with leads that connect you with key decision-makers who match your ideal customer profile. Don’t let gatekeepers come between you and cold-calling success!

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