So you’ve done your homework, and you’ve identified the ideal contact within the account to reach out to.
But three weeks and a dozen phone calls later, you’re still no closer to actually talking to the decision maker.
It’s more than likely the gatekeeper is screening your call.
To have as successful sales career, you must learn how to get through a tough gatekeeper screening. Here are some tips for achieving that.
Identify the type of screen you’re facing
There are two types of screens: The investigation screen and the blind screen.
The investigation screen is exactly what it sounds like. The gatekeeper asks you a ton of questions, like so:
Rep: “Is Andy Beavon available?”
Gatekeeper: “Who’s calling?”
Rep: “This is Lisa Brown from ABC.”
Gatekeeper: “And what’s your call in connection with, Lisa?”
Rep: “I’d like to talk to him about our mailing lists.”
Gatekeeper: “And have you spoke to Andy before?”
Rep: “No, I haven’t.”
Gatekeeper: “I’m sorry Lisa, Andy is in a meeting at the moment. Can I take a message for you?”
The gatekeeper is usually pleasant and willing to talk, which leads many salespeople to fall into the trap of chit-chatting with them. However, don’t try to butter them up in the hopes of increasing your chances of getting through. Like today’s modern buyer, today’s modern gatekeeper is sophisticated and sales-savvy.
Then there’s the blind screen -- the gatekeeper hardly asks you anything at all apart from your name. If your name is not instantly recognizable, you’re done.
Rep: “Is Andy Beavon available, please?”
Gatekeeper: “No, he’s not in at the moment. Who’s calling?”
Rep: “This is Lisa Brown from ABC.”
Gatekeeper: “I’m sorry, Lisa, Andy is out at the moment. Can I take a message?”
This type of gatekeeper usually has a more subdued and business-like personality.
They’ll often come across as impatient -- they have no time and want you to just go away.
How to get past each screen
It’s important to quickly recognize the type of screen you’re facing, because they each call for the exact opposite technique. To negotiate each type of screen, you want to defy the expectations of what the gatekeeper wants, expects, and is trained to handle.
Here’s what I mean: For the investigation screen, remember, that this gatekeeper seems to have a lot of time, a pleasant personality and is the chatty type.
To negotiate this screen, you want to reflect the attitude of the blind screen gatekeeper: Serious, business-like, and time-conscious. When you’re asked a question, respond with a quick, almost curt answer -- as if you expect to be put through.
However, don’t be rude or obnoxious. The words you use should be courteous and respectful.
When you project importance, you force the gatekeeper to make a quick decision. They can either ask you more questions, and risk annoying a VIP, or simply put you through and leave it to the decision maker.
The latter option is always less of a risk.
The same principle applies to the blind screen. This gatekeeper has no time and does not want to chat. So, take on the persona of someone who is very pleasant and and likes to talk. Once again, the gatekeeper is forced to make a quick decision: They can spend their time talking to you, put you on hold, or hang up. These options are far riskier than connecting you to the decision maker.
To double your chances of reaching the decision maker, first recognize which type of screen you’re up against. Then take the exact opposite approach of what they’re accustomed to.
What do you say to get through gatekeepers? Share your plans in the comments below.