Getting Past The Gatekeeper on The Phone

“How can I get through to decision makers that have secretaries/gatekeepers receiving all voice-mails? I am finding that a lot of C-Level and higher executives do not have their own voicemail and instead have all calls filtered to a secretary’s voicemail box. Does anyone have any advice on how to get a decision maker to call back?? (and before you suggest – yes I’ve emailed and mailed directly.)”

[This was adapted from a question posted on the Sales Best Practices Network on LinkedIn. I’ve included my answers, as well as synthesized some of the other great answers too.]

This is a great question – whether you are in entry level sales or are a small business owner trying to build business.

First off, it’s important to know whether or not you’ve ever met the decision-maker before, or if you have some legitimate connection to him or her. If you’re cold calling (which in my opinion is usually one of the most time consuming and least efficient ways of generating sales) then this is A LOT tougher. If you’ve met them before, then I would suggest:

→ The Casual: “Hi Geri, This is Sarah, we met at the…. We chatted for a while about… I thought of you today because something came up that reminded me of our conversation. Give me a call…”

→ The Funny: “Hi Geri, This is Sarah from the other day. We met at… Anyways, something funny came across my desk and it reminded me of our conversation. Give me a call…” [Be ready with something funny and relevant!]

→ The Relevant: “Hi Geri, I just came across (an article of you, a picture, a book) that is relevant to your business. Give me a call…”

→ The lead: “Hi Geri, I have someone who might be interested in your services, but am not sure if you’re interested in new business. Call me back at…”

If this is a cold call, it’s hit or miss, really. In general, it helps a lot if you know that they’re looking for what you’re selling. Here are some ideas for how to make it “warmer:”

→ The Referral: Ideally, if you can drop a name of someone that they know/recognize/respect, that usually helps – assuming it’s for real. For example, “Hello Geri (PS – I never use Mister or Ms because it screams: “SALES”), this is Sarah…. So-and-so suggested I give you a call. You can reach me at…”

→ The Name Drop: “Hi Geri, This is… I’ve worked with your (friend, colleague, client, competitor…) Please give me a call back…”

→ If you absolutely must give information over the phone, regarding… (and make this something that shows a compelling benefit to them, rather than something YOU want or need – for example: “I think we can help you grow your response to the direct mail campaigns your currently working on.”)

→ Be very vague. Don’t give any details at all: “Hello Geri, this is Sara X. Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience.”

Some great advice that others gave include:

→ A lot of executives are in before their admins and/or stay later (good time for a quick call to setup a discussion at a more appropriate time.) Submitted by Derek Gavigan

→ Leave a voicemail for the admin that you need their help. State you have questions for them. Engage in discussion that shows them you respect them and their relationship with the executive. You may get coached a little versus getting dropped into an executive call after the admin told them to you’re just another sales rep calling to waste their time. Look at them as coaches and not as gatekeepers moving forward. You may find out more info from the admin than you think. They are often privy to some very valuable intelligence. (Submitted by Derek Gavigan)

Here are some general tips:

→ Keep it casual

→ Don’t give out too much information in a message (especially if you’re selling something – I usually give away none unless I already know there’s interest)

→ Try to pique their interest somehow

→ Refer to something (or someone) they recognize

→ Make it seem important (so that the gatekeeper worries about NOT passing the message along)

→ If you must give information, make sure you focus on the value to THEM

→ Don’t dismiss the assistant/secretary as a “gatekeeper” – they can help you and give you valuable advice, not to mention access. Establish a relationship with them, and you’ll have a better chance of getting through to their boss.

Best of luck!

Michelle Villalobos

For more great tips, tricks & techniques, visit my website

2 thoughts on “Getting Past The Gatekeeper on The Phone

  1. Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  2. terrific site this great to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

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