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Cold Calling: How to Get Past the Gatekeeper

By Ray Makela

On this episode, CEO of ioFunnel Ankur asks: Often after dropping an email or LinkedIn message we try to follow up with a decision maker by phone. In most cases, we are greeted by a gatekeeper who politely asks us to drop the decision maker an email—we rarely get a response. How would you get past the gatekeeper to talk to the decision maker?

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Video Transcript

Well, thank you for that question. It's one I appreciate because we've all run into it in the past. Gatekeepers have gotten very good at their job which is protecting that key decision maker from the vendors, their partners, and the salespeople who are calling on them every day.
 
So, of course, they're going to say, "Send us some more information or shoot us an e-mail, I'll make sure it gets to him or her." And once we're in that position, we've lost control of the conversation.
 
So you know there are a lot of suggestions out there that say, well we should make sure we're in the driver seat and call him by first name. We should be presumptuous and call in as if we've already got the appointment. The problem is most gatekeepers know all those tactics, all those drills and in fact, we've probably had them performed on us. Oftentimes it is pretty irritating to have somebody call us by first name or assume that we're just going to take the call. So I'd like to rethink that a little bit and this goes to the compelling reason that the decision maker wants to talk to you.
 
Unless we've thought that through and have that in our mind before we call, I don't think we should expect a phone call to go through or for them to respond to our email or voice message.
 
So, some of the things we might do to make that compelling case and create that interest is to provide a gift of content in advance. So maybe we've sent an article or a white paper, and we're calling to follow up on that. I especially like the idea of sending them a letter. Maybe that's a handwritten note, or a copy of an article with our note on top so that when we're calling, we're saying, "I'm following up on the letter I sent on September 15th that he should have received two days ago."
 
Now that's a much more compelling and much more interesting way of capturing the interest. I think also an invitation. So, I'm following up on the invitation that I sent on September 15th. I'd like to see if Tom is interested in responding or being part of this executive only session that we're holding. If you have an article or a book that you published, being able to send that in advance and then follow up, is another great way of getting their attention.
 
To recap, we're putting it in a context that the gatekeeper can't say no because that information's already out there. They're going to be hopefully thinking to themselves, "Well, is my boss (my decision maker) going to be upset if they don't get this information or if they don't get this request?"
 
This is so compelling that they will probably want to take the phone call or at least be put through to have that conversation. So again, I think beyond some of those tips and tricks we may have heard in the past, we need to think hard about what's going to be compelling.
 
What piece of interesting information can we make that's going to cause that person to take notice—and give us the opportunity to have a conversation.
 
So those are some of the thoughts on how we get past that gatekeeper. If they say "just send an email", if we do that, realize you've lost control of the conversation. They're probably not going to respond. Let's give them a reason, let's give them that compelling reason for them to actually want to take your call and return the message.

SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.  

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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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