Top Ten Tips For Getting Past The Gatekeeper

Top Ten Tips For Getting Past The Gatekeeper

June 16, 2009 by Andy Dickens

If you are involved in the Telemarketing industry, you will undoubtedly be familiar with the term ‘The Gatekeeper'. This is the individual whose job it is to prevent people getting access to the Decision-Maker. Typically, this is a personal assistant or a secretary, but in some companies, it is even the receptionist or switchboard operator.

Here are ten top tips for getting past the Gatekeeper:


Whoever is acting as the Gatekeeper between you and the Decision-Maker (DM) is just doing their job.  Part of that job is managing demands on the DM's time.  Seeing the Gatekeeper as the enemy creates a self-imposed psychological barrier that it will be difficult, if not impossible to remove.


Management never gets treated the same as the workers.  If someone believes that you are important, they will treat you differently.  Using a relaxed and calm voice, speak slowly and articulately and don't divulge more than is necessary.  During the opening seconds of your conversation, if the Gatekeeper senses that you are their senior, they will not risk offending you by probing too deeply.


Remember that whilst the Gatekeeper's role is to restrict interruptions to the DM's daily routine, they do know a great deal of important information about the DM and the business.  Use this opportunity to check that the person that you want to speak to IS the decision-maker.  Check your facts with them.   Ask simple, non-intrusive open questions to try to build up a picture of both the Gatekeeper and the Decision-Maker.


The Gatekeeper has several distinct ‘powers'.  One of them is the power to connect you with the right person.  However, they do not hold any decision-making powers. When the Gatekeeper asks ‘Can I tell him/her what it's regarding?' - do not try to pitch your product or service to the Gatekeeper. Firstly, it will waste your time.  Second,  it will irritate them because they will just be waiting for an opportunity to tell you that they cannot help you.  No matter how desperate to connect with the DM you are, do not sell to the Gatekeeper.


Don't be awkward, don't try to sneak past the Gatekeeper, the chances are you'll get cut off at the knees.  Actively engage with the Gatekeeper.  Don't get too personal, don't pry, but you can gently probe.  If you can't get through to the DM, engage the Gatekeeper so that they have a positive and friendly attitude towards you when you call again.  You're unlikely to become best friends, but building a relationship and a rapport with them will help them want to help you.


If you are nervous, stressed or tense, you will transfer those feelings to your voice, your behaviour and choice of words.  All of these will make an impact on how the Gatekeeper perceives you and therefore how they receive your request for access or information.  Take some deep slow quiet breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to put yourself at ease.  When the Gatekeeper answers, smile and confidently greet them with energy and ease.


Unless you are a particularly good actor, don't use a script on the Gatekeeper.  They are likely to hear the scripted tone in your voice.  Instead, plan how you will approach them; what approaches you might take depending upon the range of responses that they might make.  Plan your responses to key objections but leave yourself room by improvising the dialogue.


Do you know that whilst you are speaking to the Gatekeeper, you are consciously or unconsciously employing a transitive verb to do something to them? A transitive verb is, if you don't know, a verb that can be done to someone else such as ‘I CHARM You, I AMUSE You, I PRESS You'.  In Oral Communications, verbs are used as tactics to get results from other people.  It's essential that you be in control of the tactics that you are playing.  Think about what tactics you will play throughout your PLAN.


This is largely irrelevant because you want to speak to the DM nonetheless.  However, in order to bypass the Gatekeeper, use the DM's first name only.  Ask ‘Can I speak to Jenny please?', it sounds like a personal call. Remember your goal is not to inform the Gatekeeper; your goal is to bypass them to get to the DM.  Next, they might ask ‘Is she expecting your call?'. Simply and easily reply ‘Yes, I sent him some information through from our Head Office, we need to discuss it before close of business today'.


It's not the best solution, and this tip often splits Telemarketers down the middle. You can always ask if you can be put through to the DM's voicemail.  Just like in a sales environment, quickly point out a benefit for the Gatekeeper of doing this.   If they say that the DM is ‘out to lunch' or ‘in a meeting' and you've already called several times, point out that you've already taken up a lot of their time and ask if they can put your through to voicemail to save bothering them further. Of course, Marketing is a personal art and what works for one, will not necessarily work for another.  These Top Ten Tips should be the starting place for developing your own personal method of bypassing the Gatekeeper, rather than seeing them as cast iron instructions to be rigidly followed.


Donald Harper's picture

The one we tell our sales teams all the time (and it sounds like we may offer some of the same services you do) is that you're a peer, not a telemarketer. Being a peer will give you more credibility.



Andrea Beadle's picture

Another good tip is to send a greetings card first. They are much more likely to get opened and can warm up your prospective client so that they know your name when you do get through!

The Gatekeeper's picture

iPods? Are you SERIOUS? That's HILARIOUS! Make mine an iPodTouch...I won't toss it but I WILL recycle it! LOL

Thanks for the heads up ma'peeps!

xxThe Gatekeeper

David Adams's picture

Fighing your way past the gatekeeper is so 1950. There are ways to simply skip the gatekeeper. For instance, using a video player like an iPod or a VideoColdCall player will get you right past the gatekeeper with a video pitch.

No gatekeeper has the guts to throw out an iPod. If you can get used iPods on Ebay you can use this technique for cheap. VCC players are arond $25.

The Gatekeeper's picture

Great stuff, keeps me on the ball!

However, any Gatekeeper worth her salary isn't likely to "fall" for Tip 2 or Tip 9!

xxThe Gatekeeper

Andy Dickens's picture

Hi Beth

Many thanks for reading and commenting on our tips.

Totally agree with suggestion of getting the Decision Maker's direct line as saves the caller so much time and potential pitfalls along the way!

Please come back soon to see other articles and don't forget to follow me on Twitter!

Kind regards


bethravery's picture

Your tips are spot on.

The one we tell our sales teams all the time (and it sounds like we may offer some of the same services you do) is that you're a peer, not a telemarketer. Being a peer will give you more credibility.

I like tip 10 as well; you'd be surprised how many will put you through to an executive's voicemail.

One thing I can not overstate, though - as we know the gatekeeper isn't going to advance your agenda, the most important thing here is to get the decision maker's direct line. Otherwise, you waste a lot of back and forth time with the assistant.

Nice post!

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