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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:

TIP 1: THE GATEKEEPER IS NOT THE ENEMY

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.

TIP 2: SOUND SENIOR

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.

TIP 3: THE GATEKEEPER IS A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE

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.

TIP 4: DON'T SELL TO THE GATEKEEPER

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.

TIP 5: ENGAGE DON'T EVADE

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.

TIP 6: EASY DOES IT

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.

TIP 7: DON'T SCRIPT, PLAN.

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.

TIP 8: WHAT'S YOUR TRANSITIVE VERB?

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.

TIP 9: IS SHE EXPECTING YOUR CALL?

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'.

TIP 10: THE LAST BEST SOLUTION

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.

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