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Make friends with the gatekeeper! 10 ideas for getting through on the phone and leaving your competition out in the cold...

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make him or her money, save time, you name it - if only you could just get through!! Having just spent the best part of a whole morning phoning my prospect list, I became aware of many of the in-built strategies I employ when approaching gatekeepers, that I feel have given me the edge, so I thought, why not share a few?

The first thing to remember is that although you are unique and have a unique proposition, your prospect is probably getting tens if not hundreds of inbound calls a day.

It would be entirely possible for some managers within organisations to answer sales calls and do nothing else whatsoever.

You appreciate these people need protecting. We live in the days of CTPS, (Corporate Telephone Preference Service) it may be called something else where you live. Essentially this is the trend for companies to opt-out of receiving unsolicited telephone calls.

The trend for companies to opt-out of receiving calls means essentially there are less prospects left that you can legally make a cold call to.

Think about it, the companies left on databases that will accept calls, are going to be getting many more of them, and this trend will only continue in the future.

Hence the reason for employing PA's, briefing colleagues and receptionists to block your call, or at the very least, filter it, to avoid you potentially wasting their time.

The irony of opting out of receiving sales calls, is that the companies doing this usually employ outbound telephone marketers of their own. sometimes into the hundreds! I can understand it from both points of view, but that's the situation, so we have to live with it.

People will always make sales calls, in the future it will mean as in all means of media communication, we will have to enhance our quality and pay much more attention to segmenting the right kind of prospect, who is much more likely to want to take our call as he or she actually wants to hear from us.

The tips...

1. Have a positive approach. Read any book by Napoleon Hill i.e. Success through a positive mental attitude, to get this message fully. Even if you can't get through, you need to create a positive association in the gatekeepers mind, this means being pleasant, having a little well-placed humour here and there. If there is a positive association, the gatekeeper will actually help you to get through, and keep taking your calls. I don't mean faking it here, make it natural and who you really are.

2. Statement-suggestion. This is for when you have been asked the reason for your call by a receptionist or colleague. it means telling the gatekeeper the reason concisely, then in the same sentence, without a gap for breath, your suggestion for a next action. then you go quickly. You are trying to avoid them asking for you to leave a message, or telling you "I'm sure if Mr x was interested he will call you".

3. Leave a message? Whether you do or don't is personal preference, I suggest exhausting all avenues to get through before leaving a message. If you just can't get through, try leaving a message with a little more enticing than just your name and number. Keep it short and ask for what you want with a good reason for your prospect to respond. After leaving a message, leave a day or so and try calling again a few times before leaving another one.

4. In the office? Far too many times, outbound telemarketers make multiple calls to a prospect when he isn't even in the office. If you get through to a prospect, check every time, is he/she in the office? If not, then when are they expected back? I find many times that a receptionist or colleague will just keep putting you through to voicemail in the full knowledge that your prospect is out, or even on holiday.

5. I was just speaking to... If you have been put through from one gatekeeper to the other, this technique involves you giving the impression that the first one thought your call was of interest and was almost recommending it to the second one. This is also good when your original prospect is not the right person and they have put you through to the decision maker, use an implied recommendation so your call appears a little less cold. This should only be used subtly, don't make a meal of it.

6. Coming clean. You get to a point sometimes when you are asked a direct question about why you are calling, and you can't get out quick like in idea 2, and I find that it really does pay just to tell it straight. Just tell the gatekeeper in the simplest terms the reason for the call, that the person won't be expecting the call, but you are following up information etc... Your honesty and straightforwardness will be valued and you are often put straight through.

7. Time Variation. Really simple, if you can't get through and you are tending to call in normal hours, you keep getting through to the same colleague or receptionist and they are not putting you through. Try varying the times you call. Try early, try late, try lunchtime, try very late or very early (depends on your determination). Most of your competition will have just given up, you often find that senior decision makers stay in the office late, and are the first in, in the morning.

8. Sound purposeful. Part of the positive approach, but this is you concentrating on how you sound. Use an upbeat tone, speak clearly with reasonable pace, avoid the filler words like "er", "erm", etc. The fact is, you are ten times more likely to be put through if your voice sounds confident and gives the gatekeeper the impression that there is some existing dialogue between you and the prospect. Sound like it is a foregone conclusion that you will be put straight through, and you often will be, without question!

9. Manners. Another one that should be a staple for you as a professional, but it really works if you can be polite, thank the gatekeeper, even if you were rejected, even if they were off with you, whatever. Have good manners, always take time to say "bye" before putting the phone down. This alone will separate you from many members of your competition who just don't get it. You will get through much more often than them.

10. Knowing when to quit. I remember this guy, calling me time and time again, I shouldn't have been a target of his, and I could never have needed his product as it was not appropriate for me. I remember telling him again and again, it just didn't get through. I wondered how much time he was wasting in the no mans land of sales, barking up the wrong tree with me. There comes a time when you have to look at your list and divert your efforts to better hunting grounds. If you have really tried, you have exhausted reasonable efforts to get through to a good prospect, move on, there are plenty more fish as they say!

Finally, remember however hungry you are for appointments, gatekeepers are people just like you. Think of it like this - If they are diverting most your competition, and you learn the techniques and practise them enough to be put through more often, your prospect will be receptive, less call-weary and in a position to hear what you have to say. The gatekeeper is your friend!

Make a point of being a professional, respect yourself and think of what you are doing only in positive terms. You will achieve more appointments and sales and increase your income substantially. Apply this philosophy to your work and your whole life and the results will be amazing.

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