Here are some tips and tactics that can improve the interactions you have with gatekeepers.

One of the reasons that gatekeepers can sometimes be difficult and unpleasant is that they are sometimes instructed to keep salespeople out. Gatekeepers are often trained on how to identify when calls are from salespeople who are trying to sell something and how to keep them from getting through to prospects. In many situations, the gatekeeper can actually get in trouble or look bad when salespeople slip past them.

Since many gatekeepers will be instructed to keep salespeople out, you can decrease the level of difficulty that you face by trying to not sound like a salesperson who is trying to sell something. One example of how you can do this is to try to avoid asking the gatekeeper to connect you with someone who makes a particular type of decisions with this type of question:

Can you connect me with the person that makes decisions regarding your website?

This basically tells the gatekeeper that you want to try to sell something that pertains to the website, and it will let the gatekeeper know that he or she needs to be very cautious about letting you in. Try to perform research to find the actual names of people you should to talk to or ask for the title of the person with something like this:

Can you connect me with the director of marketing?

The other area in which you need to be careful about not sounding like a salesperson is how you respond to the gatekeeper’s objections, and we will discuss that later in this chapter.

Sometimes you can try to recruit the gatekeeper to help you in your effort to figure out who to talk to. This is not necessarily an option when your gatekeeper is in full “get rid of you” mode as he or she will have zero interest in trying to help you. But when you first start a call with a gatekeeper and have not triggered guardedness, you can try to get the gatekeeper to take more of a helpful role by starting out with one of the statements below:

Maybe you can help me with this.
Maybe you can point me in the right direction.
I am not really sure who I need to speak with.
I might need your help with this one.

Adding your question after that could end up looking something like this:

Maybe you can help me with this. I usually work with directors of finance, and I am having trouble finding that person in your organization. Do you know who I should reach out to?

I am not really sure who I need to speak with. I usually work with directors of finance, and I am having trouble finding that person in your organization. Do you know who I should reach out to?

To improve the odds of this working, try to speak in a way that sounds like a mix of curious and a little lost. If you don’t know what this sounds like, try to make the face you would have if you were confused about something when you are talking to the gatekeeper.

If it does not look like the gatekeeper is going to let you through, simply shift gears and start treating the gatekeeper like the target prospect. There are two different ways to do this. First, if the gatekeeper does not understand who you are, who you should talk to, or why the target prospect will want to talk to you, you can try to take a step back and educate the gatekeeper on all of this by sharing either your value points, pain points, or name-drop.

Another way to disarm gatekeepers is to name-drop other people you have spoken to in the organization so that you don’t look like an outsider who is calling to try to work your way in. The way to do that is to say something like this:

I spoke with Tom Jones in accounting, and now I am trying to reach someone in HR. Do you know who the best person for me to connect with is?

By mentioning this, not only will the gatekeeper feel like you must be OK to let in because you are already somewhat on the inside, but he or she will feel like it will not be good to be rude or completely block you out because you appear to already have some existing relationships or business going on with the company.
If you like the logic with this tactic but you feel that you cannot use it because you have not spoken to anyone in the organization yet, you can modify your name-drop to use the names of people you are planning to meet with by saying something like this:

We are planning on meeting with Mary Smith next month, but we need to connect with an operations manager prior to that. Can you help point me in the right direction for who I should reach out to?

You can use this even if you don’t have meetings on the schedule because you
are saying that you are planning to meet and not that you have a meeting scheduled.