A lot of people misunderstand the role of the gatekeeper, such as an executive assistant or receptionist. They assume the gatekeeper’s purpose is to prevent you from making a sale that allows you to send your kids to a good school or to pay your mortgage. The truth is quite different. If you’re dealing with a gatekeeper who is good at their job, they’re making sure their boss’s time is well spent. If someone is calling to sell timeshares in Florida, they’re not going to get through. If the call is about creating genuine value for their boss or their company, or at least making the company easier to manage, then the chances of being put through are higher.
A while ago I had the pleasure of speaking to a woman who is a CEO’s assistant. I asked her about the cold calls she receives and she told me, “It’s amazing. People call me and I can hear the quiver in their voices.” It turns out her boss is quite intimidating, overseeing several thousand employees and hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. “You’d be surprised,” she said. “They are petrified. On more than one occasion I’ve had to calm them down and ask, ‘What exactly do you sell and why do you want ____’s attention? What can you send me so I can make a case for you and set aside some time for a meeting?’”
This was an assistant who is an advocate for cold callers, which brings me to my next point: the best way to get past a gatekeeper is to have a legitimate reason to call. These calls don’t necessarily have to be cold. Think of them as warm calls. What do you have to offer your prospect? What are they missing that you can give them? How many of their peers in the marketplace have you already helped with your solution?
An easy template to use is a more casual spin on our three-sentence proposition. Do your homework, then place your call. When you’re asked for your reasoning say, “Well, over the past __ months we’ve worked with __ other companies in your company’s industry, including ______ and _______. I was referred to you by ______, who said there was a possibility you’d want to talk to me about ________. Is this a good time?”
If you start the conversation in this way, the person is more likely to switch from, “Who is this?” to “Whoa. I’d better pay attention. Who suggested you call? I know that guy!” Suddenly, it's more likely that you’ll secure some time with your prospect. Think of it as waiting for two shoes to drop. The first is to secure the appointment. The second is to have something compelling to say so the appointment benefits both of you once it actually takes place.