Career Woman

How to consistently get past gatekeepers


If you are in sales, one of your jobs is to get past the gatekeeper to talk to the decision maker.   Remember, it’s their job to screen calls and free up their boss from incessant sales calls.   However, it’s your job to make the sale, so you need to be persistent.

Here are 11 tried and true suggestions to help you:

  • Research the company or person. Do your research, it may be that you in fact know someone else in the company and can leverage that connection to get an appointment, or phone call.   Secondly, check that person out on LinkedIn – again perhaps you have a mutual connection who is willing to connect you, or better, you can message the decision maker on LinkedIn and avoid the gatekeeper altogether.
  • Don’t block your number.   As soon as someone sees a blocked number, it’s either the ATO or a sales person.  That is one way of ensuring that the smaller business owner won’t even take your call and allow message bank to screen your call.   Remember a gatekeeper is not always a secretary or assistant; it can sometimes be technology too.  So if you leave a message, say when you will call back.   That way the person knows you will call back and it’s better to just take the call and avoid the dodging game.
  • Time your call.   If during business hours doesn’t work, try a little earlier, during lunch or just after 5pm or after 5:30pm.   If you are calling the same person regularly you will work out pretty quickly when the gatekeeper goes home.   Calling when they are out might just get your foot in the proverbial door.
  • Be prepared and be confident.   Make a separate call (via reception perhaps) or Google to find out the name of the person you should speak to.   Then call back a few days later and ask for that person by name.  With confidence, like there is no doubt you will be put through, say “Can I speak with Robert Thompson please.”  They will likely say “who is calling?” and you say “It’s Donna Stone.  (No pause) Can you put me through to Robert, thanks”.   However, if they are persistent and say “Will Robert know what it’s in regards to?” please don’t lie.   If it’s a case that someone did suggest you speak to Robert, perhaps “A  mutual associate, Jason Jones, suggested I speak with him”.    Alternatively “We’ve been talking on LinkedIn back and forth, and I thought I’d save him/her some time and have a quick conversation”.  Remember confident is not rude or arrogant.
  • Sound senior.   It’s also important to sound senior.  If you speak, articulately, calmly and slowly, like you belong and expect to be put through.  Don’t give away specifics or too much information.  The gatekeeper will hesitate asking too many questions so as to not offend you.   If the Queen of England rang, would anyone say “May I ask what it’s in regard to?”
  • Be nice to Gatekeepers. They are just doing their job.   If you get nasty or rude, I can assure you that you will never get to speak to the decision maker.   Although in one instance, one salesperson got through to me.  I specifically said to my PA to put the call through, and then I proceeded to tell the person to never call my company again; if he was going to be rude to my assistant I did not want to do business with him.  I also know salespeople who have got through because their secretary said they are really nice.   So be nice.   Not false, fake, or over the top.  Once you know the gatekeeper’s name, note it and use it.   Ask how their day is going but be sure it’s genuine.   If s/he does let you through, send a card with a scratchie to say thanks.  I’ll bet that doesn’t happen often.  I’ll bet also you will get through easier next time.
  • Don’t sell to the gatekeeper.   Remember if you do get to the point of telling me exactly why you are calling, two things.   Don’t even sell to them.   You will just annoy them, wasting their time as they are in no position to make a decision.   Respect their time.   Secondly, respect their boss’ time.   Advise that you will only take 4 minutes and be sure to do just that if you get through.   Be a person of your word and maintain integrity.
  • Who is the right person? If you are talking to the gatekeeper and you really can’t get through, ask them who is the best person to speak to?   Or is there a better time of the day (or week) to call?   Do this in a nice way; absolutely without sarcasm.   However, don’t settle for someone down the chain, if ultimately the decision maker is in fact the person you need to speak to.   Sometimes, you just have to be persistent.   Decisions flow from the top, so start at the top.
  • Help others. When someone does help you, whoever it is, be thankful and ask also how you can help them?   You show you are not just a taker, but someone who is willing to give and reciprocate.   It’s natural that people want to help those who help us; the law of reciprocity.   Just be sure that it doesn’t feel/sound like it’s a locked in quid pro quo.
  • Don’t take it personal.    When you can’t get through or someone says no, it’s not personal.   Also remember that ‘no’ means ‘no’ now, not forever.   Don’t burn bridges, but instead, thank the person for their time.   Be nice.   Amazing I’ve found that when you keep in touch (perhaps via LinkedIn, or posting great info or valuable newsletters) people who said ‘no’ previously sometimes later become a client.   Ensure you make them feel like they could come back to you later.
  • Thank your helpers.   Be sure to thank anyone who helped you in getting to speak to the decision maker – whether that be a referee, someone else in the company or the gatekeeper.   Again a handwritten card (enclosing your business card  and perhaps a scratchie) being thankful is nice – whether you got the ‘deal’ or not.  Nurture your connections and network – you just don’t know when good karma might come back with a pleasant surprise.

If you need help with your sales process, dealing with objections or closing the deal, I offer mentoring and sales training – check out

About Donna Stone

Donna Stone is a business coach with three decades of experience. She grew her own business from a garage to be a multi-award winning operation that spanned five locations nationally. Donna works with business owners and other business coaches, consultants and trainers to help them build their own success. Her Coach the Coach ™ program has proved exceedingly popular. Donna is a prolific writer with hundreds of articles written and six books published. Visit

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