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How to Get Through Gatekeepers When Cold Calling...

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Last Friday afternoon as the day was winding down, I got into a discussion with some of our top performing Business Development Reps. I asked them, “What was your biggest challenge this week when making your dials?” One of them immediately answered, “Admins!” This got me thinking about how difficult it really is to get through administrative assistants and other gatekeepers. Gatekeepers hold their positions at companies because they are very good at their job – a side from overseeing all aspects of general office coordination, they know exactly how to monitor and manage inquiries from sales professionals like us. Although it can be very de-motivating when a gatekeeper won’t direct us to their boss, there is no reason why we can’t find alternative ways to get to these executives.

Below are the top three tips that I took from Friday’s discussion. I’d be curious what others have to offer regarding ways to overcome objections from gatekeepers, as we all experience these challenges everyday, whether we face it or whether our BDRs do.

1. Get the referral to a lower level contact instead of chasing the CIO or CEO. It’s important to quickly become “friends” with administrative assistants and other gatekeepers. While they might not let you through to the executive level contact, it is their job to help point you to the right person that might be able to assist you. I would ask a question like, “Who on Name of CIO’s team can assist me regarding your current systems in place to manage xyz?” In almost every case, you will receive a referral – the best part is that when you reach out to the referral, you’re able to say “Hi, I was pointed in your direction from the office of the CIO.” If I received a call like this knowing it was from the CIO’s office, I would definitely be more open to hearing what the sales professional had to say. Although you may not be speaking with the final decision maker, you are speaking with an influencer who can ultimately introduce you to the executive level contact down the road.

2. Email the executive level contact and explain that their assistant wasn’t sure if they were the right contact. This is a method you can use to grab the executive level contact’s attention and ask nicely if they either have a few moments to share with you, or if they suggest that you reach out to someone that reports to them instead. In order to grab their attention to open the email, you first need to come up with a great subject line. I suggest using something unique like “Prospect Name, Please Reply” or “Per My Conversation with Assistant’s Name.” Always remember that these executives receive hundreds ofemails per day, and you need to make sure yours is unique so they take the time to open it.

3. Forget the gatekeepers – go on Jigsaw and Linked In on your own to find manager and director level titles to call into. This tip was given to me by a BDR, and I liked this answer best because it’s all about being resourceful. If you keep trying to contact an executive level contact and don’t get anywhere, odds are that you never will. The key here is not to be lazy and to be proactive in finding your own way into the organization. Use great tools like Jigsaw and Linked In to find manager and director level contacts.The rule of thumb is: Call at least three contacts within an organization until you find your right contact.By reaching out to at least three people instead of just one executive level person, you are more likely to get to the correct contact faster.

Getting through gatekeepers is a huge challenge that exists for sales professionals that will never go away. It’s important to find productive ways to overcome these challenges and the ones listed above area great start – what are some that you would add?


Great ideas Pete, 
I often check out your posts for interesting and inovative ways to make the job of sales more fun and profitable. I really like some of the contact methods in this article and agree that if you have a contact name, putting it in the subject line will probably get it read. As for the gatekeeprs, one method of befriending them is to build up their worth and position with the organization. I always try and compliment them on the good job they're doing instead of assuming they are dumb or insignificant... seems to work well for me. 
Good luck everyone!
Posted @ Thursday, March 03, 2024 2:16 PM by Rich Vautour
Thanks for your comments Rich! I definitely agree and I like that you compliment them - gatekeepers are so good at their jobs which makes it so difficult for us:) Can I ask you to share an example of what you would say to an assistant to compliment them to build that rapport?
Posted @ Thursday, March 03, 2024 2:32 PM by Laney Pilpel
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