As professional Telemarketers, one of the skills we have to learn to be successful is how to get past receptionists and through to the decision maker.
Personally I prefer to use the term receptionist rather than gatekeeper although it does remind me of Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters which is no bad thing. Either way, whatever you choose to call them (and sometimes gatekeeper might be the most polite term you can think of), if you don’t get them on your side you’re on a hiding to nothing.
Here, in no particular order are 5 tips for getting past Sigourney Weaver and through to the purse string holder!
1 – Treat the call as an enquiry, not an opportunity to sell. I firmly believe that one of the reasons that many telesales/telemarketing teams fail is because there is enormous pressure to close the sale on the first call. Yes there are opportunities to sell on call one but, in the main, if a prospect has no knowledge of you or your business it goes against the normal rules of conversation to assume that you’re going to be able to sell to them before they know who you are, particularly when you take into consideration how busy most folks are these days.
By treating the first call as a fact find and using terms such as “I wonder if you can help me, I’m trying to contact…” or “just a quick enquiry” you enable the receptionist (or whoever else answers the phone) to feel more in control of the conversation. They’re not going to be sold to, they’re helping you. Everyone enjoys the feeling of helping people, nobody enjoys being sold to
2 – Be Honest. This comes with the caveat of “but not too honest”. Be truthful about who you are and why you’re calling as it’s never advisable to be anything other than a truthful salesperson – lies will always come back and bite you on the backside. So, essentially, give away as much information as you need to without actually selling your product/service to the receptionist. All you have to sell to them is the benefit of putting your call through. Yes, their job is to field calls but their job is also to answer calls so, the quicker they put you through the quicker they can move onto the next person holding on the switchboard
3 – Sound authoritative If you feel nervous or unsure, it’ll be reflected in your voice. Know why you’re calling, know the benefits of what you’ve got to offer and, whilst you need to be friendly, a strong, authoritative tone of voice will greatly increase your chances of getting put through to the decision maker. This may not be an accurate comparison but, if you read up on the phenomenon of social engineering, immoral as it may be, the most successful social engineers achieve much of their goals by convincing those on the phone that they are in a position of authority within the victim’s organisation. Have a sense of purpose around you – remember why you’re calling and what you’re looking to achieve
4 – Have a strong introduction I’m always extolling the virtues of having a strong, benefit led introduction to every call and this is no less true when it comes to getting past receptionists. Typically I’ll have 2 introductions I’ll use when calling – 1 specifically for the decision maker and 1 for the receptionist. The decision makers introduction will usually follow this format: Good morning/afternoon, my name is xxxxx, I work for a company called xxxx, we provide xxxx and have saved clients in your sector an average of xxxx£’s per year, just looking to arrange a quick meeting to see if there would be some mutual benefit in us working together….. etc etc. For the reception I’d still include who I am and where I’m calling from but would then go straight into asking for the decision maker. If asked why, I’d briefly cover what we do and the fact that I was looking to arrange a meeting with him. 9 times out of 10 that works. As ever, ensure your introduction is well rehearsed so it sounds natural and relaxed. If you’re reading from a script it will come across in your voice and nobody wants that!
5 Don’t treat them like the enemy One of the reasons I don’t like the term gatekeeper is it contributes to an “us and them” mind-set, as if the receptionist is your foe and you have to use all sorts of underhanded tactics to get past them. They’re simply people doing a job but they’re people who have the power to make or break the success of your phone call. Understand that they’re busy, understand that they most likely won’t have a lot of time to speak to you but get them on your side. Be pleasant, be friendly, be funny if you have to be but, above all, treat them with respect and you’ll be rewarded
and, 5.5 (or number 6 if you’d prefer) – Get their name. This won’t work if you’ve not had a great response as they’ll probably be very unlikely to give you this information but, if they’ve been helpful, thank them for their help and get their name, then make a note of it. That way, when you call back, you can refer to the conversation you’ve had previously. I heard a great tip from one of my clients recently – if a receptionist has put you through to the right person, once you’ve spoken to the decision maker, call them back to thank them for putting you through. Common courtesy goes a long way!