Getting Through Gatekeepers – Cold Calling

One of the most frequently asked questions on any cold callers wish list is;

I make lots of cold calls. Once I am connected to the decision maker (DM) I am usually successful in securing an appointment. However I find it difficult to work with or around the Gatekeepers! Do you have any suggestions or tips to help me get past gatekeepers?

Let’s first of all take a look at the role of a gatekeeper.

The role of a gatekeeper is to protect the DM from any calls that are simply nuisance value. Consequently the gatekeeper has to take decisions on whether or not your call is of sufficient value to be transferred to their boss. Consequently if you are to stand any chance of being put thorough to a DM, you must be able to convince the gatekeeper that you are one of or all of the following;

• You are important

• You are able to help the DM in his day-to-day issues/problems

• You are polite and business like.

Many protagonists suggest you should befriend the gatekeeper. Whilst I do not disagree with the underlying sentiment of this statement, I do ask that you consider whether or not the person on the other end of the phone is as capable and as passionate as you are to promote the reasons why the DM should actually meet with you. In many cases it would be better to be put through to voice mail. Whilst this is not an ideal scenario you can at least be assured that you will put across your message with the same level of commitment and passion as you would do so if you were connected directly. In fact in many cases I would even recommend this in preference to befriending the gatekeeper in the forlorn hope that they will  “sell ” you to the decision maker. I would even suggest leaving a voice mails could be a better option than simplt ‘sending information’ to the gatekeeper which is likely to end up in the bin or in the case of email be blocked out by spam filters. At least with voice mail you get the opportunity to leave a personal message with at least a good reason reason as to why the DM should consider meeting with you or at least take or return your calls.

Here are my top tips when dealing with gatekeepers;

Tip One – Never Tell Lies

Never tell lies to get through. Many sales trainers advise that it is OK to tell the occasional white lie – if this means you are put through to the DM. For example saying you are returning their call, when in fact this is untrue. This could land you in serious hot water with a DM if you are found out to be less than honest in dealing with gatekeepers. Do not pretend to be a relative or long-lost friend who is trying to reconnect. Do not say it is a personal call unless that is the truth. Good gatekeepers will always check your assertions and will probe with further questions before they decide to put you through.

I would always advise against telling lies in a sales situation. There are better ways to get connected to a DM without risking your integrity and the sale!

Tip Two – Sound Important

Most gatekeepers tread a fine line between stopping everyone except those who are in regular contact with the DM (white list) and letting through those callers who are of sufficient value and importance that it would be ill-advised not to transfer the caller to the DM.

Speak slowly and clearly and increase your chances of being put through. I know this sounds crazy but most executives speak slowly and calmly. Also use senior job titles. This may sound condescending but the bigger the title the more likely you are to get transferred.

Introduce yourself as follows;

I am John Smith (Name). I am the business development director of XYZ ltd. Can you put me thorough to Jim, Thanks?

Notice in this phrase we did not ask if anyone was available? We simply asked to be put through to Jim. This inferred that we knew Jim and that we were important.

Tip Three – Find out DM contact name before you make your appointment call.

This may sound obvious but there is no better way to alert the attention of a gatekeeper to a sales call by asking;

Can you tell me who is in charge of….responsible for…makes the decisions on etc? Closely followed by; Can I speak to Mr Smith? Is Mr. Smith available?

You may as well have said; This is a sales call. Please put me through to the person who makes decisions on………

When you are doing your pre-call research make an effort to obtain a contact name. Once you have a contact name call them at a later date.

Tip Four – Do not sell to the gatekeeper

Remember the objective is to speak to a DM. When the gatekeeper asks

what is the call in connection with” or “regarding”

keep your response to a minimum. The potential number of responses is wide and varied. The responses will be different based on why you wanted to talk to the DM in the first place.

There are three principal reasons why a DM might want to take an unsolicited call.

1. Potential to increase sales

2. Possibility to decrease costs/expenditure

3. Chance of improving productivity and or communication across the organization.

Therefore three potential responses could be

1. It’s about business development, Thank you!

2. It’s about managing business expenditure, Thank you!

3. It’s about improving productivity or communication in the organization, thanks.

Do not try to tell them who you are and why you are calling and why the DM would want to speak to you. This is more than likely going to result in a statement

Can you send some information and we will get back to you if there is any interest!

Remember you need to sell to the DM – not the gatekeeper.

Tip Five – Be Confident, Not Apologetic

So many telemarketers apologise at the start of the call. A decision maker does NOT want to hear someone making an apology for disturbing them. They want to hear someone who is confident – someone who can provide a solution to a problem or issue that is currently causing them some concern.

Tip Six – Be Creative

Find a way to get your message in front of the DM with no filter whatsoever!

Here is a suggestion that might be worthy of consideration. Send them a rose to their works address with a card marked private. This way the rose will get to them without being “filtered”. When they open the card the message might read.

What would you do you if your website could attract treble the number of visitors it does right now?

What would you do if you could increase sales by 20%?

What would you do if you could cut costs on your IT spend by 25%? Etc

The message continues. I will call you next week. Friday 23rd at 1230hrs to see if you are open to finding out how this can be done!

What are the chances of this call being taken? I suspect more than an outright cold call. Be creative and you might just increase your chances of the call being accepted without question.

Tip Seven – Expect to be put through

Your attitude and frame of mind plays a big part in your chance of success. The best cold callers fervently believe that they will be put through to the decision maker at the start of each call. This frame of mind sets them apart from others mere mortals who could only wish to emulate their success. Learn to replicate this positive frame of mind and you too will increase your chances of achievement.

Tip Eight – If all else fails get GK to talk to GK

If you are getting nowhere fast then it might be time to speak in the same language. The language of gatekeepers that is! Get your gatekeeper to talk to theirs.

Imagine if you get a call-  Hi this is (name) I am the PA of (Name, Position and Company). John has asked me to arrange a meeting with Name (Target). Can you please let me know the best way of arranging a meeting with Peter please?It may be just enough to secure you an appointment.

Happy hunting!


Attracting Visitors to an Exhibition Stand

Photo provided by Kokoon Ltd

I am often astounded at the lengths some exhibitors will go to in order to get a “prospect” to stop on their stand.

These stop and sell methods include anything from scantily clad bodies (male and female), magicians, games, competitions etc. I have even witnessed exhibitors physically standing in the isles thrusting brochures into peoples hands hoping to get them to stop or at least take away literature that is most likely of no relevance whatsoever to the recipient. Having used these tactics to “successfully” stop their victim they then go on to force these poor unsuspecting souls into “taking a look at what they have to offer”.

Granted as an exhibitor one does need to find a way to attract people onto a stand – not only to establish if there is any way in which you can both work together but also without actual visitors it is impossible to get an return on the investment. However do we really need to physically man handle people onto the stand or draw them in under false pretences just so we can sell at them?

Here is a simple and very effective way to get someone to stop for long enough to  start-up a conversation. Having gained their attention you go on to build some rapport and then through a process of effective dialogue establish if they might be interested in what you have to offer.

All visitors to exhibitions and conferences these days are issued with a name badge. Assuming like me you can read a delegate badge at five paces simply smile warmly and say.

Good Morning Jim (Person’s name)

Now Jim  will immediately stop and say good morning. On hearing ones name it is a natural reaction to stop and turn to the person who has greeted you. As they try to work out how you know each other simply ask;

How are you finding the exhibition Jim?

Jim quite naturally responds.

Very good thank you.

You have now struck up a conversation and can then ask other questions.

What brings you to the exhibition?

As you build up some level of rapport, you will eventually get to a point when either they will ask you to tell them what you do or you can ask them;

What do you know about (our company)?

Now you have their permission to say what it is you do. From here you can discover if there is any interest in what you have to offer and start to build a relationship and take it on from there.

I used this name technique the other week when working for a client on their exhibition stand and achieved the following results;

  1. 85% of people whom I greeted using their name, stopped to talk.
  2. approx 75% of those who stopped asked me to tell them what it is we do!
  3. Approx 60% actually booked onto a course within the next eight weeks.

Compare this with the same greeting including the smile;

Good Morning. How are you?

How many people stopped to talk with this greeting? Well I will tell you it was around 15-20%. What does this tell us?

It tells us very clearly that names are important to us as individuals. Try it the next time you are working an exhibition stand.

I guarantee you will get more people to stop and talk without the need for any tricks or gimmicks.

If you want to know more about getting results from you exhibitions why not contact me.

Happy hunting.

Handling Failure and Rejection

Handling failure and rejection is a fact of life especially if you are in sales, management or a budding entrepreneur. How one reacts to failure or rejection directly affects ones self-esteem and ongoing levels of motivation.

I think that failure and rejection are two different things that are interlinked in the mind of each and everyone. I have worked with numerous individuals over the years and some handle failure and rejection really well and others can hit the self destruct button. Having the correct mindset is essential to overcoming setbacks. The fear of failure and or rejection can be debilitating or liberating!

The first thing to consider is

There is no success without first trying. Failure is part of the journey to success.


Trying means you are bound to experience failure at some point or another. I have yet to meet anyone who claims to be successful all of the time. If you want success then you have to be prepared to encounter failure. Most successful people know this. How many of us learned to ride a bike without crashing once or twice? It hurts but you simply get back on and try again. If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again!


Rejection on the other hand is when an individual senses emotional pain to the extent that their own personality or capabilities are brought into question by themselves.

  • Why do they not like me?
  • What have I done wrong for them not to accept me?
  • Why am I so inadequate?

Try to remember when you are feeling rejection this may not be a reflection on you. It could be that the other person simply is not on your wavelength.

There is no simple answer on how to handle rejection.

This depends on your own personality and make-up. However having observed successful people at first hand,  they have all experienced rejection at one time and another. However what sets them apart is they find a way to move forward that suits their personality and sense of direction and purpose at that time.They always find a way to bounce back!

Here are a few suggestions I hope you might find useful on handling rejection.

  • Try not to take it personally.
  • Do not give up at the first sign of difficulty.
  • Accept that you are more likely to fail than succeed.
  • Learn to love yourself and others will follow.

Success usually tastes sweeter when you have experienced failure/rejection first.

After all how do you know what success is if you have not experienced failure?

If fear of failure or rejection is holding you back, I would recommend reading the book “Feel the fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers.

Best wishes.

Tangible and Intangible Buying Motives

People buy for a variety of reasons. Some buy for prestige, some buy for economy, some buy for simply a feel good factor. Retail buyers motives may differ slightly from those of business buyers but the overall reasons why people buy are very similar. People like to buy from people. The intensity of the motive, tangible or intangible is what makes each purchase unique.

Most buyers want you to focus on the tangible reasons for a sale; price, payment terms, delivery terms, technical specifications etc. However, there are many other intangible reasons why a buyer would gain satisfaction from making a purchase.

These intangible buying motives can be broken down into four subcategories;

The Product,

The Company/Supplier

The Customer

The Salesperson.

We will go into more detail in each of these shortly. Each of the above subcategories will have a number of individual motives which in their own way have an influence on any purchasing decision. Professional buyers will try to limit the effect these intangible motives have on their decision-making. However many of them work at the subconscious level. Professional sales people will try to influence intangible as well as tangible motives.

To illustrate how strong an intangible motive can be, imagine a business has been dealing with a strong personal friend for several years. Assuming there is no difference in tangible reasons to buy, how much discount would a complete stranger have to give to displace a strong and valuable relationship? Yes it is difficult to quantify but it is a potentially strong barrier to a new supplier.

Take some time to examine what intangibles can influence your sales and purchases in your organisation. Spending time on this could pay dividends when you are either trying to gain a new account or protect some of your existing business.


Product presentation/packaging
Brand Image
Implication of design
Environmental Impact


Understanding customers’ requirements
Company culture and policies
Local Supplier v National/International Coverage
Market Leader
Image, Reputation, Stability
After Sales Service
Well established company
Social acceptability


Ability to communicate
Personal Presentation
Integrity, Trust, Enthusiasm
Technical ability
Personal relationship
Able to define customer need


Historical relationship
Reluctance to change
Fear of change
Pride, ego, flattery
Budget pressures
Confidence – company and goods
Apparent value for money
Referrals from others
Local Loyalty
Company policy
Emotional response
Time pressures

Everyone reacts to tangible and intangible buying motives in different ways.  I would recommend that the next time you are preparing for a sales interview or pitch take a look at the list above and try to estimate how intangible buying motives are likely to influence the final decision to purchase and build these into your pitch. You might be surprised to learn that most purchasing decisions are actually taken at an emotional level.

When all things are equal people buy people

Something more! This might also help you consider areas that could influence a purchasing decision. An anagram of SPACED often helps me to categorise elements of my offering.

S = Specifications = What it is.

P = Performance = What is does.

A = Appearance = How it looks.

C = Convenience = How easy it is to access and use it.

E = Economics = How much will it cost or save.

D = Durability = How long will it last, warranty, service etc.

In any sales situation ensure you cover intangible reasons as well as tangible reasons and you are well on your way to securing that all important emotional attachment to a purchase decision!

Filling your sales pipeline

picture1Successful sales people are masters at generating opportunities. More so they understand the importance of developing a full and ongoing pipeline of sales opportunities. So how do we ensure that we have sufficient number of sales opportunities in our pipeline?

Here are some tips to help you search out those opportunities;

  • Email can be a great source of opportunities. When did you last check back through your mails? Use the follow up flagging system in Outlook to classify any mail that could be a prospect or needs follow up. Then from time to time search through the mails marked for follow up.
  • Previous clients. Look back in your records and those of your organisation. Check out clients that have been supplied in the past. If you haven’t been in touch for some time schedule a call. You might be pleasantly surprised at the response.
  • Trade magazines. All trade magazines have features and advertisers. These often provide information on companies that you were unaware of and the issues your industry is facing. The amount of leads gained from trade press alone should be worth the subscription.
  • Existing clients. These should be easier to move along your pipeline as you already have a business relationship. Make sure you are up to date on their activities and purchases. Use lots of open questions to find out as much as possible about their issues, problems, what keeps them awake at night. Solve those issues and you are on your way to making more sales.
  • Exhibitions. One does not have to be an exhibitor to take advantage of the opportunities that attendance can bring. Where else can one bump into many people in one place at a time and start up a conversation. It’s a lot easier than cold calling and you can meet literally hundreds of people in the day. Why not book yourself on to an exhibition? Set yourself a task to meet 20 people in the day. Remember to follow up.
  • Networking. Make it a behavioural trait to put as many people in contact with others who can help each other. Your investment will pay back in time with people referring opportunities to you.
  • Business cards/Contacts list. Review these regularly. We all forget how many people we have in our contact arena. Keep accurate records in a CRM database.
  • Newsletters. If like me you have a large number of contacts and it is impossible to maintain regular contact then newsletters and promotions can be a valuable way of maintaining contact and building a relationship.
  • Internet searches and directories. Unbelievable source of information.
  • Library (main local) has access to company lists and records. They also sell marketing lists with contact details.
  • Use a call centre. External companies will for a fee take over some or all of your outbound prospecting and cold calling. They should generate appointments for you to follow up and convert into customers.
  • PPC or pay per click. Google, Yahoo and MSN all have cost per click advertising. Great way to get to the top of the search listings. Useful when you have a niche product that can be sold on line.
  • Google Alerts. Set up a Google alert for things like “new restaurant <in your town>, Increases capacity in <your product types> etc and you will be prompted with automatic alerts on new opportunities.
  • Invest in a good CRM system (customer relationship management system).

The above list is not exhaustive and many other ways exist to generate leads to fill your sales pipeline.

Good luck with your prospecting!

Quick negotiating tip – Challenging an opening bid

One of the golden rules in negotiation is – always challenge an opening bid – even if it seems attractive at first glance.

Many negotiators fail to challenge an opening bid as they fear aggravating the other party. On the other hand some hard ball negotiators relish diving in headlong and challenging the bid.

That is expensive. You will have to do much better than that!

If you do not challenge the bid, you are simply storing up problems for later in the negotiation, as the other party believes you have psychologically accepted the proposal/price. However challenging an opening bid aggressively head on might set the tone for the rest of the negotiation making life more difficult than it needs to be.

The key here is to challenge the bid without being overly aggressive. One possible way to do this is to ask the other party to justify their offer.

Tell me………How did you come to that valuation – assessment – price etc?

Do this with a mildly curious sounding voice and you can subtly challenge the bid without causing offence. The other party now has to justify their initial pitch. Done well the negotiation should enter into a phase of dialogue based around value propositions rather than positional statements.

The reason why we think our offer represents good value is…………………………

This justification of their opening offer is likely to release previously unknown information into the open.  This information can often be used to glean where the real value lies in any negotiation and can set a positive tone for subsequent discussion.

Remember, a good negotiator will challenge opening bids. Be prepared to justify your offer. Having a well prepared response to a challenge  will not only make you look professional but increase your chances of securing a good deal for both parties based on shared value.