Gatekeepers: friend or foe?

 I think the first 3-5 seconds of the call is key to how you can start a typical conversation without getting branded with the negative image of salesperson. Let’s face it, some businesses have been practicing traditional sales tactics over a decade now that are not effective anymore. Our customers are smarter and that includes your gatekeepers. They can smell telemarketing a mile away from their seats. The goal here is to move away from the negative image of a salesperson. We have to understand that most of our friendly gatekeepers would be instructed to brush you off nicely in any way possible to get you off the phone.

Dropping in without an appointment is ALWAYS AN INTERRUPTION and so therefore a withdrawal from the person’s emotional bank account…so be prepared with a really good deposit — whether it is your “sunny disposition” or your genuine interest in the first person or subsequent person(s) with whom you speak. In sales, as it is in life, the successful person follows the edict: A B C — Always Be Curious — if you thought I was going to say “Closing” for the C, then you are focusing on the end and not the opening… Curiosity allows you the opportunity to use the most important words in sales: “You and Your”. By using these words consistently in your responses to your potential customers, you will stay customer focused and not product centered.

I strongly recommend with respecting where the gatekeepers are coming from and gaining their trust is huge advantage. They’re just like any other employee who may actually be having the worst day in their careers. People respond in kind and if you sound genuine enough, you’d may get a genuine response. The key is to have a new mindset to achieve the goal. You don’t kiss on the first date, do you? So, on a cold call “you never sell anything”, your goal is to gain a favorable position to set yourself as a solution worth looking into.

The New Thinking

I understand that s lot of you who’s been training in sales for the past ten years would find this idea very difficult to understand. Focusing on not selling is hard when your job is actually sales, and when you think burning through potential customers would help you get the job done, think again. This new thinking has a great effect in terms of productivity and numbers. The numbers that you would normally see in terms of contacts would drop significantly, however the quality of your contacts will increase dramatically. This approach will also help you build your brand as a company who sets itself apart when building new business relationships are concerned in short “prospecting”.

Catching the early morning call for the owner or a late call in the afternoon just before the office closes is the best method to increase your contact rate. Prospecting is not a contact sport anymore the more quality conversations you make with a prospect, the higher probability of finding someone with a an actual need for your service. Most of the time you may find that there’s no need but by just using this approach and conveying that you’re not just after closing a deal, that you’re a reliable resource in terms of whatever it is that your company offers makes the whole experience memorable in favor of your company. It also lessens the traumatic experienced by a high pressure sales approach.

Follow Through

Understand that the goal here again, is not to “SELL”, your goal is to maintain a good relationship with anyone who primarily picks up the phone for their business. I would use my first 5 seconds on the phone like this:

“Hi! My name is Jay, I was wondering if you can help me out for a second? (Pause and wait). 80% would say – “How can I help? “Let’s have a try.” “Let’s see if I can help.”

What you just did is just really tell them the truth that the you really need they’re help and that you have no idea of how to proceed on reaching out to the right person. The situation branches out from here and would depend on how his/ her response felt. There’s only two outcomes here either their suspicious adamant in asking the purpose of the call or you may get a warm response.

Either way I always ask this question: I was hoping maybe you can help me reach someone who handles (relative department: operations, outsourcing, QA), I was hoping to set a meeting with him and see if your company would be “open” to the idea of looking at some issues related to (whatever services are offered e.g. outsourcing, game testing, recruitment or staffing needs, Office supplies, etc.)? (Shut up and don’t say a word, let her answer the question and listen carefully)

*DO NOT IMMEDIATELY JUMP INTO A PRESENTATION after they ask you any type of question that would indicate interest/disinterest. They are not confirmed decision makers and asking the right question at the right time will get you the right answers, now is not the time to do a presentation.

*You’ll also get a lot of resistance at this point and again remember your not selling anything. You’re merely just trying to see if it’s a fit. If you receive any resistance and it pertains to you cold calling them to sell something. Do not feel offended it causes aggression and may lead you to defend yourself and be persuasive (another negative impression you want to avoid.) You can do anything to address this type of resistance, but I always address this calmly with:

“I’m sorry if I came across the wrong way. The last thing I wanna do is to try to convince or persuade you otherwise. I just wanted to see if you guys would be open, that’s all. Is there better way that I can position my company so that we may earn you business and explore how we can work together to solve issues in (your value proposition).

Unless you have successfully established your purpose, you will never get past the point where they will keep asking you about the nature of your call. If you did however establish your true intentions are not to sell but merely to see if there are possibilities of working together, normally loosen up and help out. Worse case scenario is that a gatekeeper would nicely turn you down. At this point you need to find the right direction to the decision maker and work a little bit of charm in terms of navigating the company by research or networking online.

Making someone laugh normally works for me. Use your personal touch and attempt to sell yourself and not the product or service that you offer.

The genuine intent of not chasing the end goal of the sales process (closing a sale), also helps on moving on to the next call. Don’t be afraid to walk away if it’s not a fit. It may not even be worth it in the end. You may end up spending more on time wasters than qualified clients. Good luck and happy selling!


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