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Master the Art of Getting Past the Gatekeepers

       Gatekeepers (or screens) are the people whose job it is to prevent you from reaching your prospects -- their bosses; the people they work for. It is their job to screen out sales people!

       They are the Receptionists, Secretaries, Administrative Assistants, Telephone Operators, and Voice Mail. The task of getting past the gatekeepers is the most crucial component of cold calling. Without it you cannot accomplish the next three important steps: 1) reaching and qualifying the decision maker, 2) counteracting their objections, and 3) securing the almighty appointment, which is 99% of the sale.

       So, what is the secret to getting past the gatekeepers? Pure and simple, it is your attitude! That's right, your mind-set! Attitude is what causes you to succeed or fail in all phases of your life, and especially in sales. If you start out believing that you will get a "no" when you make a cold call, you are sure to get one. On the other hand, when you think positively; knowing that you are offering something of value to your prospect, the chances are in your favor of getting a "yes."

       In order to get by the screen successfully, your demeanor must make her believe that the person you are calling already knows you, and that there is no reason to interrogate you other than asking for your name. It is the authoritative sound of your voice that makes this happen. In order to sound authoritative, it is essential to use a firm voice. Men naturally project authority because of the deep tone in their voices. Women have a harder time since their higher-pitched voices are usually interpreted as lacking the credibility of a deeper, authoritative or masculine voice. In addition, it is helpful to sound hurried; as if you have no time to waste, further implying that the decision maker knows you and will accept your call without question.

       The inflection of your voice should not go up, which sounds as though you are asking a question. Instead, it ought to sound as though you're making a statement, projecting strength and authority - as if you are giving an order, not asking a favor. After you ask for the decision maker by name, and in turn are asked your name, it helps to be abrupt with the screen. When asked, "Who's calling?" give your first name only. Giving your first name leads the screen to believe that the decision maker is an acquaintance of yours, indicating that she need not, or should not, ask you anything else; prompting her to put your call through quickly.

       Likewise, when the screen asks what company you're from, instead of giving the full name, shorten it, again implying that the decision maker will recognize the company. For example, if your company name is "Designer Magazine," you could say, "Designer."

Here's an illustration in which I play the role of the salesperson:
Salesperson: "Hello, John Smith, please?"
Screen: "Who's calling?"
Salesperson: "Norma." (dropping my voice tone, and sounding abrupt)
Screen: "What company are you from?"
Salesperson: "Designer."

       This dialogue indicates, "I'm an acquaintance of the decision maker, so hurry up -- you're wasting my time and her's."

       Voice Mail is a silent gatekeeper, and can actually be used to your advantage. The benefit is that your prospect will eventually pick up the phone. I recommend to never leave a message. It is only wishful thinking to believe that prospects will return your call. No one calls back unless she wants something from you. Even if you have received a few call-backs when you've left messages, consider that it's not worth the time it takes to leave all the other messages that don't call back. Additionally, you will be perceived as a pest if you call back several times in a short period. Once you leave a message, you cannot call back for a while without running the risk of annoying your prospect. If you have no success during regular office hours, try calling before, or after hours, and at lunchtime.

       The techniques of getting past the gatekeepers, and cold-calling in general, are sometimes perceived as too aggressive, pushy, forceful, or over-ambitious, especially for women. Don't let these misconceptions mislead or discourage you. Cold calling is an art. It is the art of getting past the gatekeepers, reaching and qualifying the decision makers, counteracting the objections, and getting the appointment. It is one of the most efficient ways to present your product to your prospect.