Telesales Tips – Getting Past The GateKeeper

Ah, the eternal struggle of the humble telesales operative, getting past the gate-keeper. How is it done? How do the experts do it? Will I ever master it and get to speak to the decision maker or will I die trying?

Here’s some good news. There’s no, one, sweeping answer and you’re probably doing every bit as well as the next guy so don’t be so hard on yourself, let your boss do that for you! Ha!


In his excellent book ‘Sales Genius,’ author Graham Jones relays a story about a bit of useful research where they gathered 100 ‘gatekeepers’ in a room to ask them how they handled incoming telesales enquiries. Apart from the fact that 100 gatekeepers in one room is enough to send most sales people running for the hills it was quite an eye-opener.

They agreed 100% on several key elements of the process that would aid the would-be salesperson’s’ efforts with an audience with the decision maker which included:

  1. Those who had clearly done a little research into the company.
  2. Those who were very clear about why they were calling and how this call might benefit the decision maker.
  3. Brevity was king. Getting to the point quickly was a big plus.
  4. Manners.
  5. Treating them (the GK) as a human being.
  6. taking no for an answer.

It’s easy to see a GK as the enemy but they are your best friend if you did but know it.

If They’re Not Impressed, They Won’t Put You Through…..Period

Think about it. You’ve spoken to the GK and told him why you’re calling and why he should disturb his very busy boss with your enquiry. He’s paid to screen ‘unwanted calls’ and so won’t take the chance of attracting his boss’s displeasure by wasting her time with inappropriate drivel. If he isn’t convinced that this is something worthwhile you’ve no chance of progressing whilst he”s got breath in his body.

However, the opposite is also true. If you can find a way of (very quickly) outlining the benefit to his boss of taking advantage of your offer then he might win some brownie points for initiative.

As we’ve said before, he’s the DM not the GK for now so treat him as such and listen to what he tells you. Court his favourable interest and take him seriously – he’ll thank you for that.

Shame The Devil

One other thing the collection of Gate-keepers agreed on (what is the collective noun for gatekeepers? let’s call it a tremble, a tremble of gatekeepers) was that lying or trying to trick or deceive was a sure fire way of blowing it for ever. Let’s see this in action…….

GK – Is he expecting your call?  You – yes! or how about….. GK – What’s it in connection with please? You – Oh, he emailed me asking me to call him.

NNP, PSL’s & Dead End Email Addresses

Here’s a question every sales person dreads: Are you looking to introduce your company? Why is this question so bad? Well, for a start it shows that this company has a procedure –  a set way to deal with the likes of you and you’re about to be sidelined to some dead end, email address.

Other pre-arranged blocking tactics include no name policies and prefered supplier lists.Going back to our GK research focus group, research can really help here. So, instead of “Can I speak with whoever it is that deals with your waste management systems please” your enquiry becomes simply “Bob Jenkins please.” See, that wasn’t so bad was it?

This is what I call the great escape approach. In the film Gordon Jackson was asked to produce his papers by the german guard. He wanted to simply pass the checkpoint undetected without drawing any attention to himself. It almost worked until he accidentally spoke in English.

If you have the name of the person you need you too can pass checkpoint charlie without being spotted as a salesperson. Asking for a job title is like using a megaphone to announce the fact that this is a sales call.

As for preferred supplier lists, in my experience this is usually an excuse to get rid of you. Even where such a list has been drawn up it’s rarely adhered to and most stakeholders are blissfully unaware of it, it’s just something procurement cooks up from time to time to justify their existence.

If your product or service offers something the prospect isn’t getting right now or is designed to satisfy a need not met then you stand a chance but you must be careful. Showing any kind of disrespect or incredulity for any policy or procedure in place will send you crashing to the bottom of the welcome list once more.

As with the whole ‘getting past the gatekeeper’ argument, the best way to get past a PSL is to not try. Something like:

“I respect that and no, as far as I know we are not on your PSL. To be honest we don’t join many PSLs as we look to compliment and not conflict with your current arrangements. Our offering differs in several fundamental ways to that of most of our competitors and so it wouldn’t make sense to put us on the same playing field. What I’m really looking to do is to demonstrate the ways in which……………”

Acknowledge, respect, ignore – try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Ok, I’ve been a wee bit irreverent here but hopefully you’ve also learnt something too. GK’s are just doing their job. they’re paid to keep you out but will let you in if they themselves see some merit in what you’re offering. All other tactics are designed to keep you at bay but again if you’re compelling enough then the gods may yet smile upon you.

So, don’t get phased, don’t give in and keep talking to and, more importantly, listening to, the lovely gatekeepers you meet each day; your future depends on it.

Happy selling.