Sales Techniques: How to Get Past Gatekeepers

24 July 2019 by Shweta Jhajharia

Sometimes the person who answers the phone can feel like they are just in the way.

You know that the key stakeholder in the business is probably interested in what you have to offer, but the middle managers or the assistant can be quite protective about handing over the call.

So how do you get past these stoic gatekeepers and reach the real person that matters to educate them about your service?

Let’s dig deep into this.

But before we dive into actual strategies for getting through to the decision maker, let’s just make sure that it is what you actually need, or whether there is a better answer for getting the sale quicker…

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Is the Decision Maker the Key Stakeholder You Really Need?

The first thing you need to consider is whether the final decision maker is really the most important stakeholder. You may find the middle manager is actually the first person you need to convince.

If you doggedly try to get through to the C-suite executive, you might completely lose the sale. You may need to become ok with multiple conversion stages in your funnel, starting with the middle manager who will get you onto the CEO’s desk.

The gatekeeper may be shopper, even if they are not your final consumer – so you may need to get through the deselection process so that you can eventually get onto the decision-maker.

How Long Are You Taking to Convert?

The other thing you may need to consider is that a quicker fix for your conversion problem might be the speed of conversion rather than trying to get through to the decision-maker from the get-go. What you may need to do is sharpen up your conversion technique to progress through your multiple conversion stages faster.

Before you launch into the strategies to get through to the decision-maker, just consider whether you need to focus on tightening your conversion rates first.

If you’re convinced that the gatekeeper is simply in the way and that selling to them is a waste of your time, then here are a few practical strategies to get through to the decision-makers more quickly.

Strategy 1: Simplify Your First Approach

What I often see with struggling outbound sales approaches is that the first message they send has too much information and too much ‘time risk’. That is, it takes too long to understand what they are offering – and the prospect rejects them only because they don’t have time to understand it.

Reduce your initial message to the simplest information. Provide tools and collateral to make it easy for them to follow you down your funnel and understand the value of what you are offering.

Strategy 2: Use Alternatives Like LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a platform that’s designed for professional interaction. So, if you know who you are trying to approach, find them on LinkedIn and get in touch.

You should try a variety of approaches here to see what works best for your product and your avatar. You may need to increase and decrease the detail, emotiveness and directness of your message to find the correct balance.

Strategy 3: Generate Curiosity with Snail Mail

We are in the digital age, so when a physical package arrives in the post, it can create a bit of a stir in any office. This is an opportunity to get noticed.

Send something in the post that is relevant to what you are offering and has sufficient novelty and cleverness to get the office talking. If you make it significant enough then it’ll get noticed by everyone, including the decision-makers.

An example that worked really well for one of our clients was that they sent out a key with, “Are we the key to your logistics solutions?”. They also sent out a coffee sachet saying, “How about we discuss this over a cup of coffee?”

Another example was a designer who sent out luxury gifts designed for the organisation and wrapped in bespoke paper that contained a mood board for the company and solutions for their target market. She literally let her craft speak for itself through hyper personalisation and putting it literally in front of them.

Remember, this should still be followed up with a phone call – the curiosity you’ve inspired wants to be satisfied. While you should be working to get better at sales on the phone, by triggering this initial curiosity first and then calling, you will find getting past the gatekeeper faster and easier so you can put those skills to use.

Strategy 4: Call Very Early or Late

It is highly unusual for the gatekeepers to be at their post 24/7. There will usually be a bracket of time where you can call and there will be no one else to answer the call except the decision-maker.

However, you also need to time it so that the decision-maker is actually there to answer it and hasn’t clocked off themselves. This is usually a small window either very early in the morning or very late in the evening. If you can catch them at this time, you may get that shot you’re looking for without the need for any special attention-grabbing strategy.

Strategy 5: Go Where They Are

If you know your marketing avatar through and through, then you know what kind of events they go to. You know whether they’ll attend certain networking opportunities or browse tradeshows. You’ll know the awards ceremonies they attend or the conferences they might buy tickets to.

Attend the events where they are and get into your business networking mode since you will then be literally standing right in front of the decision-maker.


Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of strategies. It is a collection of those that I find are most valuable to our clients who are stuck with this particular issue. Try them out, see what works – different things work for different businesses. Keep at it and test and measure everything to find the strategy that gets your business the results you need.


If you would like to discuss any of the points covered here, please feel free to request a free call below.

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Shweta Jhajharia

Shweta Jhajharia is one of the leading authorities on Business Value Building and the creator of the unique 6M Model. Shweta is widely respected as an impactful, intelligent and results orientated professional who helps business leaders unleash their potential to reach meaningful, higher objectives. This realisation of potential and maximisation... Read more