Don’t Ask, Just Tell
I am often asked how to get past gatekeepers. These are the secretaries, receptionists and administrative assistants that answer the phones at businesses large and small. For a salesperson that is cold calling prospects, gatekeepers can either make or break you. How do you make sure that you will get past them?
The number one thing you need is confidence. The mistake I see sales people make on cold calls is that they ask permission to speak to a prospect. They will use one of the following phrases:
- Can I speak to John?
- Can you tell me if John is available?
- Can you put me through to John?
Asking permission gives the gatekeeper an opportunity to say no. My motto is, “Don’t ask, just tell.” Instead of posing it as a question, present it as a statement: “This is Paul Cherry with PBR, please connect me to John. Thank you.” Or, “Do me a favor and forward me to John. Thank you.” This simple change in phrasing can make a world of difference. For many of us, this type of assertive speech does not come naturally. Many people ask permission all day without even realizing it. When ordering at restaurants, for example many of us will ask, “Can I have the Caesar salad?” It takes practice to state what you want from someone else and then wait for them to provide it. Practice your cold calling statement before using it, until it becomes second nature to you.
The gatekeeper’s main job is to screen unwanted sales calls, and if you so much as give a hint that you are a sales person “fishing” for a prospect, you will be shut out. Be professional and courteous, and speak with an air of confidence. You want to come across as a counterpart of your prospect so that the gatekeeper will assume “John” will welcome your call.