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.

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).