How Sales Teams Try to Beat the Gatekeeper


It’s tough for those working in sales. Closing a deal is hard enough, but first you have to get to the right person – and that means beating the gatekeeper.


1-800 numbers are excellent for making it easier for people to communicate with your business, but everyone occasionally gets some that are unsolicited. Deployed as the first line of defense to filter out unwanted calls, some sales workers are prepared to do (or say) whatever it takes in order to get past the gatekeeper and to who they want to speak to.


We sourced five real-life examples of the lengths people in sales are willing to spin to try and beat the gatekeeper – plus five more of the best gatekeeper retorts we could find. For those looking to make their sales without using these unconventional means, we then asked experts to give us their advice on getting past the gatekeeper.


Five Real-life Attempts to Beat the Gatekeeper

Sales is full of frustrating setbacks, particularly if you can’t even get to the right person. In response, some people use unconventional tactics to beat the gatekeeper – tactics you won’t find in any sales advice textbook.


1. The Radio DJ


“Hi [Gatekeeper] it’s [DJ NAME] from [RADIO STATION]. How are you today?”


They usually get so excited thinking they’ve won something, so they put me through.


2. Suggest You’ll be Coming Back


“You know, I really wish I had something amazing to tell you but it’s really just a cold call.

“Obviously, it’s up to you if you want to let me through, I just wanted to get to know you if we’re going to be talking every other day for the next few weeks”.


3. Compliments


“Look, I know that you really run the business and make all the decisions but go ahead and put me through to the person who thinks they do. Thanks”.


4. The School principal


Call into the HR department and ask for who it is you’re after.


“Hi, this is Principle Wood calling – could you just pass me onto [NAME], I have an urgent matter to discuss with them regarding their children”.


5. Embarrassing Scenarios


“Good afternoon, could I speak to Mr/Mrs [NAME] please? It’s with regards to this afternoon’s visit from our debt collection team”.


Hit the gatekeeper with a potentially sensitive subject, and they’ll pass you over out of sheer embarrassment.


Five Real-life Gatekeeper Retorts


Gatekeepers receive countless cold calls a day, so sometimes they can be forgiven for mixing it up and offering an unusual response to a sales request. Here are five we sourced from online forums and social media.


1. The Police Detective


A call to a fictitious CID colleague to get the caller’s local police to visit him sends the caller into a state of panic.


The best I heard was answering as a detective at a crime scene where the person the caller wanted was a murder victim.


2. Old Times


Sometimes I pick up the phone, listen to their alias name, repeat it several times in an incredulous tone and then – bam! – pretend to recognize them.


I ask them if they remember the hell of a time we had at the 1985 summer camp when we set fire to the wooden shed, and I keep making things up and go on and on until they end up terminating the call.


3. Mishear What’s Said


I tell them I’m very interested but a bit deaf, my hearing aid is not working properly and can they speak up.


The idea is to deliberately mishear what they say, ask them to repeat, only louder, and see how loud I can get them to shout. After a while, I say “I’m not really deaf” and was just wasting their time, as they were doing with me.


4. The Fake Illness


Those who want to provide a conservatory/new kitchen etc. retire in confusion when I tell them that I’m not expecting to live much longer, so I’m not embarking on any major expenditure.


The tone of voice should be sepulchral, and it helps if you can achieve a slight wobble as if about to weep.


5. The Never-ending Hold


“Can you hold on a minute? I need to take something out of the oven and I’ll be with you”.

Then walk off and do whatever you were doing. If you’re feeling vindictive and have nothing better to do, you could even pop back to the phone every couple of minutes and tell them you’re nearly there.


How to Really Beat the Gatekeeper


These outrageous examples are unlikely to see you attain your final goal, particularly if your elaborate tale is unraveled. Instead, we’d recommend adopting some of the advice below – given to us by those who have been there and done it.


Kindness Goes a Long Way

Similar to one of the stories outlined above, beating the gatekeeper could actually be as simple as being nice to the gatekeeper. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to conjure up a compliment as that might come across as disingenuous.


Sometimes, just being a normal, nice human being can be enough.


“It’s best to be up-front and clear in your requests to show them that you care about their time.” Paymo’s Marcel Andrei told us.


“I say please twice, once at the beginning and end of my request.


“Hi there, my name is Marcel from Paymo, the project management platform. It looks like your manager has downgraded their account with us. Could you please connect me with him/her to discuss this issue in more depth, please?


“And it works, because kindness can bring you a long way”.

Send Them a Gift

If words aren’t enough to get you where you need to be, you could go the extra mile and purchase them a gift – as El Mejor Trato’s Cristian Rennella suggests:


“The best strategy we have found to beat the gatekeeper is 10 days before making the call, send a creative gift.


“Ensure your gift is something new and creative that awaken his or her curiosity – and also make sure it is something office-based. This way, when you call, they will know exactly who it is”.


It could also help you reignite a trail that has gone cold, as Debra Benton,  author of The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead in the New World of Work, once found:


“After being a little sharp with the gatekeeper I knew I was doomed. So, after the appointment, I went to a Godiva store nearby and bought a significantly sized box of chocolates and brought them back to her.


“I explained that I was wrong, I appreciate her job, and thanks for the help despite my sharpness. She never forgot and I never forgot to be a whole lot better to them”.


Go Off Script

Conversations between a sales caller and gatekeeper can often take a formulaic approach. You may have agonized for days over your script, but they will have likely heard it all before and have a similar script in place to combat you. In response, Michael Neufield from the Hunter Davis Group uses a technique he calls “script interrupt”:


“I go straight at a gatekeeper giving them all of the information they would typically ask for: name, who I am with, and the nature of my call. This interrupts their typical script and puts me in control of the conversation.


“You can also ask their name first (provided they did not just tell you when they answered the call). This humanizes the call and the gatekeeper. I have found this technique helps to put the gatekeeper and myself on the same level”.


Make Voicemails Short and Clear

As a worker in sales, you’re going to encounter a lot of virtual gatekeepers – namely the voicemail. Shawn Breyer from East Atlanta Buyers gave us his advice for leaving a voicemail that stands out from the competition.


“When leaving a voicemail, don’t use a script and don’t try to sell. You need to focus on showing the person that you understand their business pain points by posing the pain points as questions.


“Keep your message short and sweet. Voicemails that are a couple of minutes long don’t get listened to. Keep your pitch under 30 seconds long”.


Do you stick to solid sales advice when looking to beat the gatekeeper, or are your attempts as outlandish as these? Let us know how it’s going on Twitter @TFFSocial.