What if the gate’s locked? How to get through to decision-makers

Natural Showcase: In sales, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a selling strategy that involves aiming high and pitching to the top. But, if this is your strategy, don’t be surprised if getting half a chance to say a few words to merely introduce yourself is your greatest challenge.

Luckily for the delegates who attended the Natural Showcase in November with Natural Training, ‘getting past the gatekeeper’ was covered off by sales expert Debs Sowry.

Couldn’t make it? OK, well luckily for you we’re about to run through a few of the practical steps to navigate past even the most diligent of gatekeepers…

So, you’ve practiced what you’re going to say a thousand times, you’ve polished off your third coffee of the morning and your nerves are steadied. That all-important client won’t be able to say no to such a passionate and charismatic pitch, so all there is left to do is to call them up and seal the deal. Right?

Well, not exactly. What’s the secret to getting past those pesky receptionists, PAs and co-workers who prevent you from speaking to the real decision makers?

Enter the gatekeeper

A gatekeeper can be anyone who picks up the phone and blocks you from talking to a prospective client. Whoever it may be, it’s in this person’s hands as to whether you get through or not, and the all-too-familiar ‘at lunch’ or ‘tied up’ responses often signal that your target just won’t take your call.

For starters, Debs explained, change your mindset.

A good way to approach a gatekeeper is to ask yourself why exactly they are so hesitant to connect with you. The simple answer is that the client just doesn’t have the time. Modern workloads are only getting bigger, and the more responsibility the client has the less time there is for taking sales calls. Time constraints unfortunately are something the modern sales professional must accept and deal with.

Are you adding value?

When the decision maker has up to 20 calls a day to deal with, the gatekeeper’s job is to filter these down to those that seem to offer the most value from the outset. Make sure your tone reflects this.

If you sound like a cold caller, chances are you’ll not get far – when was the last time you were happy to hear someone asking after you for a cold call? In her session, Debs recommended that delegates approach the call in a natural way and simply be sure of their product. Above all, she warned, sound like you’ve something real to offer.

If you believe in the value of your product, so will they.

Acting aloof and not incessantly chasing the client up will also help you to appear more valuable, and less like they’ll be doing you a favour. If five of your twenty calls a day are from the same seller, it won’t appear enthusiastic, it’ll appear needy.

Do your research and make use of the online world

Another important thing to note is that since much of a company’s up to date news is posted online via the company website or LinkedIn, you can look up company events to better understand your own value – how do you fit in?

How are you relevant right now?

Researching ‘trigger events’ can let you in to the challenges your client may be facing at the moment, and allow you to hone your pitch in to exactly how you can help. A stubborn gatekeeper can mean the end of the road for some sales, but play your cards right – express your value, don’t be overbearing, and get to know your buyer – and you may have a shot at the decision maker.

Debs Sowry contributed to the first two chapters in our new sales training book, The Natural Sales Evolution. Click here to download your free chapters.

Want to hear more from Natural Training and find out how our selling strategies will inspire success and increased profits in 2013? Get in touch with the team by calling 0207 043 1582 or email

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