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What’s a Gatekeeper?
The Gatekeeper is the individual who answers the phone when we first call a company. This could be the president or the janitor. We don’t know.
Successful Freight Sales Agents become familiar with the Gatekeeper. This is the individual whose job it is to prevent sales agents from getting access to the Shipping Decision-Maker.
Typically, it’s a personal assistant or secretary. In some companies, it’s the receptionist or switchboard operator.
Below are the Top Ten Tips to Get Past the Gatekeeper and reach your desired destination every time!
1. THE GATEKEEPER IS NOT AN ENEMY
Whoever’s acting as The Gatekeeper between you and the Shipping Decision-Maker is just doing their job. Part of that job is managing demands on the Shipping Decision Maker’s time. Seeing the Gatekeeper as the enemy creates a self-imposed psychological barrier that will be difficult, if not impossible to remove when you view them as the enemy.
2. SOUND LIKE A SENIOR MANAGER – NO UMMMs… AHHHs… WELLLLs…
Management never gets treated the same as the workers. If someone believes that you’re important, they’ll treat you differently. Use a relaxed and calm voice. Speak slowly and articulately. Don’t divulge more than is necessary. During the opening seconds of your conversation, if the Gatekeeper senses that you’re their senior, they won’t risk offending you by probing too deeply.
3. THE GATEKEEPER IS A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE
While the Gatekeeper’s role is to restrict interruptions to the Shipping Decision Maker’s daily routine, they do know a great deal of important information about the Shipping Decision Maker and their business. Use this opportunity to check that the person that you want to speak to IS the Shipping Decision Maker. Check your facts with them. Ask simple, non-intrusive open ended questions to build up a picture of both the Gatekeeper and the Shipping Decision Maker.
“Can you put me through to shipping?”
“This is Ted with Logistics Dynamics.”
What’s the purpose of your call?
“The purpose of my call is to speak to your shipping decision maker about his lanes to Tulare, California. WHO IS THAT?”
4. DON’T SELL TO THE GATEKEEPER
The Gatekeeper has several distinct ‘powers’. One of them is the power to connect you to the right person. However, they typically don’t hold any decision-making powers. When the Gatekeeper asks ‘Can I tell him / her what it’s regarding?’ – don’t pitch your shipping service to them. First, it’ll waste your time. Second, it’ll irritate them and now they’ll be waiting for the opportunity to tell you that they can’t help you. Simply put, don’t be desperate to connect with the Shipping Decision Maker, nor sell to the Gatekeeper.
5. ENGAGE THEM AND DON’T EVADE THEM
Don’t be awkward and try to sneak past the Gatekeeper. Chances are you’ll get cut off at the knees. Actively engage with the Gatekeeper. Don’t get too personal or pry. However, you can gently probe. If you don’t get to the Shipping Decision Maker right away, engage the Gatekeeper so that they have a positive and friendly attitude toward you when you call there again. You’re unlikely to become best friends, but building a relationship and a rapport with them will assist them to want to assist you.
6. EASY DOES IT
If you’re nervous, stressed or tense, you’ll transfer those feelings to your voice, behavior and choice of words. All of this makes an impact on the Gatekeeper and how they perceive you, and therefore how they’ll receive your request for access or information. Take some deep slow quiet breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth and put yourself at ease. When the Gatekeeper answers, smile and confidently greet them with ease. They won’t bite you!
7. PLAN AND DON’T SCRIPT
Unless you’re a great actor, don’t use a script on the Gatekeeper. They’re likely to hear the scripted tone in your voice. Instead, plan how you’ll approach them. What approaches you take depends on the range of responses they may make. Plan your responses to key objections that the Gatekeeper may give you, however, leave yourself room by improvising your dialogue.
8. WHAT’S YOUR TRANSITIVE VERB?
Do you know that while you’re speaking to the Gatekeeper, you’re consciously or unconsciously employing a transitive verb to do something to them? A transitive verb is an action word that’s vocalized to someone such as CHARM, AMUSE, or PRESS. In Oral Communications, verbs are used as tactics to get results from other people. It’s essential that you be in control of the words that you’re speaking. Think about the words you say throughout your conversation.
A transitive verb is a word that a gatekeeper is going to pick up on. They’re going to say “Oh boy, who is this guy? I don’t know who he is. It’s the first time he’s calling me. Is he calling to charm me? To amuse me? To press me?”
You want to give the feeling that you’re calling and they’ve heard you call there before.
9. IS HE / SHE EXPECTING YOUR CALL?
This question is largely irrelevant because you want to speak to the Shipping Decision Maker nonetheless. However, in order to bypass the Gatekeeper, use the Shipping Decision Maker’s first name only when you actually have it. Ask “Can I speak to Jenny please?” It sounds more like a personal call. Remember, your goal is not to inform the Gatekeeper. Your goal is to bypass them and arrive at the Shipping Decision Maker. Next, they may ask: “Is she expecting your call?” Simply reply like this or with something similar: “Yes, I sent him some information recently and we have to discuss it before close of business today.” And Yes, in your mind, you have to talk about it by the end of business today.
10. THE LAST SOLUTION
It’s not the best solution, however, ask if you can be put through to the Shipping Decision Maker’s voicemail when that’s your last option. As in a regular sales environment, quickly point out a benefit for the Gatekeeper for doing this. If they say that the Shipping Decision Maker is ‘out to lunch’ or ‘in a meeting’ and you’ve already called several times, point out that you’ve already taken up a lot of their time and ask if they can put you through to voicemail to save bothering them further.
If you don’t know the shipping decision makers name and they’re not available when you call, ask to be put through to their voice mail. There’s a high probability when they put you through to voice mail, that individual will say their name in the recording.
REMEMBER, Marketing is a personal art. What works for one freight sales agent may not work for another. So, these Ten Tips are a starting point for developing your own personal method of bypassing the Gatekeeper, rather than seeing them as cast iron instructions to be rigidly followed.
95 out of 100 prospecting calls that I make, I get right by the gatekeeper. Why? Because I do enough research. There’s a high probability that I already know what lane they are doing or what load they may be working on or where they ship out of or where they ship to.
“This is Ted. I’m with Logistics Dynamics”
“What’s it in reference to?
“I’m calling in reference to the widgets that you haul from Birmingham to Orlando”