How To Get Past The Receptionist On A Sales Call

You finally mustered up the courage to use the phone to sale your service. When you call your target customer, the person answering the phone quickly sends you packing.

While this may be demoralizing to you, it’s not personal, it’s his or her job to protect the boss’s time. The worst thing you can do is use shady practices to get past the gatekeeper. You will most likely need to deal with them again in the future, so make an ally instead of an enemy.

Some of the more popular ones that have been used in the past, but I do not recommend are:

  • Acting as you already know the buyer, when in fact, you do not. “Good Morning, is John in?” This is not as effective as it was 10 years ago because receptionists have learned, but it still works. The problem of acting like you are a good friend is when the call is placed through, the buyer is upset you got through and the receptionist may be reprimanded and would be upset with you. Even if you get an appointment, you have made an enemy at the front desk.
  • Throwing the receptionist off balance. There are both good ways and bad ways to interrupt a receptionists standard script to weed out sales calls. A bad one is:

You: “Hello is John in?”
GK: “May I ask who’s calling?” or “What company are you with?”
You: “Who is this?” or “I have to have a company?”
GK: “What is this about?”
You: “That’s why I’m calling him.”

  • Avoiding direct responses. Most receptionists use three questions to brush off a salesperson: Who’s calling, What company are you with, and What’s this about? Sales reps sometimes use phrases such as “I’ll be happy to tell you, but it’s important I speak to him” and “I’m not exactly sure” to avoid these questions. It’s best to be honest and answer.

The best way to get through the gatekeeper is to make him or her your ally. I use the following script:

Me: “Good Morning. This is Jack with ABC Co. Is Jill available?”
GK: “She is not in her office right now, would you like her voicemail?”
Me: “Please, but first with whom am I speaking?” (If did not identify upon answering)
GK: “Debbie.”
Me: “Debbie, what is the best way to reach Jill in your opinion?”

While you may be screened, this simple way gets through to the buyer, their voicemail, or with some businesses, a relayed conversation with the buyer through the receptionist. It’s simple, but better than being shady. I sell services, so I do not want a bad reputation in my area.

As mentioned above, you can use pattern interrupt to take control of the conversation without being deceptive:

GK: “XYZ Corporation, how may I help you?”
Me: “Good morning, who am I speaking too?” (Pattern Interrupt)
GK: “This is Debbie”
Me: “Good morning, Debbie. This is Jack with ABC Co, I’m calling for Jill.”

This takes the initial ammunition from the gatekeeper.

The last method I use is to call during nonstandard hours. Most companies operate around 8am to 5pm, I make calls starting at 7:30am and after 5:30pm frequently. I have even had a little success speaking with potential clients on Saturdays.

During off times, you can usually get to a buyer’s voicemail. I leave a brief email telling who I am, what I do, ask for an appointment and leave my number. I wait two business days and usually follow up with an email.

What do you do to get past the gatekeeper?

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