Getting past the Gate-keepers

I get asked the question “What is the best way to get past Gate-keepers?” and my answer is usually summarised “With respect and assertiveness”.


  • Gatekeepers have a job to do but they don’t run the organisation!
  • Their time is precious and you are an interruption.
  • They have heard it all before and even if they haven’t (and we know they haven’t) they think they have!
  • Remember that if they put your call through against that persons wishes or where the decision maker will perceive your call to be a waste of time  A) the gatekeeper will not be doing their job very well.   B) the person you get to talk to will be fairy unresponsive if they feel you have tricked or snuck past the gate-keeper and you may waste a valuable opportunity through being hasty.
  • They are empowered to make “judgement calls” so if they perceive your call to be of value to their organisation, they will usually assist you.


  •  Lie about who you are, where you are calling from, pretend that you are not selling anything, or pretend it is a personal call.  (These are the tips that some people give for getting past the gatekeeper but most are wise to this and will smell a rat and this just puts you in a difficult situation to recover from and not likely to get you anywhere in the long run)
  • Waffle or over-sell
  • Be cheesy or smarmy. Be careful with phrases such as “how are you today?”
  • Be rude, ignorant or arrogant.  Even if they are rude to you just let it wash over you, thank them for their time and even end the call if you need to rather than get drawn into an antagonistic conversation with a stroppy gatekeeper. It will get you nowhere and there is the risk that they will repeat their false or exaggerated version of events to anyone else that will listen.
  • Ask “to speak with whoever looks after…” or “the owner of the business”.  Get a name!


  • Aim to strike up a rapport with the gatekeeper
  • Very succinctly explain the nature of your call, touch on the features of what is on offer, give an indication of the benefits. Where possible, try to make this relevant to their organisation or geographical location or anything else that makes a “connection”
  • Use them for Qualification purposes if you can by asking the right questions directly to the gatekeeper but be wary that there is the temptation just to get you off the phone and give you the brush off with incorrect answers so these need to be well thought out and skilful
  • Demonstrate that you have done your research and drop things into the conversation to show that you are not targeting them at random but because you think there could be benefits for them.
  • Demonstrate a good commercial understanding of their company and how they could potentially benefit and why you have chosen to call their company in particular
  • Ask or check with them who they feel would be the most appropriate person to speak with
  • Show empathy but be assertive. Don’t apologise for making your call or attempting to sell services and products but do show empathy if they are too busy to deal with you right now or if they are struggling to know who would be the best person to assist with your call – offer help such as “Is it the financial controller I should speak with?” or “I tend to speak with HR Managers usually, would that be the same for your company?”
  • Ask what would be the usual way to get to talk with the right person in their organisation and offer to send an email and call back if that is more appropriate and convenient.
  • Helen Stothard

    Great post as ususal. Such a shame people don’t think about this before making calls. As a gatekeeper myself it surprises me how many people are unprepared and rude on the phone. A little bit of research and a few manners make so much difference.

  • Nikki Cooke

    Thanks for this post! I’m just about to embark on cold-calling and will follow your tips to the letter.

  • Louise Barnes-Johnston

    Beautifully summarised! I’ve been teaching this message in my own selling skills workshops for years.
    Many years ago, I was a ‘gate-keeper’ and would always appreciate when callers treated me with respect & didn’t try to bulldoze or trick their way past me (they never got a chance to do it a second time!).
    Gatekeepers are people too.

  • Insurance Telemarketing

    Great post Maxine. You have listed the techniques that we have been using for years to get past gate-keepers.

  • Toni Hunter

    Another great post Maxine.
    I absolutely hate it when people (usually headhunters) lie to my receptionist to get through to me. It’s so unprofessional and disrespectful.

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