Login Try our product

Gatekeepers And How to Get Past Them: 9 Useful Tips

Who hasn't heard at least one nightmarish story about gatekeepers? If sales reps decided to form an Avengers team, they would unite against one big bad villain - The Gatekeeper. But is it true they are your worst enemies?


The truth is, a gatekeeper is more of an anti-hero in the sales world rather than a villain, and the concept of an anti-hero is quite complex. They don't seek to ruin your day or annoy you, they are simply doing their job, whether you like it or not. 


But if the gatekeeper is simply a human, does it mean you can find a way to soften their harsh exterior? Yes, it does! And we're here to show you how.


Who Is The Gatekeeper?


A gatekeeper in sales is a person responsible for intercepting incoming sales calls instead of the decision-makers themselves. You can commonly stumble upon a gatekeeper in a larger firm or corporation, where they are hired specifically to filter out calls to determine if the decision-maker should invest time in it. 


Once they decide that your call meets the set criteria, they let you through or arrange a meeting with their boss, a.k.a. your aspiring lead. 


Believe it or not, the Gatekeeper is not their official position in the company.


The list of job titles usually includes:


  • Receptionists
  • Personal assistants
  • Executive assistants
  • Administrative assistants
  • Secretaries

However, in some rare cases, you can stumble upon the decision-maker's spouse or any other office worker performing the role of a gatekeeper.


8 Best Ways to Get Past the Gatekeeper


To increase your success rate in effectively overcoming gatekeepers and achieve your sales goals, we advise using a foolproof guide. As a lot of salespeople's skills are connected to some literacy in psychology, knowing how gatekeepers behave and the reasoning behind that is key. 


Let's dive right in!


1. Get a referral


Cold calling your decision-maker could potentially bring fast and effective results. However, if you do and you encounter an unfriendly gatekeeper, you might want to proceed differently.

A sure way to get to your ideal customer is to stalk them on LinkedIn a bit (not in a creepy way, though). 


Find out if you share any mutual connections, and if you don't, make some! 


You could even try to do proper research and find an employee with whom you have something in common and work on establishing a trustworthy relationship there.


When you succeed, the only thing that stands in the way of you finally getting to your prospect is asking for a referral. 


Example of a cold email you could later send:


Subject line:

John Stone said you might be interested




Hi Robert,


I'm reaching out to you following my discussion with John Stone about your sales onboarding issue.


As I understand, you struggle with getting your new hires up to speed, and as a result, it affects your sales cycle. 


I've been working with sales executives experiencing the same issues, and our solution has proven itself to be very effective.


How about we discuss it further over a short call?






A cold call example:


Hi [gatekeeper's name]. I would like to talk to Robert following my discussion with John Stone that concerns the current onboarding issue that you're experiencing. 


Pro tip: always use the decision-maker's first name only. This creates the illusion of confidence and familiarity with them and will signal your previous engagement. 


2. Set Context 


The worst mistake a salesperson can do is telling the gatekeeper that they are following up on a previous email when, in fact, they never sent it.


A lot of times, gatekeepers not only have an overview of their boss's inbox, but they also manage it themselves. So if you say that you're Linda from Sales Wolf and you previously exchanged emails with the decision-maker, a good gatekeeper will go to the inbox and check this information. 


If you get caught up lying, consider this deal as good as lost. 


3. Try building rapport with the gatekeeper


In their work, gatekeepers hear TONS of sales pitches, but even if you deliver a top-notch company presentation, it won't guarantee you "getting through."


But what might get you there is, perhaps, treating the gatekeeper as a person AND a professional. Yes, both of those things. 


Indeed, in a perfect world, these people should be doing their job and letting you speak to the decision-maker based on your merit and your merit only. But it's not a perfect world. 


Instead, it happens quite often that these people judge you based on their own gut feeling, and if they don't like you, they won't care how much merit you bring in. 


Remembering their name from the get-go, asking them how they are, and being genuinely interested will boost your chances of being "approved."


What else could help a lot:


  • Establishing yourself and your company as a thought and industry leader.


  • Deep diving into industry challenges and pain points even when talking to the gatekeeper.
  • Making the most out of your conversation with them. This means that you can directly ask them to help you out by answering a couple of questions about the company or the decision-maker, confirming their email address, or finding out their schedule. 

4. Be very direct and assertive


Be confident while presenting yourself and use direct and inquisitive tone. This could help create some urgency and importance, just enough for the gatekeeper to let you through without any additional questions. 


So instead of saying something like:


– Hey, it's Ken Adams from SalesWolf, could I talk to Regina Phalange? It's about printer supplies. 


Say something like:


– Hi. Is Regina there? It's Ken. 


5. Ask to leave a voicemail


Another thing that could potentially help you get to the decision-maker is asking the gatekeeper whether you can leave a voicemail. Afterward, you can follow up to find out if the prospect got the voicemail.


When delivering the voicemail itself, try to make it as short as possible and as mission-driven as possible. It should only contain the most critical information about you and the reason you call.


6. Warm up your decision-maker 


If cold calling doesn't get you through, try social selling techniques through LinkedIn. 


Find your prospect there and start building rapport and establishing yourself as a market expert. Post interesting content, share company updates, and make your page look presentable.  


7. Call outside working hours


People from top management often have a lot on their plate. That's why coming to the office before the official start of the day or working late is not uncommon. 


However, it's quite unusual for the gatekeepers to stick to the same unstable schedule.

So if you call the number before 8 am or after 6 pm, there's a chance you'll get to your decision-maker without anything or anyone standing in your way.


8. Don't underestimate their importance


Some sales guides will tell you that gatekeepers are not important and that you shouldn't treat them any different than anyone else you work with. 


In reality, the fact that you're even reading this article or googling the topic "how to overcome gatekeepers"  means that it's not that easy.


In fact, the google search will show over 7 million pages to answer the above-mentioned query. 


Gatekeepers can even become your allies if treated accordingly, and building a good rapport with them can help you in the long run. 


9. Don't lie


Sales professionals often like using tricks to get through to a prospect: from lying about the reason for the call to telling the gatekeeper that they are the prospect's relative. 


Most gatekeepers distinguish these kinds of cheesy lines from the get-go. Again, these people get A LOT of sales pitches every day.


That's why we highly recommend being as truthful as possible with them, otherwise, you might never get to your dream prospect.


Practice Makes Perfect


What works for all sales professionals and sales teams out there is actually learning from their experience. The more you call, the more relationships you build, and the more opportunities you have to test your techniques. 


Don't underestimate the power of practicing your ways around the gatekeeper, and if they don't work, trying again later won't do any harm.


To learn more about overcoming gatekeepers with style, watch our Friday Learning Extra Tips episode with the cold calling king Kevin Hopp.

Written by

Hanna Karbowski