Pass the Gatekeeper on a Cold Call!
In the previous article, Pass The Gatekeeper – we discussed how to break the whitelist and to get through to the Decision Maker. You can read it here.
In case no special rules exist, the only law that is certain is the need to block unwanted callers. That includes you, of course, as no one was expecting your call and doesn’t know you, yet. What options do you have? You may have heard of the use of a tactical statement. This statement has many names — the purpose of it is to confuse your opponent.
Using a Tactical Statements
If you feel it is inappropriate to use fear and force to get past the gatekeeper or want to friendly, you may. But beware, you need to prepare, especially when you sound like a 17-year-old teenager. Remember the nature of the assistant is to assist and guard. The role is to organize the day and to decide on the importance of incoming inquiries.
The problem of assistants is that they are no subject matter experts. They only have limited details on strategic discussions. You may use this to your advantage by preparing a tactical statement.
Key objective of tactical statements
These statements are the answers to the usual questions of an assistant. It‘s the return of the „what is it regarding?“. The key is to put the assistant at unease. You have to break the routine; you have to throw him or her off the usual path. The way he or she is dealing with incoming phone calls, guarding the gate with her white list.
What are the elements of a tactical statement
Depending on the offering, you can use strategic- and technical terms in your response. Use abbreviations referring to strategic management tools. You know those as return on investment (ROI), EBIT, (YoY) performance, or whatever fits your solution or associated benefits. Don‘t be too specific; the key is that the statement is overwhelming and confusing the assistant. You have to position yourself on the same level as her boss; to talk his talk, to share the same set of values.
If you are selling advertisement it can look like this:
“It is about last quarter‘s KPIs, like CTRs and PPCs, influencing operational ROI, while supplementing all presales activities.“
You need to prepare a more detailed version, which should even be more confusing.
“It is regarding the last quarter’s key performing indicators, click-through-rates and pay-per-click prices of your most relevant keywords. While long-tail seems working well, the return in revenue and jump off rates differ a lot, lately.”
How to present a tactical statement
Be friendly but firm. If you are getting asked to be more specific, fire off your longer detailed version. The longer version should be as confusing to the assistant. Add the following sentence to your statement when asked to explain:
“Look — I could explain it to you in more detail if you and I had the spare time and a couple of hours. It is important; can you put me through, please? Thank you!“
Again, the words „thank you“ implies that this conversation has ended. There is no need for any further talk, just action.
Part III The Charismatic Approach dealing with the Gatekeeper
If you don’t like to be harsh to the Gatekeeper, you may want to be friendly. Be advised, it is harder to succeed, as you need to have a lot of charisma and need to master your role.
The assistant will have instant respect and feels a strong „like“ towards the caller. By being exceptional and personal, the secretary feels the urge to help you to connect with the decision-maker. As long as he or she believes it is of great value to the person in question
Although the hardest method, it is the friendliest and the most rewarding way. But the danger lies in detail. It requires a lot of convincing. There is a significant risk involved to get sent home or to get asked to send an email, to check your content.
In this approach, the key is to be very charismatic. You take the role of a prominent ranked advisor. As with the tactical statement, you need to be on par with the Decision Maker. This time you act like his mentor, a professor with more time on his hands. Almost like Obi Van Kenobi from Star Wars, who is looking out for his Padavan Luke Skywalker.
In this approach, you may be kind and friendly. The key is to build a relationship with the assistant as soon as possible. You also have to put on an outstanding act. If you are young and energetic by default, this method won‘t work for you. Your voice and way of talking must reflect the following:
- You are wise
- You are a thinker
- You are a friend and mentor
- You think of every word, and its meaning before you say it
- You are ultra-confident in regards to the subject matter
- The Decision Maker needs you, rather than the other way around
- You must sound like someone who could also be the advisor to the President of a country. Also, you need to be winning the assistant with your personality. If you can‘t talk the way to pass as genuine, don‘t even bother trying.
In this approach, you still need to stick to the basics: Never pitch the assistant! Yes, the secretary wants to assist you and intends to be of help. After all, it is the role of an assistant, and they may buy your story for the moment. Remember, they will never be deciding on a sale of your product — even if they are very much convincing. Worst of all, by “confessing” to the assistant, your cover will get blown. The atmosphere will turn from a blossoming friendliness to an ice age rudeness.
How do you respond when the assistant is answering the phone?
- When pitching in English, call them by the first name. Not in all countries and cultures, first names are suitable.
- Speak slowly, use a profound but clear voice (remember: sex sells)
- Start building rapport by asking a question about him- or herself, right in the beginning.
- Be genuine.
- Make a conversation, tell a story the assistant can relate. Make it about them, how is it to work for the Decision Maker?.
- Find out as much as possible, the usual working hours and lunch time.
- Ask for getting connected, before the conversation runs into a pause. Before the uncomfortable or awkward silence. Remind yourself aloud, that there had been another reason for your call. Pretend you got carried away with chatting.
- When asked what it is regarding, reply with “Decision Maker-talk.” “Bottom line profit“ or your tactical statement (keep it slow and charismatic).
- If the Decision Maker is not available, leave your first OR last name (not company name). Be aware that you are getting researched. Ask for a better time to get hold of the Managing Director, to call again.
- Don‘t leave messages.
- Don‘t leave a telephone number or email address
When the Decision Maker is not available
It means you haven‘t established enough credibility or importance to get passed. Or the Decision Maker is physically not available. In 99% of all cases, the assistant wants to take your name and number, to call you back.
Leaving a number or name under these circumstances will backfire on you! Leaving your name and company gives the assistant the possibility to check before putting you through. The assistant checks, if the Decision Maker agrees to speak with you, and if the topic you represent is relevant.
The best response to this question is to side-step the problem. Acknowledge the help, and ask when the Decision Maker will be available, to call again at a better time. Take down the time you have called. For future calling, you may want to try times when the assistant is not around. You may have a better chance calling early mornings or late evenings. Also, when the assistant is at lunch, it either runs to voice mail, or you are in luck in the Decision Maker answers the phone directly.
Remember: When the Decision Maker is physically not available, and when you have established sound creditability, you are on an equal level. You are a very busy person, in meetings yourself most of the time, and hard to reach.
Always ask yourself, would Richard Branson leave his mobile number with an assistant? Probably not. It might be a better idea to ask for the Decision Maker‘s mobile number or his direct extension. You travel a lot and have no time to go through the entire qualification process again. Asking for a mobile is a long shot, as you are most likely not getting the number, but worth a try. You may also ask for the assistant‘s direct extension, to avoid reception.
Guessing the direct extension
If you get asked to send an email, it is more favorable to ask for a fax number. I know this is ancient and faxes and out of fashion. Many companies may still keep a fax machine in the office of the Managing Director. Make sure you ask for the personal fax, and not any general number.
The objective of asking for a fax number is that you might guess the Decision Maker‘s direct extension. The IT department typically assigns even numbers with zeros to relevant people. The fax number mostly is a number which is only one or two digits apart. With the assistant‘s extension either in the middle or as the third number in a block of numbers.
Example: The assistant has the extension -102, the fax number is extension -101. The extension the Decision Maker is probably -100. Most of the times the number is forwarded to the assistant. But at times when no one is expecting a sales call, the decision-maker might pick up the call.
Obviously the best method to get to the Decision Maker is by obtaining his or her mobile number. Use the above tactics with caution.