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How to Successfully Navigate Past the Gatekeeper in Sales: A Cold Call Technique

How to Successfully Navigate Past the Gatekeeper in Sales: A Cold Call Technique

As a salesperson, one of the primary challenges you’ll face is getting past the gatekeeper. This person could be a receptionist, an assistant, or anyone who stands between you and the decision-maker you’re trying to reach. The key to overcoming this hurdle lies in sounding like the right person. Here’s how you can do it.

Understanding the Role of the Gatekeeper

A gatekeeper has two primary functions: to always put through the right call and never put through the wrong one. This means your job is to sound like the right call. If you phone up and introduce yourself too casually, the gatekeeper will likely identify your call as a cold call, and you won’t get through. This is because you’ve demonstrated that you do not belong.

Sounding and Acting Like the Decision-Maker

To get past the gatekeeper, you need to start sounding and acting like the person you’re trying to reach. If you’re trying to get a hold of Managing Directors (MDs) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), for example, you need to mimic their communication style. These individuals are typically sure, sharp, clipped, and direct to the point. So, that’s how you should sound.

When you get through to a gatekeeper, cut out all the pleasantries. Go straight into it. Ask a direct question that they have to answer, such as confirming if the person you’re trying to reach is in the office. Regardless of their response, you should be ready for it. If they confirm the person is available, simply say, “Great, tell him it’s [Your Name], thanks.”

Emulating the Right Emotions

Your job is to sound slightly frustrated, slightly annoyed, but not rude or aggressive. Just a little bit irritated, just like their boss sounds. By doing this, you sound familiar. You sound like you belong. While this won’t get you past every gatekeeper, it will increase your chances of success significantly.

Engaging the Decision-Maker

Once you’ve navigated past the gatekeeper and are speaking to the decision maker, there are only three things that can happen when you do your opener. The most common, if delivered well, is laughter. This is a good sign and can help carry on the conversation. Then, you might get a response like, “Yes, I think I’ll hang up,” which is fine. You can’t get upset if you’ve asked someone to hang up. Or you might get, “Depends, what are you selling?” This is pretty much all that’s ever going to happen when you introduce yourself like that.


Your job as a salesperson is to get through to the decision maker. If you follow these tips—act and sound like the person you’re trying to get a hold of, cut out all the pleasantries, be assertive but not rude—you’re going to have a lot more success. So, stop being hesitant, step up, and do it. Your success in sales depends on it.

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