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How to Beat the Gatekeeper – The Right and Wrong Ways

How to Beat the Gatekeeper – The Right and Wrong Ways

Anybody who has worked in sales will know that getting through to the decision maker isn’t always the easiest of tasks. Most phone calls to businesses are handled by the gatekeeper, who after listening to countless sales pitches every day, will have no issue with disregarding yours either. Ultimately though, if you cannot get through to the key decision maker, you are not going to sell anything.

As difficult as it is to get to who you need to speak to, there is a right and wrong way to go about beating the gatekeeper. Here is a guide of some of the best techniques you can use to get through to the decision maker for a business, plus a few real-life examples that are sure to see you shut out.

The Right Ways

There are a number of different methods you can employ in order to get around the gatekeeper, but not all of them are recommended (as you’ll find later down this article). It’s best to remain as professional as you possibly can, helping you to start out on the correct foot with gatekeepers.

Skipping Out the Gatekeeper

First, you could simply cut out the gatekeeper altogether and head for the chosen decision maker. Linkedin is a growing platform in which intelligent sales tactics can be used. It‘s a simple way to get into direct contact with the decision maker, just connect and send them a message. It’s important not to jump right into your pitch in order to avoid being ignored. Instead, make reference to an experience you have noticed they have on their page, and how this might link to the product you are trying to sell. This displays a direct interest in them personally and will encourage them to listen to what you have to say.

Be Kind and Respectful

When speaking to the gatekeeper, it’s important to be kind and treat them with the respect they deserve. Gatekeeper is actually a dated word, and these people are professionals, often working in a competitive industry. Don’t dive head first straight into your sales pitch, take time to know them by name, and ask how they are. This could also pay off in the future if they remember you.

Avoid Scripting

After spending hours on a script, it can be tempting to follow this too closely. After listening to script after script, this will be of no interest to a gatekeeper and they won’t listen to what you have to say. They will also know you have said the same thing to hundreds of different people in their position, making it impersonal and repetitive. Going in with an original approach will not only affect your delivery in a positive way, but it will come across as unique and more interesting to the gatekeeper.

Show Authority

Make sure you are confident in your approach. Coming across as important makes you look like someone the decision maker would want to speak to. Be sure to spend time gaining the right level of knowledge of the decision maker, gatekeeper, and the business they represent. This can be particularly useful if you know of a common interest you share with the gatekeeper, helping you with initial interactions. Later on, of course, greater knowledge of key decision makers and their business can do you a number of favors in the sales pitch.

Last Resort

If they insist that they cannot put you through to the decision maker, a good option would be to ask to leave them a message. This puts pressure on the gatekeeper to refuse your request, rather than just taking an easy route out and saying they’re unavailable. Be sure to make sure it is as short, snappy, and straight to the point as possible. With luck, this could lead to a call back, or at least the decision maker will know that you called.

The Wrong Ways

There are also a number of ways to beat the gatekeeper, that are not advisable. Stay clear of these methods to give you the best chance of success when it comes to sales and cold calling.

Pretending to be Someone You are Not

Pretending to be someone you are not is a dishonest approach that might seem a good idea at the time, but certainly won’t benefit you in the future. The best possible scenario for this is you get put through to the decision maker, who realizes you are not who you said you were, and hangs up the phone. This will rule them out as a potential customer in the future, and you may make a bad name for yourself. Real world examples include:

  • Pretending to be a Radio DJ, telling the gatekeeper that the decision maker has won a prize.
  • Pretending to be a school principal, and say you need to speak to the decision maker regarding their children.

Fabricate Uncomfortable Subjects

Another underhand approach that does nothing to improve the stereotype of a sleazy salesman is fabricating uncomfortable subjects. Saying something that will make the gatekeeper uncomfortable and feel obliged to put you through to the decision maker goes against all the previous advice given in this post. Something positive is never going to come of this. It eliminates all element of trust in you and your product before you have even begun your pitch. An example found online:

  • Impersonating a debt collector who urgently needs to speak to the decision maker.

Never Taking “No” for an Answer

In some respects, you should be persistent when selling, but there is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. If you approached the pitch following all the advice given earlier on, then there is a chance that at this time you just will not get put through. If you continue to hound the gatekeeper, it will just make them even less likely to put you through or consider you in future. It is always better just to leave a message and ask them to give you a call back at a more convenient time.


Use these tactics above, and you could find yourself the victim of some payback from the gatekeeper.  Examples of this payback include:

  • Impersonating a detective, and telling the caller that the decision maker has been a victim in a murder case.
  • Pretending not to hear the caller over and over, seeing how loud they can get them to shout down the phone.
  • Pretending to recognize the caller, and talking on and on about when they spent time at summer camp together in 1985.

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by Jason O'Brien // Jason O'Brien is the Chief Operating Officer of He joined the company in 2007 having previously worked for Boeing and obtaining a BA in Information Systems from the University of Redlands.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.