Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

Cold Calling: Getting Past Gatekeepers

I am not a fan of cold calling. As I’ll discuss in some upcoming posts, there are some excellent ways to call prospects without employing a traditional “dialing for dollars” approach. I like to call it “lukewarm calling”. Unfortunately, even warm calls can land you in front of a gatekeeper, so it is critical that you approach them the right way.

SDR skills include getting past gatekeepers

There is no single tactic that always gets you through gatekeepers. However, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of getting a decision maker on the phone:

  • Be friendly: This one seems like a no-brainer, but people often make the mistake of forgetting the power that gatekeepers wield. A gatekeeper has what you want and you have nothing of value to exchange, so be polite.
  • Do your homework: Before picking up the phone, know who you’re calling. Most gatekeepers are not assigned to a single executive. In fact, they may be tasked with routing calls to hundreds of people. If they sense that you don’t the person you’re calling, prepare to be voicemailed.
  • Don’t use full names: I hear countless SDRs ask for decision makers using their full name. Nothing screams COLD CALL like asking for a person by their full name. Start with a first name. Know the last name so you can give it quickly if they ask.
  • Check for nicknames: If you’re calling someone with a name that is commonly shortened—Thomas, William, Robert, Etc.—check for nicknames. First, read the email address. If William Johnson’s email address is, call him Bill. If the email address doesn’t help, then check their LinkedIn recommendations. These are written my friends and colleagues, so if the person has a nickname, you’ll find it there.
  • Pretend you’re calling a friend: This single piece of advice will get you through more gatekeepers than anything else. You can go almost anywhere as long as you look like you belong. The same is true for calling. Sound like you belong, and you’re far less likely to be stopped at the door.
  • Don’t pitch unless they ask: Pitching to a gatekeeper who doesn’t care about what you’re selling is a waste of everyone’s time. However, if they ask questions, answer them. Some gatekeepers have the potential to be influencers if they like what you’re offering, so don’t play coy if they ask. If they like you, it can even yield valuable information about how to position your product.

If you work these simple tips into your calling routine, you’re sure to see results.

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Taft Love

Taft Love

Taft Love is an experienced sales development and sales operations professional who has worked with dozens of startups in and around San Francisco in recent years. He now leads teams of SDRs and Sales Operations analysts for SmartRecruiters in San Francisco.

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