Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

7 Strategies for Talking to Gatekeepers

gatekeepersEven the greatest prospecting strategy won’t do you any good without a reliable way of connecting with prospects. If you’ve worked as an SDR, you know that one of the most difficult aspects of the job is talking to gatekeepers.

Notice that I didn’t write “get past” or “deal with” gatekeepers. This is an important distinction. While the ultimate goal may be to convince a gatekeeper to connect you to a specific person, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table if you waste calls by only trying to push past them.

In this post, I’ll cover the basic rules to keep in mind when you speak with gatekeepers. In future posts, you’ll learn more strategies for making the most of every call, even if you aren’t connected with your prospect.

If you work to build this “muscle”, following these seven simple rules along the way, it can transform your SDR game.


Rules for Talking to Gatekeepers


  1. Treat Them With Respect

The worst thing you can do when talking to a gatekeeper is treating them as nothing more than an obstacle to be surmounted. Not only do gatekeepers have the keys to the kingdom, they also know more than people realize, and they can let you in on that information if you take the time to cultivate a good relationship.


  1. Sound Like You Belong

If you look like you belong somewhere, people tend to assume you do belong, which can open all sorts of doors for you (literally and metaphorically). Similarly, you should speak to the gatekeeper as though you’re trying to get in touch with an old acquaintance. By acting as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for you to be calling your contact, you’ll be much more likely to get through.


  1. Get Personal

To develop on the last point, ask for your contact by their first name. Of course, you should also be ready with the last name, since that’s what people sound like when they’re calling a friend at work. If you think your contact might go by a nickname or a different name, try checking their social media or other parts of their online presence. Pro tip: scroll down to the recommendations section in LinkedIn and read what name people use to refer to them when writing personal recommendations.


  1. Do Your Research

Well before placing the call, make sure you know which individual you’ll need to speak with (or at least have an educated guess). Gatekeepers such as secretaries and assistants may be responsible for dozens or even hundreds of people within a single department. If you truly can’t determine who you should speak with, be honest and enlist the gatekeeper’s help in locating the right person or department.


  1. Build Rapport

By asking for gatekeepers to put you through to your contacts, you’re requesting a favor from them without being able to offer anything in return. To maximize your chances of success, call gatekeepers by their names and use a friendly tone without coming off as fake. Building rapport and treating them with respect can pay off in the long term as you may talk to the same gatekeepers many times over.


  1. Prepare Yourself

You should strike a balance between preparing too little and preparing too much for the call. Above all, avoid scripts, which make it too easy to sound robotic based on your tone of voice or choice of words. Sketch a broad outline of how you expect the conversation to go, including tactics for dealing with common objections, but give yourself room to improvise depending on what happens.


  1. Be Persistent

Tenacity is one of a sales rep’s most important traits, so don’t be afraid to keep trying. According to one study, it takes an average of 18 calls to connect with a buyer. However, be careful when referencing your failed attempts in the past. Don’t let them know you’ve already tried to get in touch 100 times; stay positive and focus on building a future relationship.


Check out more posts by SDR Path.

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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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