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Getting past the gatekeeper: How to keep control of calls

Getting past the gatekeeper: How to keep control of callsAre you still having issues getting through to the right person? Do probing questions from a receptionist or other gatekeeper bring you out in a cold sweat?

You’re not alone. Getting through to the right person or ‘getting past the gatekeeper’ continues to be a major challenge for many people working in a telesales or Welfare to Work telephone team. And it often begins with mindset.

Losing control of a call might mean you launch into a rushed speech in response to questions, giving away far too much information and prompting the all too familiar: “I’m sorry I doubt he’ll be interested” or ‘Can you email some information?”

It could be the feeling you get when you know you’ve blown your chances by letting the receptionist put you in your place like a naughty child. You re-run the conversation in your mind and wish you could pick the phone up and do your call again.

Keeping control involves doing two key things: Keeping your cool and staying confident.

Try these two invaluable ‘Getting past the gatekeeper’ strategies

They’ll give you a head start and ensure you won’t lose control on your next call.

Strategy One: Respond quickly and calmly

“What’s it in connection with?” I used to hate being asked this question!

The key here is to respond quickly. This means you have to stop treating the receptionist like the decision maker and save what you have to say for the right person. Learn to use responses that guide them to take action on your behalf. Take a look at the example below and tweak it to suit your purpose.

Receptionist: “What’s your call in connection with?”

You: “It’s in connection with finance and I normally speak to someone in that department, WHO would that be?”


You: “It’s in connection with recruitment, so I was wondering WHO normally makes decisions for this?”

After you’ve answered the question, keep quiet. Resist the temptation to offer further information and wait for the receptionist to answer your question.

Learning Point: The crucial point here is not to pause after you tell them what the call is in connection with. Also, by using an ‘open ended’ question you avoid getting a yes or no answer.  This approach increases your chance of getting – if nothing else – a name!


Strategy Two: Always be honest

Are you tempted to tell a teeny fib if asked: “Is this a sales call?”


Lying will get you shot down and you’ll create an extremely poor impression of the organisation you are calling on behalf of. Remember that your initial call with anyone is to discover information in order to identify a need. At this stage you don’t even know if this customer/ prospect fits the criteria of someone you want to do business with. So you really are not selling anything initially. Take a look at the example responses below.

Receptionist: “Is this a sales call?”

You (If you charge for your products/services): No, not at this stage. Initially I’d just like some information from the right person regarding recruitment/finance/IT, and this should then determine the best way forward with this call, so who’s the best person to speak to about this?

You (If a Welfare to Work or Skills Training Company): No, not at all. Our services are free, however I’d just like to gain some information from the right person regarding recruitment/training and this then will confirm quickly the best way forward. So WHO is the best person to speak to about this?

Learning point: You can’t sell anything if you don’t know if the customer /prospect has a need. If you’re a Welfare to Work or Skills or Funded Training Company, you are in a fortunate position as in most cases what you provide is free or funded. Unfortunately some gatekeepers will still treat you like a ‘sales person’. So, always be honest but keep control of the call. Use words like ‘confirm quickly’ and ‘the right person’ to give CLEAR instructions to the receptionist.

Try the strategies above on your next call and let me know how you get on!

If you’ve found this blog useful, why not download my free report 5 ways to get GREAT results by phone by visiting my website  I’m confident just ONE of the strategies in the report will make a big difference to your approach right now.


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