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A Telemarketer's View of Gatekeepers

Martin Blain, Sales Director of Office Response, recently posted a great blog item here:

http://www.office-response.co.uk/blog/2010/07/a-gatekeepers-view-of-telesales-calls/ 

I was invited to respond from a telemarketer’s perspective to give a view from “both sides of the fence”.

In our business, it’s fair to say that one of the biggest challenges is reaching the senior decision makers we need to engage with for our clients. They are usually jealously protected by “gatekeepers” who understandably won’t put through calls that they think might be a waste of time. We carefully choose who we call to make sure that our client’s solutions are being pitched to contacts who are really going to benefit, but there is a real skill in persuading receptionists, PA’s and switchboard operators that you’re worth connecting to a busy senior manger or director.

Unscrupulous and unethical telemarketers will try all kinds of “dirty tricks” to get through, causing real damage to the brand they are calling for. The worst example I’ve personally experienced was a call that was put through to me by someone claiming to be “from the police”, only for me to discover it was a telemarketing call once they got through. Given my profession, I’m especially inclined to take telemarketing calls, but his approach was little short of disgraceful and the feedback I gave him was pretty “direct”.  

It goes without saying that we wouldn’t dream of doing anything underhand like this, or our hard won reputation would quickly be in tatters, but we surveyed some of our agents to get their perspective….

What is the best way to persuade a gatekeeper to put you through to a senior decision maker?

“Always be polite and stay calm”

“Using the correct name and job title for the decision maker is really important”

“Be friendly, open and co-operative and try to build a relationship without being smarmy, this usually means you’ll be put through on a second or third call”

“Be direct and up front with a clear purpose, giving enough information up front to give the decision maker a fair idea of what the call is going to be about”

“Be professional and polite – ask for the named contact and try to speak to them conversationally, it’s easy to sound “scripted” when you are calling all day, even though we’re not…”

What are PA’s, receptionists and other gatekeepers usually like?

“Very helpful if you mind your p’s and q’s”

“Some are very helpful indeed, especially high level PA’s”

“It’s 50/50 – about half are really willing and happy to help, provide names and check diary availability”

“Most are actually OK, but it’s the really awkward ones we remember. Some are actually very apologetic about not being able to put you through”

What are the toughest gatekeepers like?

“Difficult – the toughest won’t give you any time at all to explain what the call is about.”

“Stern, short in their responses and sometimes impolite; they will always pick up on the weakest point in your explanation and positioning”

“Horrible….”

How do Gatekeepers typically respond when they understand that you are making a telemarketing call?

“Most are positive – generally a good introduction earns a good response”

“Some will block the call outright and will ask for email to be sent first, either to themselves or the contact directly – when we do so this often opens things up on successive calls”

“It depends, some are fine and some will put an absolute block on the call – it’s generally not worthwhile trying to persuade them to put you through if this is the case”

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