How to Get Past the Gatekeeper: 5 Key Strategies for Sales Teams

8 mins

In the sales world, gatekeepers are pivotal in controlling access to decision-makers within ...

By Pareto Team


In the sales world, gatekeepers are pivotal in controlling access to decision-makers within organisations. Navigating past these gatekeepers is a common hurdle that sales professionals in all industries and markets face. However, getting past them is crucial for elevating performance, reaching targets, and driving your sales career and business success. 

In our guide, we'll explore five effective strategies aimed at supporting sales professionals in overcoming the common and often tricky challenge of how to get past the gatekeeper. 

The Role of Gatekeepers in Sales

In sales, gatekeepers refer to individuals who manage access to decision-makers in an organisation, often administrative assistants or receptionists. They screen calls and handle appointments for higher-level executives. The role of gatekeepers is crucial as they decide whether to allow or block access for sales professionals. They filter out sales calls and emails they consider irrelevant or spammy, prioritising requests based on their relationship with the salesperson.

To navigate gatekeepers successfully, sales professionals should build positive relationships with them, understanding and respecting their roles and time. Gatekeepers significantly impact a salesperson's ability to reach decision-makers and close deals. Successful sales professionals recognise the importance of these relationships and use effective tactics to engage gatekeepers constructively, ensuring a smoother sales process.

How to Get Past the Gatekeeper - Five Key Strategies 

Now that we understand the role of gatekeepers and their role in whether or not a sales professional makes it to speak to the decision-maker and potentially close the sales, we need to explore ways of getting past them. 

So, here are five effective strategies that overcome the challenge of how to get past the gatekeeper. 

Developing an elevator pitch tailored to engage gatekeepers is crucial for establishing rapport, demonstrating value, and leaving a positive impression. Let's explore why this approach is essential and how to execute it effectively.

  • Start with a Relevant Hook: Begin your elevator pitch by addressing a pain point or challenge commonly faced by decision-makers in the gatekeeper's company or industry. This grabs their attention and shows that you understand their world. For example, you might mention how your solution helps bridge the gap between qualified leads and actual sales.

  • Offer Value Without Being Salesy: Instead of immediately diving into a sales pitch, position yourself as a helpful resource with expertise and insights. Avoid overtly promoting your product or service at first. For instance, highlight your experience in improving lead nurturing strategies and offer to share some valuable tips that could benefit their team.

  • Suggest Collaboration, Not Demands: Propose a collaborative conversation or information exchange rather than demanding a meeting. This demonstrates a willingness to work together and positions you as a trusted ally. You could suggest a brief discussion or offer helpful resources, such as case studies or e-books, that might interest them.

  • Show Respect and Flexibility: Acknowledge the gatekeeper's role and express gratitude for their time. Be understanding if they cannot connect immediately and offer alternative ways to engage, such as sending information via email. You create a positive impression by showing respect and flexibility and laying the groundwork for future interactions.

Top tip: Personalise your pitch. If possible, find common ground with the gatekeeper to build rapport. Reference their department, a mutual interest, or extend a compliment regarding their company's recent accomplishments.

Getting a referral can be an effective strategy for bypassing gatekeepers. When you gain a referral, someone connected with that organisation has recommended you. This can carry significant weight with the gatekeeper, as it is a sign that you are a trusted contact and someone the business decision-maker is willing to engage with. 

Here are some key ways to get referrals:

  • Speak to Existing customers - When in client meetings, ask them to refer you to other businesses they know who would be interested in your products and services.

  • Expand your Network - In the age of increased digital connectivity, expanding your professional network through platforms like LinkedIn is even easier. Use your connections to gain those vital referrals.

  • Industry Events and Conferences - Attending events and conferences is an excellent way of seeking referrals. You may meet people who have connections to the businesses you are targeting. 

Top tip: When contacting decision-makers, mention the mutual connection early in your conversation, as this can help establish a positive and open dialogue.

So, exactly how will these referrals benefit you when trying to get past the gatekeeper:

  • Builds Trust and Credibility - Gatekeepers are more likely to allow access to sales professionals who are recommended by someone connected to the business, as this suggests that you are a credible and trustworthy person to deal with. 

  • Streamlines the Screening Process - Gatekeepers are often responsible for screening out unsolicited or irrelevant communication. Having a referral can help you stand out from other sales professionals and signal that your contact is welcome and expected, making it more likely for the gatekeeper to allow your access. 

  • Reduces the Sales Cycle - By gaining access to the decision-makers through a referral, you are able to bypass the lengthy process of trying to navigate past the gatekeepers through more traditional means. 

By adopting a practical approach and conducting upfront research, sales professionals can turn seemingly cold calls into informed conversations that connect effectively with both gatekeepers and decision-makers. Here are some key steps you can take: 

  • Understanding the Gatekeeper - Researching their role, responsibilities, department, interests, and reporting structure can offer essential insights. This information aids in customising your approach, enhancing the clarity and effectiveness of your communication. These details can be gathered through social media platforms like LinkedIn, the company website, and any mutual connections. 

  • Research the Business - Understanding the details of the company you're targeting can significantly impact your approach. Begin with fundamental information gained from sources such as the company website, industry reports, and recent news. Investigate their social media accounts to grasp their culture, values, and recent achievements. This demonstrates your commitment and enables you to align your pitch with the company's goals and challenges.

  • Identifying Decision-Makers - Understanding who has decision-making power is crucial. Explore the organisational structure to identify key positions, including hierarchy, roles, and responsibilities. Additionally, familiarise yourself with the decision-makers secretary or assistant, as they can offer valuable insights and potentially assist in facilitating your access.

  • Tailor your Strategy - Armed with the comprehensive information you have gathered, customise your strategy for each call. Create questions that align with the specific needs and challenges of the business. Steer clear of generic pitches by including details about the company's recent achievements or addressing potential pain points. This personalised approach not only grabs the attention of the decision-maker but also enhances receptiveness from the gatekeeper.

A multichannel approach to overcoming gatekeepers in sales offers a strategic advantage by diversifying communication channels. This approach allows for a persistent yet respectful engagement, adapting the frequency and timing of outreach attempts based on responses. Here are some key examples of effective communication channels:

  • Phone Calls - Reach out to decision-makers through direct phone calls with a concise and personalised message. Be prepared for potential gatekeeper interception by crafting an initial pitch that respects their role while signalling your intent to connect with decision-makers.

  • Emails - Provide valuable information in emails to capture the interest of decision-makers. Keep language credible and avoid excessive promotion. Follow up consistently, adjusting your tone based on the recipient's response or lack thereof.

  • Social Media - Use professional social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect directly with decision-makers. Personalise connection requests and messages, highlighting shared interests or industry relevance. Also, engage in a thoughtful manner by commenting on their posts or sharing pertinent content.

  • Utilise Voicemail and Follow-up Techniques - Leave concise voicemails encouraging decision-makers to return your call. You should also strategically follow up, referencing previous interactions or providing additional information in subsequent attempts.

The combination of channels provides a more comprehensive and personalised interaction, fostering meaningful connections, minimising the impact of initial gatekeeper interactions, and increasing the chances of gaining access to the decision-maker. 

In the fast-paced world of sales, keeping in touch with gatekeepers is vital for building lasting relationships. It's easy to overlook the need to stay connected with these important contacts when caught up in a busy schedule. However, losing touch with a gatekeeper can lead to missed opportunities and setbacks. They might:

  • Forget past conversations

  • Explore partnerships with other companies

  • Force you to rebuild the relationship from scratch. 

This requires additional resources and puts the initial efforts invested in building trust at risk. Therefore, sales professionals must recognise the importance of reconnecting with gatekeepers to avoid missing out on valuable opportunities and sustain the relationship's strength.

Whether it's to uphold rapport or ensure the smooth flow of the business relationship, these periodic reconnections help strengthen the bond with gatekeepers and increase the chances of getting through to the decision-maker.

Top tip: Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools can be especially helpful. These tools streamline the process by recording key information prompting timely follow-ups. A CRM logs the date of the last conversation and sends reminders to reconnect, ensuring ongoing engagement.  

Final Thoughts on How to Get Past the Gatekeeper

Navigating past gatekeepers is essential for sales professionals aiming to access decision-makers and achieve business success. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, sales teams can build positive relationships with gatekeepers, effectively engage decision-makers, and ultimately drive results. 

Through key strategies such as personalised approaches, leveraging referrals, and maintaining consistent communication, sales professionals can overcome the challenges posed by gatekeepers and unlock new opportunities for growth and advancement in the competitive sales landscape.

Need Further Expert Advice on Elevating Your Sales Career? 

We hope that our strategies for how to get past the gatekeeper support you in driving your performance and growth as a sales professional. If you are looking to use this new-found knowledge and take that next step in your sales career, we have over 25 years experience in connecting outstanding sales professionals with innovative industries.  

Contact the team today to find out how we can use our dedication and expertise to kickstart your sales career. 

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