Ask Kathy: Getting Past the Gatekeeper

By Kathy Sisk

Dear Kathy, how can I effectively get past the gatekeeper?

Answer: Although this is a vast subject, here are a few techniques that will help, especially on the first call. The best way is to appeal to the gatekeeper’s instincts, which is facilitating calls. That is what gatekeepers do all day – they facilitate calls. It is vital not to use the canned methods that have been around for years. Doing so identifies you as a salesperson, and you will have little chance of getting through. Instead, your introduction should sound more like the following:

“Good morning, I need to speak with Ms. Johnson, please, and I’ll wait while you direct my call; thank you.” (Be assertive – but smile when you say this, or you’ll sound rude.) Why does this work? The gatekeeper’s instinct is to do as requested, and secretaries are accustomed to directing calls. (When asked, gatekeepers usually deny the effectiveness of this approach; they don’t want to admit it is this simple to get through.)

Whenever the gatekeeper asks a question, address precisely what has been requested – nothing more. Then, ask a question such as, “And your name is?” or “Mr. Johnson is in, isn’t he?” (Remember to use a concerned tone). Again, smile at all times. The key is to regain your control without sounding rude.

If the gatekeeper asks, “What is this regarding?” you can answer one of two ways: “I made a commitment to call him today; he is in, isn’t he?” (Use a concerned tone). Don’t laugh; this is not tricky, just clever – you are not lying; you are telling the truth. Isn’t it true that, when you came to work this morning, you reviewed your list of calls and made a commitment to call each one today? If you are selling something, the alternative response is, “This is regarding a purchase; he is in, isn’t he?” (Again, use a concerned tone). And once again, this is a clever response, because it is regarding a purchase – you just did not share with the gatekeeper who was buying from who.

Kathy Sisk is founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., located in California. Kathy is a trainer and consultant, contributing thirty-five years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries. She is a published author with many manuals and books, including Overcoming Objections and Successful Telemarketing. Email your questions to

[From Connection Magazine March 2013]