St Peter keeping you from passing through those pearly gates to talk with the boss? Getting blocked at the first hurdle by iron fisted PAs or as we call in the business The Gatekeepers!
Here are some of our tested strategies you can copy and use to get to speak with more decision makers.
1. Are Your Opening Lines Letting You Down?
Even if the company/person you are calling does not have a PA, whoever you are talking to is likely to have an auto screen to save their colleagues from people like you. They are just doing their job.
Understand that you are a nuisance and disrupting their workflow, you must be polite. You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
This auto screen is also triggered by tired and often robotic sales scripts. You know the kind that start with, “Hey, my name is Chris and I am calling from ABC Gadgets can I speak to Mrs B Oss?”.
Be human and aim for a more natural conversation. One of the most current occurring blunders being addressing people as “Mr./Mrs.” Come on… who talks like that anymore?!
Try this as your opening line…
Hi is [YOUR TARGET] free? It’s [YOUR NAME] from [YOUR COMPANY], is He/She in today?
Why do we ask ‘is he/she in today?”
Simple. It’s a slightly different question to what is used by 99% of sales people, but there is another hidden benefit. Nobody likes to lie. Most people will answer a direct question.
Your old opening line of…
“Hey, my name is Chris and I am calling from ABC Gadgets can I speak to Mrs B Oss?”
… is perfectly designed to signal warning bells with which the gatekeeper will respond by firing off some automatic response such as,
“does she know you are calling?”
“can I ask what the call is about?”
The gatekeeper is simply doing the job they were asked to do. Which is – be polite, but try and get rid of unwanted sales calls.
The opening line above works so well for one more reason. It will get you confirmation that the person you are trying to reach is actually in the office.
This gives you a much higher chance of being put through. Your gatekeeper will not want to have to think up an excuse of why your target is clearly in the office, but does not want to talk.
Using this line, we have consistently found we are able to speak with at least +20% more decision makers.
2. Play the higher authority
Of course, if clothes maketh the man, a little self assertion will help to convey authority.
Be confident and clear. If the Gatekeeper thinks you are a higher authority, it is unlikely they would risk offending you/an acquaintance of your prospect.
I used to work for a guy called Tom Malone who was brilliant at this.
He’d start every telephone call with [and you need to imagine a very stern James Bond style deliver with the link…],
“Hello, this is Malone, Tom Malone!”
Now, Tom sometimes went a little too far and rubbed people up the wrong way or frightened them half to death, but you can, too, adopt a special telephone persona if you want to really maximise your results.
My first telephone persona experience was my first telesales job about 18 years ago. It was my job to sell mobile phone contracts. For fun, one afternoon a few of us thought we’d liven things up by trying to make sales in various accents.
I was terrible, but I could just about muster a mixed-up Australian and would rarely get detected. I became, “Toby from OZ [mate]!”
It made the day pass, but it also gave me some other magical benefit. For the first time, I actually hit my sales target! Clearly Toby was a much better salesman than I.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that Toby’s accent had little to do with my newfound sales powers. It was what he said, not how he said it that made a difference. Toby would simply say things that I never could. Or more likely, Toby was much more less self-consious than me.
I have since discovered there is volumes of research into how emulating others is the fastest way to learn. NLP [Neuro Linguistic Programming} is frequently talking about modelling. But, you don’t have to model a real person to make this work for you.
In fact, it’s just as effective to invent a Super Star Sales Person, and trying being them for a few days.
The idea is that you create or emulate someone who has all the super sales skills you are seeking, and then simply adopt their personality for a while. You will start to see then how they handle things.
You’ll learn from them. Eventually you will take the parts of what they do well back into your own style.
The idea is not to become someone else permanently but to test various approaches and incorporate the bits you like into your own.
Need some help acting, take some advice from Sir Ian McKellen…
3. Stand up & move your feet
Play a game with me. Even if you are in a room with others, you can try this. Grab your phone, place it to your ear and say the following…
“Hi, it’s <Your Name> did you get my email last week?”
Now, stop. [if you are with others, then perhaps pretend you got cut off – after all, people might think you are crazy for talking to yourself about fictitious emails].
Next, stand up [& perhaps take a breath & smile]. Now, repeat your fictitious telephone call.
What did you notice about your second call? More or less energetic? Did you feel more or less confident? More or less animated?
When training telephone sales people the first thing I do is listen in to a live call. It’s so easy to picture exactly how the sales person is sat and what mood they are in, just by listening. Try listening for it on your next few calls.
If you can, we strongly suggest going wireless. If you have the budget, then get yourself a really good wireless headset.
We like Plantronics – The SAVY series for in the office or the standard Voyager Legend if you need to pair to your mobile phone. If you can’t go fully wireless, then the earbuds that come with your smartphone will do the trick.
4. “Is he/she expecting your call?”
Answer the, “is he/she expecting your call?” question with, “Yes, I hope so. I need to speak with him/her about the information I sent via email.”
Don´t try and fob off an enquiry into what the call is about. While the person you are speaking with may not have the decision making power, they are likely to know a great deal about the company´s needs and challenges.
ALTHOUGH at this stage it is important to refrain from going into too much detail; your aim is to pass the Gatekeeper, not sell to them.
If you are asked, “does He/She know your calling?” Try one of these…
[A] Hope so, is he / she free?
[B] No, but I am just trying to catch him / her, is he / she in today?
5. If asked, “What’s the call about?”
Don’t try to avoid this. People are smart and hate to be fobbed off with responses designed to confuse. There is a classic line taught to telephone sales people that drives me crazy, it goes something like this…
[Gatekeeper] :“What’s the call about sir?”
[Lazy Sales person]: “It’s about a private business proposition.”
Don’t use it. Please! Just be upfront and honest (as much as anything, you will feel a lot better about it).
Instead of trying to confuse the gatekeeper try this…
“I am running XXXX and would like to invite them to XXXX, is he / she there today because I’d really like to make sure they get the invite?”
Examples of how our line can be used…
I am running a seminar for all the plumbers in Townsville and would like to invite them to join us.
I am running through a list of hairdressing companies in Townsville and would like to invite them to see a new system that eliminates the need to sweep hair.
I am looking for all the Website Design Firms in Townsville and would like to invite them to take a look at a new development tool that is saving our clients an average of £34,000 each year.
The key to getting past the gatekeeper is giving the person on the phone the information they want, but not too much information. You don’t want them making the decision about whether or not to put you through to the main decision maker.
If the business owner is not available, ask when they will be in, get the gatekeeper’s name and thank them for their time.
The next time we call them, we have the gatekeeper’s name and you can say hello to them directly.
6. Role Play
It’s understandable to feel a little silly about role playing calls but the adage, ‘Practice makes Perfect’ stands true… and it won’t feel so silly when you’re smashing your sales records.
Make time to practice your approach so that you’re prepared with a natural response for all situations.
People can tell when you’re having an off day just as much in your voice as your face.
Clear your head, focus on the result and smile when you speak and if all else fails…
…you have tried.
You emailed your info and attempted follow up more times than you care to remember. Just by making the calls you are standing out far above the hundreds of thousands of Sales People who just don’t bother.
These techniques will give you an edge, but you have still got to pick up the phone. Happy selling.
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