6 Ways To Speak With More Decision Makers & Avoid Getting Stuck At The Gatekeeper

6 Ways To Speak With More Decision Makers & Avoid Getting Stuck At The Gatekeeper

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.


If you want more, then join our next Online Sales Training, it’s totally FREE… Click below.


What is your referral strategy?

What is your referral strategy?

Do you want as many customers as you can possibly handle? Advertising is not the answer you’re looking for, referrals are…

The truth is people invest lot’s of time & money into advertising to get new clients, but surely the best advertising for your business are your current customers?!


– Lower your lead cost!

– They bring in the type of customer you are looking for!

– It’s completely FREE of charge and is going to spread positivity of your brand.

– Increase your value offering

– Help your clients help their friends.

– Encourage advocacy of your brand

– Significantly improve your return on marketing

Yes, we know it´s a no brainer and continuing my commitment to help you in 2016, I´ll even tell you how to create your Referral Strategy in 3 simple steps…





When is the best time to raise your prices?

When is the best time to raise your prices?

Ever been a little concerned about raising your prices?

I’ve worked with many business owners and successfully enabled them to raise their prices, often much to their surprise!

The key is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider how they will likely perceive your price increase, rather than how you might happen to see it.

Often, I find business owners think that any increase above the rate of inflation will likely result in their customer thinking this is unreasonable and moving to another supplier.

But stop! How might you react if one of your suppliers announced a price increase? What thoughts go through your mind? What are your options?

When you stop to think about these questions, often the following considerations begin to come to mind, e.g.

  • Will another supplier provide as good a service/product as my existing supplier?
  • How do I feel about losing the relationship I currently enjoy?
  • In absolute terms, is the amount of the increase that material to me in my business, in other words, does it really make that much difference to me anyway?
  • Is looking around to find a replacement supplier more trouble than it’s worth?
  • Whilst the increase may in percentage terms be above inflation, how long is it since they last raised their price?

In short, your customer is likely to consider how much they value your service against how much you are planning to charge.

If they conclude that, actually, it’s still value for money, then why would they take on the hassle of looking for another supplier? 

Your price actually says a lot about the kind of business you run.

Remember the Stella advert from a few years ago?  They took a brave [but ultimately brilliant] decisions to position themselves at the top end of the beer market. Because who wants to drink cheap beer?

So, if you want to raise your prices, makes sure you consider the following:-

For existing clients, the choice of how, e.g. face to face, on the ‘phone, by email, by letter, etc., will depend on your view, knowing them as you do, as well as which method you would prefer if you were the recipient!

Why you are doing it, e.g. ‘over a year since you last did’ or ‘in order to be able to continue to provide the quality of service they have enjoyed to date, you need to keep up with the rising cost to attract and retain a top quality team’, etc.

When you are doing it – the date from which it will become effective.

How much – being the amount of the rise, preferably in absolute terms, rather than expressed as a percentage.

Good luck!

Photo by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leejordan/

Get a Free Spot At Neil next live event & see the strategies explained in detail.

6 Steps Event - Guildford

Business plans that work & 3 templates to create yours

Business plans that work & 3 templates to create yours

Have you ever had a day where you were flat out busy but felt like you got nothing of value done?  It’s time to review your business plans.

Of course you have, even the best of us get stuck in fire fighting mode.

You already know the clichés. ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’ etc.

So why is it that so few business owners are working to a clear plan?

Building a business is hard enough when you are working to a plan but when you caught up in the middle of multiple projects that are seemingly all calling for your attention it’s far too easy to forget what’s actually important.

During the last 10 years I can spot huge blocks of days, weeks even months when I worked flat out on projects that at the time seemed sensible… only to later realise what I had been working on was not taking me closer to what I actually wanted to achieve.

With hindsight it’s easy to spot where things went off track, but that is no good for your results.  So here is an alternative. A simple process for creating a plan.

It’s easy to get started if you follow the steps you’ll almost eliminate those long periods of ‘being busy going nowhere’.

If you just want the templates then below is a link – but I strongly suggest you invest 5 min to first read the rest of this post.  It’s a long one, but I hope you’ll feel it’s worth it.

Chris Gibbons Business Planning Tools_Ad

The truth is, you need two kinds of business plan.

Your plan needs to be a practical tool that you’ll use everyday.

There are times in business when you will need to create a planning document for external parties, investors, banks etc. – this is not that kind of plan.

This is going to be something you use to keep you on track with your monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly tasks.

NOTE: This does not mean the kind of plan you’d write for an investor or bank is not useful.  Far from it.   A traditional business planning document with background, vision, mission, financial projections, marketing processing, etc. is extremely important to set the scene for your business. But, often they don’t get detailed enough to be practical.

The truth is you need two kinds of plan. One to set the scene and give context and another to give you clarity on what tasks you need to work on – an Action Plan if you like.

Start here – it’s not where you think!

The error most commonly made is that people start business planning with their business front of mind.  The reality is we need to go back a step.

Why did you get into business in the first place? Was it to open a company that out performed the market? Was it to win an industry award? Was it to be your own boss? Was it to solve world hunger?

I bet some of those things are part of it, but it’s far more likely you entered into business for (at least initially) reasons a little more selfish than that.

In fact, it’s my belief that, unless you have first satisfied all your own personal wants and desires, it’s almost impossible for you to be effective at helping others. If your mission in life is to solve world hunger, then good on you, but please sort out your own life first.

The first job of your business is to serve all its shareholders. That means you.

So, your first job in creating a plan is to figure out exactly what you ‘personally’ are hoping for from the business.

Every decision you make at work will effect you personally. Your day-to-day role, what money you make and how much time you need to invest in your business. Yet when making business decisions most founders have little or no framework for making sure work decisions lead to a business that create the personal life they’d like.

This is really dangerous.

How well do unhappy employees perform? If you are making work decisions that lead to your personal life being out of sync, then you have also helped create another unhappy employee… yourself!

We need to start with you in mind – not your business.

I call this process alignment. It’s about figuring out what you want your life to look like and then making it the mission of your business to give it to you.

It’s going to give you the rulebook from which you can base all decisions about your business.

How do I know if I am out of Alignment?

Here are some common signals

  • Are you working when you feel like you should be elsewhere (family, gym, friends, in bed)?
  • Feeling like your business runs you and not you run it?
  • Feeling underpaid for your efforts?

How to get aligned?

Start like this…

DreamGoalPlanAction_Chris Gibbons

  • Dreams – things you would love, but are unclear about how to get them.
  • Goals – ‘what’s next’ – defining what the next step towards your dream looks like.
  • Plan – the actual tasks you need to complete.
  • Action – actually doing it.

Your plan will fail if you confuse your Dreams with your Goals

I often hear business owners who are flat out busy working 80+ hours a week refer to their plans using language like this…

My goal is to build a business that works without me.

It’s a nice goal, but it should not feature in your current plan.

If you are currently working 80 hours a week in a business that relies on your being there, to create a plan to get down to zero hours is crazy. This is not a goal, it’s a dream.

It’s more likely you’ll need to transition. Get to working 50 hours, then 40 hours, then 20 hours.

Your dreams are critical because they guide your goals but they are commonly way too big for you to create a detailed enough plan to do anything with.

That’s why plans fail.  They stop short of enough detail to focus in on actionable tasks.

The solution is to get clear on your dreams but then break things down until you have bitesized goals that you can get to work on.

Your dreams need to be so big that you can’t quite see how they are going to happen.  Your goals should be within stretching distance.

Do your dreams need a bit of work?  If you find it hard to let go and allow yourself to dream, then here’s a tool you might want to explore.

Chris Gibbons Business Planning Tools_AdClick To Download The Dream Builder Template Here.

Turn your dreams into reality goals

Once you are clear about your dreams and your long term future, it’s time to get back to the here and now.

I often get asked what time frame to consider when setting goals from your dreams.  Ten years, three years or even one year goals? For most of us that’s way too far out.

Remember, this is about goals not dreams.

Goals need to be actionable and you must be able to at least see your target.

Work on the time frame of ‘what next’ – which is simply the next level up from where you are now.  My favourite tool for getting clear on your ‘next’ goals is often referred to as the ‘Wheel of Life’.

The ‘Wheel of Life’ is essentially a self-evaluation benchmarking tool for the areas of your life that feel most important to you.

Chris Gibbons Business Planning Tools_Ad

Now comes the business goal.

Now you are clear about your personal goals, it’s time to figure out exactly what your business will have to look like to get you there.

The process is logical – not always easy, but it is highly logical.  I am going to explain with a story.

Let’s start with a fictitious business owner – Mary.  I’ll describe the thought process Mary might have to go through to set her personal goals, then her business goals.

Mary has a strong business in the recruitment industry. Her dream is to live in the sun and not have to work while maintaining her high standards of living.

Currently, Mary works 80 hours a week in a vital role.  She’s still responsible for invoicing, sales meetings and ordering coffee. The business is growing but financially Mary is not earning anything like what she had hoped.

So, what should Mary’s goal look like?

We’ll make some assumptions here but given the info above here are some suggestions.

Although Mary could just pack her bags for Spain, it’s unlikely she can do it without causing problems in the business for her personally.

Mary appears to be in a fair amount of ‘pain’ with her current situation. Working much harder than she wanted to for less money.

For the vast majority of people I work with the first goal is getting ‘out of pain’.

Imagine I held your hand over a burning flame and then asked you to tell me about your dream holiday… it would be impossible to concentrate on anything other than — get my hand out of the fire!!

The same is true for your goals. Your first set of goals should just be to get out of pain. Think about how much easier it will be to focus on what you want when things feel like they are on track.

Where is Mary in pain? She is working more hours than she wants. She is not making the money she’d like. So the goal? Or rather the question…

As a’next step’ – how many hours would you be working to feel good about your situation?

As a ‘next step’ – how much money would you be making to feel good about your situation?

Mary might say…

Mary: If I could just get back to a normal working week and make enough to clear my credit cards and maybe go on holiday – that would feel great.

Question: How many hours would feel normal and by when would you like to be there?

Mary: Ok, I’d like to be able to work 0830 -1700 Mon – Fri. That’s it – no more early starts, late finishes or weekend work. If I could do that in six months, I’d be over the moon.

Now, that’s a great goal!

Question: How much more money would you need to make each month to pay off your cards and go on holiday – and by when would you like to get there?

Mary: I guess £1000 would do it for me. If I could get there in 6 months, I’d be over the moon.

And, that’s a great goal, too!

Both are ‘smart’ (specific measurable achievable real time bound) and they focus on something that would feel like huge personal progress for Mary.

Follow a similar thought process and your ‘next’ big business goals should become clear.

Turning Goals into Actions

Now you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to create some actionable tasks.  This can be really hard or really easy.

Some people have a natural talent for breaking down goals into clear actionable steps and others need to work very hard to figure it out. If you find it hard, here is a method that might help.

Let’s say your goal is to make a cup of tea.  Creating the action plan starts at the end point, actually having the cup of tea in hand.

From this point we just work backwards.

Directly before your cup of tea was finished, what action did you take? Pour the tea. And right before that? Wait 2 – 4 min for the tea to brew…and before that? Pour in the boiled water…

Just keep going till you get to the very first actionable step.

Tracking backwards like this you’ll develop a set of instructions for getting to your goal. It’s your roadmap.

But there is something missing.  A timeframe or set of deadlines and [if applicable] allocations of tasks to individuals. Or put it another way – who is doing what by when?

Execution, staying on track and measuring progress

Chris Gibbons Business Planning Day IMG_5802 IMG_5658

Depending on your preferred working style, size of your team and project size managing the execution of your plan may vary greatly.

In my businesses we typically start with a 90-day planning tool which is simply a shared excel sheet.

Chris Gibbons Business Planning Tools_Ad

If you are more tech savvy, you could consider some of the productivity tools for maintaining your plans.  We love Wunderlist, Goalscape and Google Cal.

The planning cycle laid out with details

Planning Process Full Chris Gibbons

The biggest problem with this process

Don’t hate me for this, but the biggest problem… is you.  It requires your discipline to actually work.

This is why my clients hire me. Accountability to actually get things done. Distraction will be the biggest killer in progressing your goals.

Get accountable.

Every quarter my clients are invited to a workshop where we facilitate planning in a group. Having a formal setting for getting your plan done will make sure it happens.

If you know this would help you, then find a group of people outside your own business who you can plan with.

If your team is larger, then you might want to hire a coach to come in every quarter and facilitate this process.  The external accountability will speed up your progress greatly.

If you’d like to join one of our group planning sessions or have me or one of the team come and facilitate your quarterly planning, have a look at this link.

Celtic Manor Business Planning Day
Celtic Manor Business Planning Day

Final planning tips

Diarise your tasks. 

Task lists generally have a flaw.  They don’t appear in your calendar.  Start adding tasks into your calendar just like any other appointment and you’ll find it easier to manage your day.

Track your progress visually.

Client Planning Wall Chris Gibbons ActionCOACH

Imagine your goal was to lose some weight.  What would happen if you put up a huge white board in the office that simply tracked what you ate for lunch each day and the number of visits you made to the gym?  If the whole office can see measurable activity and results, something magical happens.  Try it.

Review tasks daily, progress weekly & plans monthly.

We are all busy, but not reviewing your daily tasks is an unforgivable planning sin.  Leave your reviewing even a few days and your productivity will drop off a cliff.

If you don’t already have something in place, hiring a coach will make sure you remain focused every single week.

This post is designed to be useful and not a sales pitch.  So even if you choose not work with me or my team, please make sure you do not ignore this point.

Happy planning.