Flanking the Gatekeeper

By Heather Baldwin

You’ve been trying for months to get the CFO of a major corporation to give you some space on his calendar, but you can’t seem to get past his gatekeeper. Though it may seem at times you’re the only one with this frustration, you’re definitely not alone. Getting an appointment is one of the biggest challenges salespeople face. And even with the best presentation in the world, if you can’t get in the door to give it you’ll never make the sale. Next time, try one of these five tactics to get through the gate so you can give your presentation, says Brian Giese in his new book, I.T. Sales Boot Camp (Adams Media Corp., 2002).

Direct line. Call the company’s main line and ask the receptionist for the CFO’s extension number. If he answers that number himself, you can bypass the gatekeeper.

Intentional wrong number. Call a different department altogether. Sure, you want to call the CFO, but try calling someone in marketing and playing dumb. Ask for the CFO, and when the person tells you that you have reached the wrong department, simply ask them to transfer you to him. Chances are, they will.

Early bird. Busy executives often arrive at the office by 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., but their gatekeepers usually don’t arrive until 8 a.m. or later. So when the CFO’s telephone rings before the gatekeeper is there, there’s a good chance he or she’ll answer it. This tactic also works in the evenings and on weekends.

Call at lunch. During lunch the gatekeeper often is replaced for an hour by a substitute gatekeeper – or better yet, no one at all. When there’s a fill-in, says Giese, that person is usually much easier to get around than the full-time gatekeeper.

Call higher. This tactic is similar to the intentional-wrong-number trick, but here you’re calling a level or two higher than the person you want to reach. Trying to get time with the CFO? Call the CEO. His secretary will tell you you’ve reached the wrong office and likely will offer to transfer you to your target. And a call transferred from the CEO’s office stands a much better chance of getting past the gatekeeper than a call from the outside.