Over the years, many salespeople have told me one of their biggest obstacles is when they encounter the gate-keeper on reception. What do they fear that causes so much anxiety?
The fact is we will always come into contact with gatekeepers. And yes, we may be asked a number of questions and sometimes they will prevent us getting through to the decision maker.
Yet, we need to remember it’s their job to screen calls. We should accept it and be prepared to work out the best way to deal with these situations and win them over. So, how can we do this?
I often ask people if they have worked in reception or perhaps still answer the phone within their company. This prompts them to think about how they felt or what they noticed, liked or disliked when salespeople called.
Interestingly, people often say they can sniff out a salesperson straight away. They tell me, the salesperson often comes across as overly confident or even cocky. Sometimes, they are too friendly or over familiar. Other times, the person can come across as dismissive and secretive.
I ask them what they like? What will make them listen and even help the other person? The answer is always the same – someone who is respectful, confident yet friendly.
The number one rule is to be kind to the person who answers your call. Get their name, use their name and remember it. Also, give your name in advance – showing you have nothing to hide whilst making their job easier too.
It’s important to know who you want to speak to – do your research and get the name first. People who call asking “Can I speak to your Marketing/ Finance/ HR/ IT Manger?” or “Can I speak to the person responsible for X?” may as well be holding up a placard saying 'I’m a salesperson'. This prevents them getting through. It also sends a message that they have not done their homework, creating a negative impression.
I also believe it’s important to present yourself in an assertive and positive way too, by asking questions in the right way. These changes are subtle but very effective.
Asking “Can I speak with Joe Bloggs?” can naturally attract a possible “NO”. Whereas asking, “Is Joe Bloggs there?” increases your chances as you reduce the response of 'let me check if they are in'.
It’s okay to be politely and assertively say “I know Joe is busy, and I appreciate you are busy too…when is a better time to get hold of Joe? X time or Y time?” Generally, you get honest answers and better insights into the right times to call.
And when they ask “What’s it to do with?” don’t get into a big pitch unless you know it’s a smaller company and they might be the influencer to the sale. Instead politely respond with a short reply saying “it’s about the stationery/ the computers/ the brochure/ the sales training…” and quickly add “So, is Joe in?” with a big friendly smile on your face.
I often think it can take several calls to build rapport with the receptionist, whilst increasing your chances of getting through to the decision-maker. So, once you have the receptionist on-side, it’s okay to ask for their help, but we must always thank them.
And when the tough gets going and you encounter a 'tough cookie', remember it’s not personal. Either move on to the next call, swap the lead with a colleague or call at a time when the receptionist may be on a break.