Getting Past the Gatekeeper and Talking with the Decision Maker

Sales development reps are tough people since they’re faced with many challenges everyday. On one side, you’re being squeezed for the most possible qualified leads in the shortest possible time. On the other side, you’re getting turned away from prospect after uninterested prospect.

In a previous post, I covered some mental and high-level strategies to dealing with rejections. But here, I want to cover a few specific in-the-weeds tactics.

If too many prospects are turning you away, there are actions you can take right now to improve your results.

The first step is to figure out where in the process you’re stalling out.

Are you not getting through to your prospect? If you are getting through to your prospect, are you not getting enough time on the phone with each prospect to qualify them? If you are getting enough time, are you failing to convince them to take the next step?

These obstacles can usually be overcome with a little persistence and by maintaining control of the conversation, leading it where you want it to go. That’s obviously an oversimplification, so read along as I explain how it applies to each step of the sales development cycle.

Get Past the Gatekeeper

If you’ve found the decision maker but are still not getting through, rather than launching a multi-touchpoint email campaign, try incorporating calls into your outbound efforts. By no means will this be easy, as you’ll probably have a gatekeeper standing in your way. Part of this person’s job is to triage communication and avoid letting unimportant messages and calls through. Use this to your advantage by giving the impression that you have something important to deliver.


Speak with authority and confidence, but keep it vague. Getting too specific here will hurt you.

Let’s say you’re trying to reach someone called “Susan” who is a department head at one of your target accounts and has an assistant screening her calls. Beyond protecting Susan’s time, this person also must let urgent and important communication through immediately. By speaking with vague authority, you can take advantage of this dynamic.

Your instinct might be to call and saying something like: “Hi, I’m a representative with ABC Company. I’m calling to see if Susan has a few minutes to talk about her team and how our product might help it grow. Is she available?”

It’s polite and straightforward, but it’s also a mistake sure to get you punted. Susan’s assistant has an easy way out of an awkward situation: “No, Susan’s not available.” That’s all it takes to deny you.

Instead, when reaching gatekeeper, try something like this: “This is {{your name}} with {{your company}}. Susan please.”

Often, I’m put right through.

You may get a little pushback in the form of a question like: “What’s this regarding?”

If this happens, don’t cough up too much information here and give the gatekeeper a easy way to turn you away. Instead, try saying: “I’ve been trying to reach her. When’s the best time to call?”

Getting on the Phone with the Decision Maker

So the assistant has put you through to Susan. Now what?

Again, you might be tempted to politely explain yourself. And again, that’s the wrong way to open the conversation. Instead, try something like this. “Hi Susan, it’s {{your name}}. Is this a good time?”

At this point, Susan still doesn’t know why you’re calling, so you’re much more likely to get an honest answer about her availability. As soon as she realizes she has a sales person on the line, she’s going to want to end the call as quickly as possible.

Get in front of that by saying something like “Hi Susan, I’ve got another call in a few minutes and I didn’t really expect to reach you at all, so I was planning to leave a message. I’m calling about …” This way, you create a ticking clock for both of us right upfront. The message here is: “Susan’s busy. I’m busy. None of us have much time to waste on sales calls — so let’s make this quick.”

Getting a Demo Scheduled with a Decision Maker

Now you’ve talked your way into a brief conversation with Susan. From your prior research and brief conversation, you’ve learned that she would make a great customer. There’s a clear business case that your product addresses. You just need to get her to try it.

There are no magic words you can say to move the process forward. You need to know your product well and be able to answer any questions thrown your way. But remember: your goal is to schedule the demo. When I’m asked about PersistIQ, I like to say, “It’s one of those things you really have to see to believe. Let’s block out 15 minutes this week for a quick walk-through.”

Even if you get turned away here, it can’t hurt to ask again. After all, calls can get cut short and impromptu pitches can fall on distracted ears. Follow up with an email or two suggesting times for a demo.

As as a mentor of mine told me, there’s a difference between refusal and rejection. Just because someone is saying “no,” doesn’t mean they have completely rejected your proposal. Sometimes you just need to ignore the “no,” to get to yes.

Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

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