Getting your telephone sales call off to a great start

You will identify needs throughout the sales process but initially the planning and preparation stage will give you opportunities to gain a basic understanding of the client and their needs, it will be useful to do some basic research on the company you are calling and the industry they work within This will instill greater confidence when talking to the customer and make them feel valued and are genuinely interested in helping them:

  • What is the decision maker’s name? Note it on your spreadsheet of contacts.
  • The customer’s web site (for businesses) might give you some clues as to where you may be able to help them specifically.
  • Does the customer use one of your competitors? Try to find out beforehand
  • Do I know my competitors’ offering and am I clear on the advantages I have over them?
  • What is the shape of the organization?.What products do they sell?
  • What are their buying behaviours and influence?

It should go without saying that you should have excellent knowledge of your company’s history, background, personnel, products and services along with sales processes and procedures.

You should also know your limits of authority when negotiating (price, delivery, credit terms etc).

Starting your telephone sales call-How to engage with the Gatekeeper

We’ve all been there. You want to talk to someone and the person on the end of the call can’t (or won’t) put you through. The gate is closed. Sometimes it’s bolted and guarded as well. You try all sorts of things to convince them that the person you really want to talk to will want to take your call. It hasn’t worked and so you think ill of the person stopping you- the gatekeeper. But they’re only human and if your call was important to the person they are ‘protecting’ what did you do wrong?

Consider these ‘do’s and don’ts’

  • Don’t assume the person is a gatekeeper – they might be a receptionist who is very busy or even someone who has just passed by the phone and picked it up. Stay positive and ask to be put through to the decision maker
  • Don’t, above all, be intimidated…they are just doing their job and may come across in a hostile manner (rare!) simply because they are busy and stressed. Their reaction isn’t because of you!
  • Don’t say, “Are you having a good day?” or “How are you today?” This marks you out as a sales caller and one who is not really interested in the answer. After all why would you ring up someone you don’t know and ask them how they are?
  • Do find out their name and use it during the call (and any further ones)
  • Do make your powerful introduction to them:Let them know what your Value Proposition is.
  • Do treat them as if they are a decision maker. They are, in so far as their decision to put you through is crucial. They are actually part of the DMU (Decision Making Unit) which we cover in more depth later.
  • Do show genuine interest in the person in terms of their business role. Ask for their help. For example, ask a question about the business that is relevant to your call (“How many staff do you have there?” or “Do you deal with xyz from that office?”) to which they might know the answer. Ask questions to build rapport and find out what you need to know. You will soon find out if the business and the person you want to talk to is relevant to your sale and at the same time find out what you need to know about the business.
  • Do make them feel important. Because they are!
  • Do ask, when you judge the moment to be right, to be put through to the person you are seeking to speak to.
  • Do ask to send information to them if they still can’t or won’t put you through, with a view to following up at an agreed date. See if you can get permission to cc the decision maker.

Most importantly, even above all this – do be persistent.

Getting past the gatekeeper is essential if you are to talk to the person who has the power to make the decision to buy your product or service (or at least to recommend it to the powers that be). How do you do it? Read on.

Understand Why the Gatekeeper Is There and Why They Won’t Put You Through

You have prepared yourself for those sales calls and are ready to pick up the phone to talk to the decision makers.

Having got through to the right telephone number, the first person you speak to might not be the one you are seeking. A lot of the time you will be put through to the right person without a problem just by asking them, so don’t start your call with the thought that you are going to come up against a gatekeeper as this could influence your tone and approach.

Sometimes the person on the end of the phone simply can’t or won’t put you through. We call these people “gatekeepers”. They may take the guise of a receptionist, assistant, secretary or PA in the office, or husband/wife/partner. They are the one person stopping you from getting to the person you want to speak to, so it makes sense that we need to get the gatekeeper on our side

Getting the gatekeeper on your side

As a first step, some people advocate that you should ‘sell’ to the gatekeeper on the basis that if they would buy what you are selling, then they’ll put you through. This is true, up to a point. However, it might not be appropriate to relay all of the information you want the decision maker to hear to them.

We’re not selling to the gatekeeper. We want to create enough interest for them to want to put you through to the right person.

Their objective will be to put through only those people who they think the person they are ‘protecting’ will want to speak to. Your objective is to help the gatekeeper understand that out of all the calls they receive, yours is the one that matters.

Stand out

Think of it from their point of view. They receive so many poor business calls, that the gatekeepers are often irritated to death by calls from people who are unprepared and poor at communicating about what they do.

When they finally get a person on the phone, who is courteous, professional, has an interesting voice and a sense of humour, it’s a refreshing change. Be like that and you will stand out.

Engage Them So That You Stand the Best Chance of Turning the Gatekeeper into an Ally

TOP TIP:Smile before you pick up the phone…even when you don’t feel like it. Try saying the sentence with a grimace and then with a broad smile. Your respondent at the end of the line can HEAR you beaming. That puts them (and you) in a more positive frame of mind.

You have now started the call in a friendly fashion which has you talking to them. You make your request to speak to Mr/Mrs decision-maker.

They won’t, so you need to move on to the next stage.

More Top Tips

  • Treat the gatekeeper like a new friend, but don’t get too personal in the early stages of the call.
  • Try to bring some humour or lightness into the conversation. Let them help you.
  • Take the time to establish rapport with each person you come in contact with. Whether or not they’re the actual person you were wishing to speak to, they can help you achieve your desired result.

For more advice on networking, please contact me.


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