Ask any sales professional, and they will have countless anecdotes on the importance of direct line phone numbers. But what happens when you can’t find that direct line? Sooner or later you will need to go through a gatekeeper to reach your target prospect.
The truth is, these sales professionals’ qualitative suspicions are backed by facts. When dialing at the director level, you are 46% more likely to connect with your prospect using a direct number and 147% more likely to connect when dialing at the VP level.
Furthermore, customer data decays at approximately 2% per month, meaning more than 20% of your prospecting data could become inaccurate over the course of a year. If you started at 100% data accuracy but didn’t update your information, your data accuracy could decay rapidly over 36 months.
Your accuracy would go down to 94% by the third month, drop to 89% by the sixth, and go downhill from there. Long story short, businesses do not trust their data and for good reason; much of it is inaccurate.
What this means for any sales professional is you will inevitably have a prospect that can only be reached by going through a gatekeeper. The way you interact with that person will directly impact your likelihood of landing a sale.
So here it is, 5 tips for levering the gatekeeper (and maybe even turning them into an asset).
5 Ways to Leverage the Front Desk to Improve Call Efficiency
- Strategy 1: call early and call late
- Strategy 2: when in doubt, zero out
- Strategy 3: be clear and direct to reach your target
- Strategy 4: charm your way through
- Strategy 5: when all else fails, try another communications channel
Strategy 1: Call Early and Call Late
If you are consistently getting screened by the gatekeeper, consider calling when the gatekeeper isn’t there. Many if not most receptionists are paid hourly. And, considering their job is to answer the phone, they are generally scheduled to work during times with the highest call volume.
For example, the receptionist may work 9-5, but your C-Suite prospect may be at the office by 8 a.m. and stay late until 6 p.m. Try calling during these hours when the receptionist isn’t there. This same strategy works well for less popular holidays like Presidents Day when executives are likely to be working but lower-level employees may have the day off.
QUICK TIP: If calling at off times doesn’t work, try calling during lunch hours. Chances are the gatekeeper is on a short break, and you may be able to slip through while they’re on lunch. Bonus points if you can utilize time zones to your advantage!
Strategy 2: When in Doubt, Zero Out
Before you can utilize the front desk, you’ll need to connect with a live person first. An increasing number of businesses are opting to use automated phone answering systems. Some are doing away with the traditional receptionist entirely.
Especially true for tech companies, this means your first challenge may simply be finding someone to answer your call.
The best advice in this scenario is to keep hitting 0 until you connect with someone. Sent to generic sales voicemail? Hit zero and listen for options. Asked for an extension? Hit zero and listen for options.
It may sound vague, but there is someone designated to take calls. If you don’t have an extension, hitting zero is your best bet.
QUICK TIP: If zeroing out doesn’t work, do the next best thing and try taking a few guesses on different extensions. Companies may be automating phone answering, but that doesn’t mean they’re using complex extensions to keep people out.
Try a combination of both 3- and 4-digit extensions starting with 1’s and 2’s. For example, ext. 203, ext. 1006, ext. 122, etc. If you’re able to connect with a person this way, make a joke about “fat thumbs” and ask to be transferred to your target prospect.
Strategy 3: Be Clear and Direct to Reach Your Target
Often the gatekeepers first question is, “Why are you calling?” In this situation, a simple and direct statement about why you are calling can often be the difference between landing a sale and leaving your information at the desk.
In practice this may look something like this:
“Hello thank you for calling <our company>, how may I help you?
“Hello, my name is Maria, and I am calling from <my company>. Is Jessica available?”
“I can check; why exactly are you calling?”
“I’m calling from <my company> about a sales initiative for the upcoming quarter. Is she available?”
By being direct with your answer you leave less room for follow up questions and encourage the gatekeeper to patch you through. After all, they don’t want to screen important calls.
QUICK TIP: Don’t forget to stay on track. After you tell them why you are calling, ask again if your prospect is available. This will put the pressure back on the receptionist to transfer you and shows you’re deliberate in your call.
Strategy 4: Charm Your Way Through
You don’t need to be Jim Halpert from "The Office" to use that sales-professional charm. At the end of the day, receptionists are people, too, and you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be honest, polite, and genuine when you ask for their help.
Unsurprisingly, research has shown that tone is a vital part of communication, especially when various communication signals are incongruent. To put it simply, if your words are nice but your tone is impatient, the receptionist is going to hear your tone over your words every time. So, ensure both are polite.
QUICK TIP: Always write down the receptionist’s name. Using their name will show you appreciate the help. As a bonus, they will often divulge crucial information if you know how to ask.
Strategy 5: When All Else Fails, Try Another Communications Channel
Getting a C-Suite prospect on the phone can be like pulling teeth. Executives are busy, and they may even have multiple gatekeepers who screen out unsolicited calls.
If you have exhausted all options for getting your prospect on the phone, consider ditching the phone altogether and going for an email or social touch. At SalesRoads we use a multi-channel approach that we call “power prospecting.”
Although you always want to get your prospect on the phone, reflect on the accuracy of your data first. Then, see what other channels may be more effective.
We’ve defined the 5 main channels to be:
- Lead nurturing
- Social sales
Each channel has its own use depending on the situation.
Likewise, you can use a resource such as rocketreach.co or zoominfo.com to find your prospect’s email. Considering many people prefer to work through email anyway, this may be your best bet.
QUICK TIP: If you can find your prospect's email, you might be able to leverage that information for a phone number. Check to see if your email got an autoreply. If so, your prospect’s direct line may be hidden in their email signature!
BONUS TIP: You can up the chances of getting an autoreply by targeting people during long holiday times. Although these opportunities are few, sending an email on the Friday after Thanksgiving or between Christmas and the New Year is almost sure to garner an out-of-office reply!
Leverage the Front Desk to Establish a Direct Sales Line With Your Prospect
At the end of the day, there is no one way to get past the gatekeeper. You could try to circumvent them altogether by calling when they’re not around, or you can try to charm your way through. Or maybe focusing on getting a direct phone number to a C-Level decision-maker is more effective.
Whatever your approach, it’s important to be flexible to reach your goal.
You may not need these strategies for every call, but eventually, you will run into a troublesome gatekeeper. With that in mind, keep these tips and tricks in your back pocket for the next time you meet a stone-cold front desk.