In the world of cold calling, gatekeepers and EAs are
famous for referring you to a lower-level decision-maker. It’s part of their job
description. Most don’t want you
speaking to their boss—they want you to speak with someone lower, most likely a
non-decision-maker, and they’re very happy to give you a name and number.
Shoot higher. This can
actually work to your advantage, unless of course you’re targeting presidents
and CEOs. If that’s the case
you’re best served by biting your lip and letting Shirley, Bill’s admin, palm
you off on a junior executive. Be
polite with Shirley, listen to her, and get her talking. She may know a couple of key players
that will help you make the deal. However,
if you’re absolutely sure that Bill is the person you need to pitch, the only
person, then draw the least amount of attention to yourself, because Shirley
has a good memory and if you mess with her she has the power to kill the deal
quicker than you realize.
But what if your target is Susan in Marketing? Well, call Bill. If he picks up the phone pitch
him. If Shirley picks up, which is
the case 98% percent of the time, ask for Bill and tell her why you’re calling.
“Oh, Bill is not the person you want. You need to talk with Susan in
“Thanks, Shirley. Do you have her direct line?”
If you’ve done cold calling for any length of time it
can leave you a little rough around the edges, guarded, hard. You begin to feel that the Shirleys of the world are against
you—and unfortunately a lot of them are.
However, there are many people who would like to help you, and if you
stay pleasant and upbeat you may be surprised with what you find.
“Can you help me, Shirley, I’m a little lost here?”
Asking the gatekeeper or the EA’s assistant is a good idea, but caller beware. Many
receptionists and assistants don’t know why you’re calling, have been
instructed not to let put you through, and know almost nothing about the
company and its business. They
simply don’t care. It’s just a job to
them, and they have no concept of what you do. To them you’re a telemarketer and it’s dinner time.
Decipher what they know and what they don’t know
and quickly move on.
Let’s return to Shirley. She gave you Susan in Marketing’s direct line.
Now when you call Susan you have an advantage you didn’t have before.
“Hi, this is Joe from XYZ. Is Susan in please?”
Susan’s admin is ready to refer you to somebody else
but when she asks why you’re calling you smile and say, “I was referred to
Susan by Shirley, Bill’s assistant.”
Is Susan’s admin going to put you through? Maybe, maybe not. She still may palm you off on a junior
executive, but your position is a lot stronger with Shirley’s reference.
If you’re having trouble reaching the decision-maker
or your being referred and then referred again—lower and lower you sink—then
shoot higher. Reach out to Bill
and you may just get Susan on the line.