As you network, you will at some point inevitably be faced with a “gatekeeper” – an administrative assistant whose job is to screen people that call their boss. Some of these secretaries and administrators are REALLY good at what they do! Here are some tried and true tactics for getting PAST them FAST.
Front-Load Your Introduction
Gatekeepers are used to a certain pace in their phone conversations. It creates what I call an “autopilot” response. However, if that script is changed, they have to go off autopilot and many times it takes them off guard for a second. If you are confident, you can use this to get by them.
Front-loading your introduction to break the autopilot response:
The Gatekeeper: Hello, Mr. Smith’s office.
You: Hello, this is Mark Jackson from Ciley Corporation calling for Mr. Smith please.
The Gatekeeper: Um, who may I say is calling again, sorry?
You: Again, this is Mark Jackson from Ciley Corporation calling for Mr. Smith, please.
Getting past the gatekeeper:
You: Hi! This is ___ from ___, may I speak with Mr. Smith please?”
The Gatekeeper: “May I tell him what it is regarding?”
You: “It’s regarding a project I am working on.”
The Gatekeeper: “What kind of project?”
You: “A networking project.”
Most gatekeepers will put you through to your targeted person at this point. As a past owner and operator of my own successful recruiting firm, I used this technique for more than seven years after trying dozens of other approaches. This truly works 90% of the time.
Using the name of your company (if you are able to do so without jeopardizing your current job situation) and an impressive title (if you have one) helps even more. The “gatekeeper” does not know who you are and does not want to rub you the wrong way.
If you have already sent a key contact your resume or value proposition letter, you can simply state you are following up with your correspondence as promised. If the gatekeeper asks what your correspondence is regarding simply say, “It’s private.” Or say, “Its sensitive information.” Said nicely, this works great.
Some career consultants give advice to befriend the gatekeeper. Personally, I don’t have that kind of time and I assume you don’t either. There are always exceptions and certainly it’s profitable to discern each situation and act accordingly.
The bottom line is, your main goal is to be put through to the decision maker with whom you wish to speak. That’s where you want to invest your time.
A Third Approach to Getting Past the Gatekeeper
Using associations and/or trade journals, you can take a different angle on your introductory approach by stating you are calling regarding an association you may know your contact is a member of.
Using associations to get past the gatekeeper:
The Gatekeeper: “Can I tell him what this call is regarding?”
You: “Certainly. It’s regarding the Texas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors.” (You can even add, “I understand he is president and I am contacting him regarding membership and my relocation to the Chicago area.”)
The Gatekeeper: “Okay! Hold on one moment, please…”
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