“Can you give me some ideas on how to get past the gatekeeper?”

In every prospecting workshop I do, this question ranks as number one in frequency. I’ve never done a workshop where someone doesn’t ask it, so today I’ll give you some tips on dealing with it, along with a couple of other suggestions for telephone prospecting.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedThe biggest challenge most prospectors have is mindset.  Instead of thinking, “This person is a colleague of my desired prospect and I should make every effort to make him or her a friend of mine,” they instead think, “This person is my dreaded enemy, trying to interfere with my job goals.”  Now that’s no way to think like your customer, is it?

I remember the old line, “How do you destroy your enemies?  Make them your friends.” So here’s what you should do.  First, get all the negative thoughts out of your head. Begin by losing the expression “gatekeeper.” This person is an administrative assistant and did not apply for the position of “gatekeeper.”  The job no doubt has a number of important duties aside from keeping you away from your prospect, so show some respect and consideration for the position.  Your prospect is important to you.  The admin works for the prospect.  Therefore the admin is important to you too.

On your first call, befriend the admin.  In my own calls I carefully and clearly spell out why I want to speak with the prospect and I tell it as if the admin is entitled to know the reason too, and I ask for help.  “Can you put me through with him?”

If I call a number of times and can’t get through, I tell the admin of my disappointment and apologize for taking up so much of his or her time.  “I seem always to be calling at the wrong time.  I feel bad, as I know you’re busy too, and yet you have been very patient with me.  I appreciate it.”

Then I ask for help.  “I’m sure you have better things to do than talk to me all the time, so let me ask you what you think I should do. Is there a better day or time of day when I could call when (prospect) is not so busy?  I’d appreciate it if you could suggest a better way to do this. I’m sure he would be pleased to speak with me if I just got him at the right time.”

I promise you that every experienced and successful salesperson does it exactly this way.  There are no tricks, manipulative tactics or bullying that are better than your simple, professional kindness to everyone you speak with in sales. Remember too, that once you land this prospect, you will rely on the admin for help throughout the relationship, and you can safely bet that the admin will recall very well how you conducted yourself in your early calls to the company.

There are no gatekeepers out there, only potential friends and customers, so…

Think Like Your Customer

When the phone prospect says, “Send me something and I’ll look it over.”

The responses to my newsletter earlier this week were numerous and positive, so I think I hit a home run with the tip on what to do when a prospect says, “I’m not interested.”  Thanks for the feedback.

We’ll skip Fable Friday today because I promised to give you the best response to the prospect who won’t let you visit him, but instead says, “Send me something and I’ll look it over.”  Those of you who sell banking, insurance or investment services get this one a lot.  The prospect will say, “Doesn’t your company have a brochure or any literature on this?  Why not send that to me.”

 So before we get to what you should say at this point, let’s do some simple arithmetic.  How many appointments do you expect to get for every 100 phone calls you make?  Is it 3, 5, or even 10?  You will know this from past experience. So let’s suppose it’s 10, just for sake of example.  What this means is that you will make 90 unproductive calls that make you no money whatsoever.  And if this is the case, then you should try as hard as you can to qualify the prospect for likely interest, and if they are truly not interested, hang up and make the next call. That’s what the pro prospector does.

 So when prospects say, “Send me something,” you have an inkling they’re really not interested, but you must try to sort it out, and the best thing you can do is say,

 “Of course. I’ll be happy to. Now, you should know that my company has a ton of useful information, and our website has thousands of pages, so can I ask you just a couple of quick questions to help me pare it all down so I only send what is of interest to you?”  And now you have a conversation going, and once a conversation begins, it’s way easier to get that appointment.

 After my newsletter went out, I got an email from a subscriber who said, “I like the idea of asking ‘just one quick question’ but what question should I ask?”

 The response I gave him was that it almost doesn’t matter what your question is.  Your goal is to get a conversation going, but here are some questions you might consider:

“Can you share with me the company you have your business with right now and what they’re doing well for you?”


 “I often feel when someone tells me he isn’t interested that he believes all his needs for this service are being met now.  Can you share with me what your bank does really well for you?”


 “As you can see, telephone prospecting is part of my job.  If you could give me one piece of feedback that would have made my call to you more effective, what should I have done?”

Notice that these are all open-ended questions and are positive in nature, designed to get people to talk.  You don’t ever want to ask, “What does your provider not do well?” because it is so clearly self-serving and will get you nowhere at all.

What other objections do you hear from phone prospects that keep you from making appointments?  Write to me and I’ll suggest answers in a future post.

 Think Like Your Customer!

Can you inspire your team without giving them opium?

In today’s Fable Friday we’ll go back to 1797 and the Romantic Period in English literature, with a story about the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  You probably remember him from high school when you had to suffer through the long narrative poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Coleridge had wanted for years to write a long poem about ancient China, and good scholar that he was, he had done a lot of reading and research. No Google for him!

But as they say on the internet, “There was a problem!”  Coleridge suffered from tuberculosis, called consumption in those days, and he was sickly and weak all his life.  There were no antibiotics or modern medicine for help, so he tried to relieve his discomfort with frequent doses of laudanum, a tincture of opium dissolved in alcohol. So it’s fair to say that Coleridge often had quite a buzz on, and his addiction caused much heartache for him and his family.

After a long day of reading about China, Coleridge took a dose of laudanum, and fell into a dreamlike sleep, in which he conjured up the most beautiful visions of Kubla Khan’s domain, and the imagery and language to describe it.  He woke with these images still in his head and immediately sat down to write.  His first lines of the poem, written in iambic tetrameter, are so beautiful and melodic you can almost sing them:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.”

And as Coleridge feverishly wrote in this dreamlike state, he was interrupted by a knock on his door, the tailor returning a suit he had sent to be mended.  After accepting the suit and paying the man, he sat down again to resume his work, and to his horror realized the vision was gone. He barely recognized that which he had written.  Bitterly disappointed, he stuffed this brilliant poetic introduction of just 54 lines into his desk drawer, revisiting it from time to time over the years, but never completing it.

It was a much younger aspiring poet, the great George Gordon, Lord Byron, who upon reading the fragment, encouraged Coleridge to have it published, which he did in 1816.  It was immediately a popular work.

I often think when I read this poem and the history behind it, that all of us are capable of great achievements if we are properly inspired.  For Coleridge, the combination of immense literary talent, a Cambridge education, and the intake of opium resulted in the brilliant Kubla Khan.

But the people who work for you today are not Coleridge, and let’s hope they get no inspiration from drugs!  So how do you inspire them?  As a coach, what do you do to bring out the best in your people, so they come to work in the morning with a clear vision of how to make a difference, and let nothing distract them?  Because you have to figure that out you know.  It’s your job.

In my newsletter on Tuesday I’m going to share with you a story about Lou Holtz, the great college and NFL football coach and some of his techniques for getting the most from his people.  I hope you’re signed up for it. If not just click on ActionSystems Training on the right, and when you get to my website mouse over the N at the top right for “Newsletter” and click on it, then send me your email address.

Think Like Your Customer

Get the learners engaged before the training starts. A few tips.

I’ll bet this has happened to you before.  You’re doing a training program for a client and not everyone in the room is sending you those warm body language signals that say, “Oh am I thrilled to be here today!”  How do you handle it?

One evening I attended a kickoff cocktail party for a big sales training program in Perth, Australia.  Everyone was excited about getting started and the participants who would be in my workshop the next day were enjoying the food and refreshments. I was with a happy group and wanted to make the most of it by introducing myself and joining different small groups to say hello.

One exec took me aside and said, “See that guy over there?” He pointed to a competent looking older gentleman who appeared to be sharing a story with his colleagues.  “He may be trouble for you. He doesn’t like to go to training and he’s probably right. He’s the best salesman in the group, very experienced and a good coach to the others.  They look up to him, and they’ll go where he goes. Lose him and you’ll lose the group.”

I didn’t need to be told twice. I found him during the evening and took him aside, asking for a word.  “I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow,” I said.  “You see, I come from Dallas, Texas, and although I know selling, I know none of your culture, your experiences, your own stories, and it’s hard to do training without useful examples.  I wonder if you will help me.  Tomorrow, if I make a point about a good practice, I’d like to see if you can provide some examples from your own past experience, what has worked for you, or what hasn’t.  This will give us some great discussions.”

Well, he loved that idea and promised to help.  Sure enough, when I got to a place that needed some local color, I asked him, “Paul, what’s been your experience with this?”  And he told a great story that got us rolling.  And after that, it was hard to shut him up!  He supported everything, encouraged others to contribute and work hard.  It was like having a training assistant in the room.

This was easy to do, and makes sense once you think of it.  You often get warnings like this.  “Oh, the lenders won’t like this program.”  Is that so?  Then get them on the phone, ask them what areas they would like you to focus on.  Make sure they know you are providing the training to be of help to them and that you need them to help you. People love to be asked their opinions and told they are needed.

On training day, work the room and introduce yourself to everyone, shaking hands. In your program introduction mention the names of those who helped. “I’m sure glad I had help in putting this program together from Bill and Sandra.”

At mid-morning break, grab two or three learners and ask, “How is it going for you so far?  Did we get off to a good start? I’d be grateful if you could let me know the pulse of the room, or any ideas about important areas to cover.”  Also, thank any of the learners who volunteered to contribute to a discussion.  “Thanks for getting that discussion going Tom. Your idea was very interesting. I hadn’t thought of it before.”

Once you begin thinking of your learners as a group of customers whose feelings are important, you’ll remember to

Think Like Your Customer