Posted by: garispang | June 16, 2009

Tips Dealing with Gatekeepers When Canvassing

Recruitment is an Art Form

An important point to remember with all recruitment advice is that recruitment is an art form. As such there are lots of ways to do it. I only offer advice that I have either used myself or presented to others and seen work well. Consider how you can adapt the advice here for your market place and your style of recruitment and I truly expect it to help you be a success.

Four Tips for Dealing with Gatekeepers


A gatekeeper is anyone who is not the specific person you wanted to speak to. Very often they are a receptionist, or the secretary but they could also be a senior director who is simply not the senior director whom you wanted!

Becoming an expert at dealing with gatekeepers is a necessary task for anyone seeking to become brilliantly successful at sales. It takes effort, practice and thought.

I outline below four tips that will help but they aren’t the whole picture. If getting to the decision maker you wanted was like crossing a raging river then consider the tips that follow as stepping stones  rather than a complete bridge. They sure will help but you’d be advised to add some more stones of your own!

1) Be polite – Bang! There you go. The first rule – Be polite. Note I didn’t say be weak or accepting I said be polite. There is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost, by being rude to the gatekeepers. First of all you should respect everyone in business regardless of their position and second not being polite will close more doors than it will open.

I have met sales people who have happily told me about the receptionists they have bullied into submission. I also know that in the cases where I have witnessed such sales people in action I have always witnessed more negatives resulting from their approach than positives.

2) Be assumptive – This is both a mind set and a verbal tip. In your head you should be expecting to reach the person you are after and if they are genuinely not available you should be expecting help regarding how to get hold of them later.

So for example when someone is not available try asking:

“When is the best time to call?” – assumes there is  best time (People usually say “Is there a best time?” which is weaker

“When will he be back?” – assumes the person will return at some time

“What’s his mobile number?” – assumes he has a mobile phone rather than “Does he have a mobile number?”

Having an assumptive mind set makes it much easier to get results when dealing with gatekeepers. It’s all about expecting them to help, provide you with information and put you through.

3) Switch target – So the person you really want isn’t available – “Who else could you speak to?” – you can ask that of the gatekeeper “Who else could I speak to about…?” – again this is an assumptive question assuming that there will be someone else.

A stronger way of thing this is by having another person in mind when you make the call and then smoothly switch to the other person – e.g. if you can’t reach the sales director then ask for the managing director etc

4) Get their names – You should always get the name of the receptionist, pa and frankly all the gatekeepers you speak to. It makes the next call that you make to that company so much easier when you are able to use their name. You can also use their name on the call in a couple of different ways.

First you can use it when speaking to them which has a positive psychological impact and secondly when forwarded through to a person you can reference the person you were just speaking to by name.

This can be especially useful when pure cold calling and you have had to ask for the right person to speak to.When you get the suggested decision maker on the phone, let’s imagine the gatekeeper had been called Sarah, you are able to mention that

“Sarah said you were the right person to speak to regarding…”

This can be a warm way into the call.

Four Tips When Canvassing

 The art of canvassing, or presenting a specific candidate to a specific target company, has many stages. One of the most critical is the moment you reach your target – the decision maker.

If that moment is fumbled then all the work that has gone into making the call is wasted. Assuming you want to be a success in recruitment then the question has to be ~ “How can you maximise your impact at that moment in the call?”

There are a number of things you can do – let me present four:

1) Have a Powerful Opening Statement (POS) prepared about your candidate– This is literally the first thing that you say to the decision maker after they have answered the phone (see point number 2) – a good POS will be short, have a couple of facts about the candidate you are representing and end in an open question.

You keep it short because you want to engage the decision maker in a two way conversation and you can’t do that if you are doing all the talking. Also it’s about talking with, not talking to, the decision maker.

The facts about your candidate are to catch the decision makers interest and getting him to think about how great your candidate is and the open question is to kick start the real conversation where you will be able to achieve all your objectives for the call.

2) Go straight into your POS – I’m not one for ‘Hi, how are you’ or ‘Have I caught you at a good time?’. I prefer to get straight into the call. For me the softer openers simply alert the decision maker that this is a sales call and lose you momentum.

3) Say it with confidence– Consider your tone very carefully. If you don’t sound confident then the call will fail. You have to believe in what you are saying and say it with a convincing level of confidence.

4) ‘Individual’ not ‘Candidate’– I don’t like the word ‘candidate’ I think it’s cold and clinical and I believe it has negative connotations for the decision makers. I much prefer to hear people use ‘individual’ – consider how these two sentences differ:

“I’m representing a senior candidate who is interested in…” or;

“I’m representing a senior individual who is interested in…”

Personally I much prefer the second one which I think sounds much more ’senior business’ like than the first. It has also been my experience that it is better received.


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