Stop Pitching the Gatekeeper – and What to Do Instead

One of the biggest mistakes many inside sales reps make is pitching the gatekeeper. For some reason they feel compelled to pour their pitch on the first pair of ears they get, and, unfortunately, this usually gets them into trouble.

To start with, the gatekeeper is just that – someone whose job it is to screen salespeople from getting through to the decision maker. The worst thing you can do is immediately identify yourself as a salesperson by pitching them in hopes that they’ll be so moved by your pitch that they’ll want to put you through. Doesn’t happen. Instead, all you do is trigger their automatic response of, “Just email something, and I’ll forward it to my boss.” Or worse…

By identifying yourself as a salesperson, you’ll actually be making it easier for the gatekeeper to just blow you off with, “We’re not interested.” Think about it: They take sales calls like yours all day long, and after a while (like two days on the job), they’re as sick of getting phone calls as you are of making them. So leading with your pitch is the last thing you want to do.

Also, the reason you don’t want to pitch the gatekeeper is because they don’t care what you’re selling and they usually have zero say in whether to buy from you or not. Again, they are gatekeepers – not decision makers. Pitching them will mean nothing, and all it will do is annoy them and waste your time.

So, what to do? Your job, believe it or not, is to get past the gatekeeper with as little interrogation as possible (and with as little pitching as possible), and connect with the decision maker. That is the person you want to give your brief pitch to… So here are a copy of ways to avoid pitching the gatekeeper, and, instead, getting to the decision maker:

1) By now, you’ve already read about my “Please, please, please” technique. Some of you are already using it and isn’t it great? For those of you who missed it, it’s simple. To avoid 65% (or more) of any screening, simply open your call with:

“Hi, this is (your name) with (your company), could you please connect me with (DM’s name) please?”

That’s it. To read the whole technique, simply check out my blog here:

2) If you don’t know the name of the person you’re looking for, simply say:

“Hi, this is (your name) with (your company) and I need a little bit of help please.”

After they ask how they can help you, you say, “I’m looking for the person who handles X – who would that be please?”

That’s it. No pitching, no pleading to be put through, instead you’re simply asking for their help and then directing them to put you through. If you ask this in a polite way, you’ll get through 65% of the time.

3) Now here comes the tricky part: In some cases, the gatekeeper has a little more authority, like an office manager, or executive assistant, etc. In this case it’s O.K. to deliver your opening value statement – just so they know what it’s about – but then it’s highly important to try to get through to the decision maker as soon as possible. Here are a few ways to do that:

The best way is to quickly qualify for decision maker status. As soon as you ask if they make the decision on what you’re selling, and are told that someone else makes the decision, that is your cue to ask to be put through to the actual DM. Try:

“Oh, I see, tell you what: If you’d put me through to (boss) briefly, I’ll explain what this is about and if he (or she) is interested in learning more, I can make an appointment that fits his/her schedule. I’ll be happy to hold on while you connect me…”


“It sounds like the best thing to do before I send something is to have just a few words with (DM), and that way I can save us both a lot of time depending on their level of interest. Could you please let (DM) know I’m holding please?”


“Before I bother you with emails and then follow up calls, why don’t you put me in touch with your (boss) briefly, and I’ll see if there’s an interest on his/her side. If so, I’ll take the appropriate action, if not, we’ll save us all a lot of time. Could you let (the boss) know I’m holding, please?”

4) Sometimes the gatekeeper or office manager will want a little more information on what it is you’re offering, and in this case it’s O.K. to give them more details, but just make sure that you qualify for their role in the decision process and that you ask for the best way to connect with the other decisions makers if possible. Sample questions include:

“And beside yourself, who makes the decision on this?”

Layer with:

“Great, can I connect briefly with them to make sure this is something they’d like to know more about?”


“If this is something you like, how much influence do you have in the decision process?”

If they tell you their boss would make the final decision, then layer with:

“I understand completely. Tell you what, so we don’t waste your time or his/hers, let me have a brief word with them, and I’ll see if this is something they even want to learn more about. I’ll be happy to hold on…”

If you’re then told they aren’t available, try to get their name or direct email address or extension, and when you call back if the assistant isn’t available, ask for the DM directly.

The major lesson here is that you must resist the temptation to pitch the gatekeeper, or to give too much of your pitch to the assistant if they aren’t the final DM. Give just enough to qualify for interest, and then try to get through to the actual DM. This will save you a lot of time and headache later on.