Gatekeeper asks: "Is this a sales call?"

18 replies
She says to you, "Is this a sales call?"

What do you say?

I ignore the question and keep talking.
#asks #gatekeeper #is this a sales call
  • Profile picture of the author Rory Singh
    Hi Matthew,

    I wouldn't ignore the question at all. You can always respond with:

    I'm calling to share some information about a (product/service) [depending on what your company sells], and you can decide in the end weather you want to buy or not. This is a No pressure information call.

    When you say it like that then you take the pressure off the person and they might give you the time to carry on with the rest of the information.

    If you haven't already I suggest you look for a book call "Natural Selling" by Michael Oliver. I'm not promoting him by the way. I got his book and found it an awesome resource for selling.

    HOpe this helps!!!
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    • Profile picture of the author Matthew North
      Originally Posted by Rory Singh View Post

      Hi Matthew,

      I wouldn't ignore the question at all. You can always respond with:

      I'm calling to share some information about a (product/service) [depending on what your company sells], and you can decide in the end weather you want to buy or not. This is a No pressure information call.

      When you say it like that then you take the pressure off the person and they might give you the time to carry on with the rest of the information.

      If you haven't already I suggest you look for a book call "Natural Selling" by Michael Oliver. I'm not promoting him by the way. I got his book and found it an awesome resource for selling.

      HOpe this helps!!!
      Just because she asks a question doesn't mean you need to answer it

      If she is talking over me I will completely ignore it and ask another question at the end of my sentence.

      My usual response afterwards is this:

      'It's a question if we can integrate our SMS gateway into your software or not, but I don't know who is the best person to speak with there.' And then you shut up B)

      So.. I guess my way is to give a reason for why you are calling (your real reason), but keep it vague and outside of the scope of the Gatekeeper to handle. She doesn't know if it's a sales call or not, so she has to transfer you. She won't know the questions to ask to determine if it's a prospecting call or a real enqury!
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      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        Mathew; The Smart ass in me would want to say "If everything goes well, yes"

        But I'd really say "That's why I need to talk to Bill Jones. To decide if I can help him increase his sales". See? I didn't give her something to reflexively say "No" to, but I said it was about business.

        To be honest, I don't remember anyone ever asking me if it was a sales call. To me, all calls are sales calls. Why else would you be calling? I've had reps call and say "This isn't a sales call" to which I said "Too bad, because I was hoping to talk to someone who could sell".

        Selling isn't something to deny you do. Its the backbone of the economy. The very reason businesses exist. There is no greater business experience than talking to a master salesman. It's like getting a massage.

        Buying is what we all do. That's why they call us consumers.
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        • Profile picture of the author Jack Thomson
          Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

          Mathew; The Smart ass in me would want to say "If everything goes well, yes"

          But I'd really say "That's why I need to talk to Bill Jones. To decide if I can help him increase his sales". See? I didn't give her something to reflexively say "No" to, but I said it was about business.

          To be honest, I don't remember anyone ever asking me if it was a sales call. To me, all calls are sales calls. Why else would you be calling? I've had reps call and say "This isn't a sales call" to which I said "Too bad, because I was hoping to talk to someone who could sell".

          Selling isn't something to deny you do. Its the backbone of the economy. The very reason businesses exist. There is no greater business experience than talking to a master salesman. It's like getting a massage.

          Buying is what we all do. That's why they call us consumers.
          Replace selling with persuasion and I would sign it
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  • Profile picture of the author abbadox
    All sales calls can also be informational or education based so play up that angle.
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  • Profile picture of the author wilder1047
    "Yes, and you just became my newest sales rep... patch me through and if I land the deal I'll give you 10%!"
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    I train my guys to always retain control of the conversation and a question like that automatically takes you out of control if you answer the question.
    It's best to fire it right back at them.

    them: "Is this a sales call"

    you: "what do you mean?"

    99.9% of the time they will be highly flustered by this response and not really know what to say. I'd love to show you this on audio/video because it's hilarious when it happens. They'll give some kind of response and then you can act confused and prod them even more about 'what they mean by sales call'. Tell them you own a local business and you're trying to talk with the owner of their business.

    I feel that answering with a witty response doesn't tend to get you through and ends up with you still losing control of the conversation and "leaving a message".

    Putting the question back on them and retaining control will generally get them so flustered they just patch you through.
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    • Profile picture of the author joe ferdinando
      Bob I have to say I always enjoy your responses!

      This is exactly what I would do!

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      I train my guys to always retain control of the conversation and a question like that automatically takes you out of control if you answer the question.
      It's best to fire it right back at them.

      them: "Is this a sales call"

      you: "what do you mean?"

      99.9% of the time they will be highly flustered by this response and not really know what to say. I'd love to show you this on audio/video because it's hilarious when it happens. They'll give some kind of response and then you can act confused and prod them even more about 'what they mean by sales call'. Tell them you own a local business and you're trying to talk with the owner of their business.

      I feel that answering with a witty response doesn't tend to get you through and ends up with you still losing control of the conversation and "leaving a message".

      Putting the question back on them and retaining control will generally get them so flustered they just patch you through.
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  • Profile picture of the author Recruitment Nick
    I do recruitment (as my name suggests) as my "day job", one that requires a LOT of cold calling, and I use a trick learned from West Wing (they were using it for interview questions from journalists but I think it works here).

    "Don't accept the question, don't accept the premise of the question".

    So when they ask "is this a sales call" I reply by saying "if you can say it's from company name". It sounds like you have answered the question, but you haven't. Often this works, sometimes you get come back, usually along the lines of "will he know what this is about", so I rely on our brand name (which is in all honesty not high in my niche as we're just breaking into that market) and say "if you say it's from company name he will, yes".

    very occassionally I do get GK blocked (what we call not being put through, gate keeper blocked) but the success rate is pretty high.

    Make sure you have a contact name before you start though. Linkedin and Companies house are great for this, but also a prior call asking who to speak with (e.g., "I was hoping you can help me, who is the technical director/engineering manager, etc)
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    • Profile picture of the author Vrs
      Whether you're making face to face cold calls or calling on the phone the key is being prepared. No matter what you sell there are typically about 5 or 6 primary objections you'll encounter regularly which you should have a response for.

      I like Bob Ross's advice of asking "what do you mean"? What's important about that is the principle of maintaining control, which you do by answering the gatekeepers question with a question. If the gatekeeper asks for more detail I'd have 2 or 3 follow up questions prepared which focus on benefits (which would only be asked one at a time, as needed).

      For example, if more detail was asked for by the g.k. you could respond with "Actually I was calling because I need to ask him a couple of questions about his (whatever it is you sell) - I only need a minute or two, is this a good time to reach him?" The point is you're maintaining control.

      The question I just asked could go in a lot of different directions, e.g., about his "plans for the upcoming ____" or about "what his plans are for (obtaining a benefit) in the near future". Followed by, "it's important that I get his feedback on that - can you see if he's got a quick minute"?

      Basically you're wanting to keep the conversation alive while you steer it towards the outcome you desire. An important tip is to be respectful in your tone and have an expectant attitude. Really believe you're going to get through. No one does 100% of the time, but you'll get through a lot more times if you're positive and prepared than if you're not.
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  • Profile picture of the author Recruitment Nick
    What works for one doesn't always work for another. Personally I find that breaking it down by saying things like "it's about talking to him about increasing his sales", or similar tactics don't work for me. That's not to say they don't work, they just don't work for me.

    I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I suggest you understand yours too and then play to them. For instance my main strength is that I pitch my voice well to sound business like, expectant and almost annoyed. This will often lead to very few questions being asked and the GK assuming I have the right to have my call put through. Oftentimes my entire conversation with a gate keeper is "Rob Millar please", no preamble, no giving her/him a chance to come back, and if they ask a question I intentionally sound impatient and just repeat the name, followed by name and MAYBE the company name.

    That works for me, I've helped in training in work and some people pull it off, others can't. By contrast I have consultants on my team who are brilliant at getting gate keepers on side in a few seconds and can strike up relationships with them. They will often get better relationships with lines managers as well because whilst I can tone down my approach to line managers (who us recruitment consultants hit), I am still at heart a business like person, not a touchy feely one (which is why I love engineers and had to learn softer skills since moving into environmental recruitment).

    All this is to say that there is not ONE approach that works, but a natural evolution of your own strengths and weaknesses. In the end, practice makes perfect. But remember it's like all marketing. A/B test different approaches, accept that no matter how good you are you will struggle to get through 100% of the time.

    And if all else fails call at 8.30am or 6pm when many decision makers will still be in the office but the receptionists will probably have gone home.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    I found saying "Joe Veep, please. This is Mister Me calling" gets me through more often than not. I think it's because being up front and succinct about who you are doesn't give off that salesperson vibe and makes it sound like you actually do business there.

    But when they ask, "what's this about" I'm usually calling back because I do mostly inbound marketing. On the occasions I've had to do cold calling and was asked, I drop names. "I'm working on [project] with [name] and want to speak with Joe about that."
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    • Profile picture of the author Memetics
      The first thing you need to do when encountering this is to disable the gate keepers autopilot response. They've used it so many times they don't have to think about it as it's like a programme running in their mind and entirely unconscious.

      The good thing about unconscious programmes is that there isn't much redundancy or resilience in their makeup, and an interruption in their flow results in the conscious mind having to come online and analyse what's happening; this is when you introduce your own unconscious trigger to reset how the gatekeeper will deal with the call.

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post


      them: "Is this a sales call"

      you: "what do you mean?"
      Bob's example is an excellent response known as a "Pattern interrupt" which does exactly that: Derails pre-existing responses and creates on the fly new ones which are less effective and easier to skirt around. The mind dislikes confusion and will seek to end it as soon as possible; even if that means putting you through to your prospect to do so.

      Originally Posted by Recruitment Nick View Post

      I use a trick learned from West Wing (they were using it for interview questions from journalists but I think it works here).

      "Don't accept the question, don't accept the premise of the question".

      So when they ask "is this a sales call" I reply by saying "if you can say it's from company name".
      Nick's works in a similar vein in that it also interrupts a preconditioned response but works by a method called a "Frame control". It implies that the call is very important without actually stating it is. The gate keeper thinks "Should I know this person/company? I best presuppose it is important just in case and put them through" afterall; they don't want to get in trouble and the gist of the call is that you have some authority and as a rule we don't like to upset "authority".

      The biggest source of new material for this strangely enough is on various "Pick up artist" forums where it is known as the "I have a boyfriend response" That's another autopilot response which women use automatically when they're approached by someone they're not sure of. You will find reams of researched and tested methods on there which nobody in sales has ever thought of. Just modify them to suit your niche.

      Years ago I did some work for a company who used to sell alarm systems to commercial premises. One of the guys there used to play a recording from Heathrow airport tannoy system, calling passengers to gate in the background when he made a cold call. His logic was: If someone is wanting to speak to the boss and they've either just got off a flight or are just about to board one then it must be important. That ones called a "preframe".

      Then again...if all this psychology isn't for you...you could always ring after 5:00pm when the gate keeper has clocked off for the day, generally it will be the boss in the office working till late who picks it up.
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      • Profile picture of the author Johnny Mathis
        Originally Posted by Memetics View Post


        Then again...if all this psychology isn't for you...you could always ring after 5:00pm when the gate keeper has clocked off for the day, generally it will be the boss in the office working till late who picks it up.
        I got most of my sales cold calling doing this strategy we use to call it 5 after 5. Brings back memories walking straight to the DMs office with no Gks in sight.

        I also would recommend what ever happens from your answer never let it stop you from making calls . Most average sales reps would ball up in a corner with feelings hurt a gatekeeper hung up the phone and said they aren't interested.

        I also remember doing tricks posting and being chewed out by the dm.
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  • Profile picture of the author squidface
    Banned
    you: "what do you mean?"
    Let me spell it out for you...ARE YOU TRYING TO SELL SOMETHING! Dumbass.

    What would you say to that reply?
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    • Profile picture of the author jamesfreddyc
      Originally Posted by squidface View Post

      Let me spell it out for you...ARE YOU TRYING TO SELL SOMETHING! Dumbass.

      What would you say to that reply?
      "To you? No."

      Most likely this GK is either distracted or busy with something more important to them at that moment and I wouldn't be so coy. But the reality is that everyone is selling something -- it's just that we don't have to explain that to everyone.

      I'd just get to my point asap: "No Janet I am not selling anything. I need to have a quick conversation with John about limiting the number of last-minute cancellations to scheduled appointments at his practice."
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