How To Get Past Gatekeepers

There are a lot of articles about getting past gatekeepers on sites like,, and others. Sometimes, though, these articles start by saying that cold-calling is dead and if you're even getting to gatekeepers instead of direct dials, you're doing something wrong. 

While inbound marketing and sales enablement is the best way to get warm, qualified leads with decision-maker name and number, if you're not having people raise their hand, you still have to go find sales somehow, and in order to do that, you'll need to pull a list, write a script, and make some phone calls.

Cold-calling isn't dead when it's the only way you have to get in front of potential buyers quickly, and in order to help you do that, here are some hacks to get around gatekeepers, or at least to leverage your conversation with them to help with future marketing. 

The Cordial Ask

"Hi, my name's Timothy, calling with Incept. May I please speak with Jim Smith?" 

(This doesn't work - keep reading) 

The "I'm an old friend" Play

"Hey, it's Timothy, is Jim in?" 

The No-Nonsense Ask 

"Yes, Jim, please." 

If you don't have a name, you may be able to find one using some internet hacks. If nothing else, you may be able to swap out the name for the title in the examples above (Example, "Yes, head of sales, please."). However, if that's the case, you should be trying to capture as much information as you can from the gatekeeper before you're transferred. Here are some examples of how to do that: 

Asking for the name first

"Hi, I was looking for the head of your sales department. Do you know who that'd be?" 

Asking for the name last

"Hi, I was looking for the head of your sales department." 

"One moment and I'll transfer you." 

"Thanks, and before you transfer me, who are you connecting me with?" 

Push for the email address

*Continued from examples 1 & 2* 

GK: "That's Jim." 

"Perfect, and what's Jim's email address?" -OR- "Great, and is Jim's email address []?" 

"Yep, that's it." -OR- "No, it's []" 

"Thanks, I'll wait to be transferred." 

Now, those are ideal situations, and we all know that more often, gatekeepers are less enthusiastic about transferring you to their higher-ups or giving out their information. Here are some examples of ways that top-performing sales reps navigate around a gatekeeper who says something like, "And is he expecting your call?" Or "And what's this call regarding?": 

Be urgent

Come up with a one-liner that sounds critical enough that you'll get transferred: 

"I need to talk to him about his sales goals for the year and didn't want him to miss them because of something crazy happening." 

- OR - 

"I wanted to see if he had heard about what happened over at [Competitor Company]. It's pretty crazy." (Just be ready to talk about this briefly if Jim calls you out on it.) "Yeah, I had mentioned that [Competitor Company] is using an outsourcer to set appointments for their outside sales team and it's boosting their sales numbers.") 

Be vague

Have a one-liner ready that is unspecific enough, but honest, that will sound relevant enough to get your transferred. 

"I had a sales question for him." 

- OR - 

"I wanted to touch base about a sales project." 

Redirect and collaborate

A gatekeeper's primary job is to not transfer calls to their higher-ups. If you are able to shift their mindset from gatekeeping to problem-solving, suddenly you're on the same team working together. 

"I was told Jim was the right person to talk to about a sales project, but I could be wrong. Would he be the best person to talk to about boosting sales, or is there someone else in your office that would be better to touch base with?" 

- OR - 

"At my office here, even though Timothy is the Business Development Manager, Sam would be the better person to talk to about a sales related project. Who's the "Sam" at your office?" 

Whatever you do, be honest. It's never okay to be untruthful when navigating around a gatekeeper - it creates a bad impression and starts the relationship off on a poor note, and in the business of sales, relationships matter.