How to Get Past the Scary Gatekeeper!


One of your toughest challenges in sales is learning how to get past the gatekeeper. 

You start your day with a list of twenty cold calls you plan on prospecting to in the field.  You’re hopeful of the future and every stop could be the next big account you break into.

Then you face that pro gatekeeper.  That one gatekeeper that sizes you up in seconds and leaves you running back to your car terrified.

It’s enough to make you question if you want to continue choosing sales as your profession.  

This is typically the moment that results in a phone call from the sales reps to their manager saying, “Hey Boss, you know, figuring out how to get past the gatekeeper at these accounts is tough. I don’t know if I can handle doing this every single day.”  Quite often that call is right after the sales rep called their family and their friends, to vent about how difficult their sales job is.  All because they experienced a difficult gatekeeper. 

Learning how to get past the gatekeeper in sales is definitely possible when you know how to prospect on foot.  You just need to know a few things beforehand.  The first piece of information you need to understand is how to identify the skill of the gatekeeper.

How to identify a pro gatekeeper

You’re only going to have seconds walking into an account during a cold call to size up the skill level of the gatekeeper.  So prepare to be observant. 

Pro gatekeepers are going to look at you walking through their door and immediately say:

  • “Do you have an appointment?” 
  • “Didn’t you see the no soliciting sign on your way in? You know you’re not allowed in here, right?”
  • “We don’t take walk-ins,” or, “please leave or we’ll call security.”

Yikes! Any of those sound familiar?

These are normal sound bites from the pro gatekeepers as they can see right through you as you walk in.  They know you’re not supposed to be there.

What you need are some proven strategies on how to get past the gatekeeper.  These are tactics used by the very best B2B (business-to-business) salespeople and currently taught inside of the Modern Sales Training Academy.

See Related: The Fearless Prospector Sales Training Course

Get Past The Gatekeeper Tip #1: Get Your Mind Right!

Your selling mindset is so important in sales.  You must learn to see the positive in any situation you encounter; no matter how unpleasant it may be.   In this situation, you should recognize that it’s a sign of a good opportunity when you run into a pro gatekeeper.  Have you ever wondered how they got so good at their job?  Do you think they were born with that skill? They obviously have had quite a bit of practice to become the best screeners around. That means other salespeople, like you, are trying to break into their account too!  That basically says you’re in the right place because they are guarding a nice deal for you and your company or else other salespeople wouldn’t be wasting their time.   These gatekeepers didn’t start out being that good at what they do. They most likely learned the hard way by letting some skilled salespeople get by them.  Once they did, their bosses told them very nicely, “don’t ever let that happen again! You need to protect my time! I don’t want to talk to every single person who walks through this door…do your job!” Those types of lessons will teach anyone real fast about spotting the people who didn’t belong. Recognizing that the gatekeeper is a pro, should get you excited. Get excited because this is probably an amazing opportunity, and you should definitely plan on coming back here again and again, no matter the outcome of this one interaction.

Get Past The Gatekeeper Tip #2: Be Clear On Your Goal

If you want to keep your mind right when you prospect, you must have clear goals for your activities in the field.  This will keep you from being too hard on yourself if you don’t get the outcomes you were hoping for.  You get clarity by asking yourself the question, what is my goal on this cold call? You can either have the goal of collecting information on that cold call which will help you with qualifying the opportunity and knowing who to contact, or your goal could be to set an appointment with the right contact. It’s easy to want both the qualified information and an appointment set but that be too aggressive and you could ruin your chances in the future.

When should your goal be to collect information?

If you have no idea who you should be asking for at an account, your goal should clearly be information gathering and qualifying.  You should be seeking to find out who to contact at that account when you call back over the phone.  However, sometimes you might push your limits if you find a rookie gatekeeper guarding the front.  In those situations,  you may be able to collect information and get that right contact to come out to see you.   However, if you’re walking into an account with a pro gatekeeper, you’ll be lucky to collect any information at all.  That means even if you say, “I was hoping you could help me out,” or “who handles XYZ at your company,” they will shut you down relatively quickly. A pro gatekeeper is an expert at not letting you past them and also not sharing with you certain information. Don’t even start with the strategy to become friends with them.  Why would the gatekeeper risk their job to let you through? Where’s the logic in that?  Your best chance on the information strategy with a pro gatekeeper involved is to snag a few business cards on the way out the door and get excited about the potential opportunity.    Collecting the right information is very helpful when qualifying opportunities and following back up with your prospecting sequences over the phone.

When should your goal be to set an appointment?

If your goal is to set the appointment, then, you should have one contact to ask for before walking through the door. That means you are strategically targeting these accounts before you start your prospecting day.   It is possible to collect this information on the spot by searching the company on your cell phone but ideally, you should be executing the day you already had planned.  In terms of the contact you ask for, you will never know if they are the right person until you contact them. Don’t over think your research because the opportunity isn’t qualified yet.  Use your CRM to give you a good enough guess as to the opportunity and the contact.  Your contact at the company should be one of the typical titles that you work with at other accounts.  Once you have this one contact to ask for, you are ready to walk into set an appointment.

Get Past The Gatekeeper Tip #3: Act Like You’re Supposed To Be There

It’s time to embrace this feeling of butterflies in your stomach.  Those feelings about you not being expected at their account.  You are interrupting their day.  You are a solicitor.  You are a salesperson.  You are deliberately walking past their no soliciting sign.  What you do with these feelings will impact what happens on your cold call.  I was taught to go overboard and bring charisma and energy on that cold call.  I was taught to be positive and warm.  I was taught to become friends with the gatekeeper.   I was also taught the wrong way. The right way is to act like you’re supposed to be there.      Imagine you are going to the dentist.  Are you excited to walk through their office door?  Is it the best part of your day to go there and chat it up with the gatekeeper at the front?  Absolutely not.  The typical client of a dentist’s office walks in begrudgingly with the purpose to both make it to their scheduled appointment on time and to get it over with fast.  They aren’t being rude.  They just have other things they want to get to.   That’s what gatekeepers are used to seeing.  The people that show up at their account walk up with purpose because they know they are supposed to be there and they don’t want to be late.  If you hope to get past a pro gatekeeper, your first move is to ignore those butterflies in your stomach, blend in, and act like you’re supposed to be walking through that door.

Get Past The Gatekeeper Tip #4: Keep Them in Their Zone


Now just because you’re walking into their office like you’re supposed to be there, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.  You have to not wake the sleeping bear.  The pro gatekeeper, once they’re on to you, will shut you down in seconds.  The secret here is to not let them catch you. 

The way you do this is to keep them in their zone.  

All day long, the gatekeeper has a routine.  They greet people that come in the door and ask certain questions.  They answer the phones and ask certain questions.  They do this hundreds of times a day.  You need to blend right in with what normally happens.

Be confident as you walk up.

Act like you’re supposed to be there.  Walk up with confidence and with purpose.  

The best way to show do this is to avoid any chit chat with the gatekeeper and to simply say these words, “I’m here to see (your contact’s first name), will you let them know I’m here.” That’s it.  Don’t say anything else.

You will be surprised about how much power there is in that message.  You aren’t saying you have an appointment.  You are saying you are here to see someone that works there.  

Once you open with this statement, you will keep the gatekeeper in the zone and they will begin to ask you the routine questions.  

Be prepared for the 3 gatekeeper questions

The gatekeeper has questions that they ask everyone so they can quickly get ahold of the party you are looking for.  These questions are routine! They aren’t asking you these questions to see if you’re a salesperson.  These are reasonable questions so be prepared to respond as one would who was supposed to be there.

  1. What is your name?
  2. What company are you with?
  3. Did you have an appointment? (Are they expecting you?)

Your answers should be quick and to the point.  No explanations needed.

So they ask you, “what is your name,” you should respond with your name only.  You should act like they would know who you were based upon saying your name.  

When they ask you, “what company are you with,” you should respond with your company name only.  Again that’s a normal piece of information to connect with a name.

When they ask you, “did you have an appointment,” you should respond here with confidence.  You should not be mentioning that you have an appointment.  It’s best to say, “It’s regarding an appointment.”  That implies that there is purpose to you showing up and you are not a stranger.  Maybe you are talking about a future appointment or a previous appointment.  It’s a little vague and will slip past even the best gatekeepers.

The better you are at keeping the discipline of asking these questions and only answering what they ask you, the better your outcome.  Remember your goal is to set an appointment.  This will give you the best odds.

The only thing to get ready for now is for your contact to come out and see you.  Which you should be expecting them to.  So get your messaging ready and your objection handling skills and hold on for a wild ride!

Summary of How To Get Past The Gatekeeper

In summary, the pro gatekeeper is the toughest opponent you will have when you prospect on foot.  They will chew you up and spit you out in seconds. 

However, they have a weakness.  If you follow these four tips, you will give yourself the best odds of setting an appointment with your contact, and possibly having a little fun while you’re at it.  

In addition to these tips, Modern Sales Training developed a full sales training course designed to turn you into a cold calling master and unstoppable against gatekeepers.  It’s called The Fearless Prospector.  The Fearless Prospector is an online sales training course that teaches new or tenured salespeople how to get past the gatekeeper, how to conquer fear in prospecting, proven strategies to flood their calendars and how to get in control of their destiny.  

Related Link: The Fearless Prospector Sales Training Course

Learn more techniques on how to get past the gatekeeper inside of our Modern Sales Academy.

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