There are many reasons why gatekeepers reject your efforts to breach their lines. I’m going to go over four of them with you in this article, but first I want to tell you a story.
It’s a story that aligns with many of your fears about gatekeepers. It’s a time when I was told (by a gatekeeper) that he knew what I was doing and could just stop it right away. He wasn’t nasty about it — he wasn’t mean. He was rather amused.
Of the tens of thousands of times I have approached gatekeepers, I can count on a handful of gatekeepers who were mean to me — who berated me for calling. None of them have ever yelled, “I know what you’re doing! Don’t call here again! If you do, I’ll make mincemeat out of you!”
Wait a minute. That’s not exactly true.
A long, long time ago (when I first started) in a place far, far away (Silicon Valley — I’m in Cincinnati) a male gatekeeper told me he was on to me. It was one of the big tech companies — Oracle maybe, HP, perhaps — and I had called in again and again and again asking the same lame and clumsy questions — probably rusing because I did that in my early days. He said, “I know what you’re doing. I’m not going to tell you who all the sales application engineers are who work out of this office or out of any office. You can stop calling now.”
Embarrassed, I hung up the phone. I probably sat back in my chair and pursed my lips. But then I remembered he had given me an idea. He had said, “ … out of any office.” Why hadn’t I thought of that? Of course! Other offices were generally smaller than the ones in northern California and more than likely contained a sales function for those parts of the country!
Voila! I turned bitter lemons into sweet lemonade when I discovered many times on the nighttime VoiceMails that they listed the sales guys first and then the sales support after them.
Encouraging as that story may be, the fear of rejection still remains for many. Here are four ways to avoid gatekeeper rejection.
Why Gatekeepers Reject You
- You’re not prepared when you call; you haven’t done your homework. You don’t have a few names on hand (it’s so easy nowadays!) for when she asks you, “Do you have a name? We only have names listed here at the front desk.” Let’s put aside the fact that she’s probably lying to you on this score; if you haven’t spent a couple minutes doing some basic research before you dial that number, you deserve to pay the consequence of her rejecting you. Add to this first reason why a Gatekeeper rejects you is the uncomfortable subject of familiarity. “Hey, how ya’ doin’ today?” is way too familiar and actually rather offensive to a busy (and professional) gatekeeper who knows you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about how she’s “doing.” What she’ll “do” is instantly become wary of your phony-sounding approach and begin to think about questions to bombard you with. You don’t want that!
- You don’t stop when you should. A gatekeeper coldly turns your request aside with, “I’m not allowed to give out that information,” and you keep pressing her: “Come on, honey, you can tell me — we’re all friends here — c’mon!” Not only does this border on the too-familiar rule above, it is only going to aggravate her to the point where she may hang upon you. If you continue to press a resistant gatekeeper, you deserve to be hung up on.
- You make her nervous with your “phone” language. This is akin to making someone nervous with your body language. An experienced gatekeeper gets a vivid image of you by what you say to her. If you start talking and you sound scared — she’s going to hear it and wonder what you’re scared about. She can “see” you trembling on the other end of the phone. If you tell her some elaborate story as to why you need the information you’re asking for she’s going to wonder why you’re elaborating. She can “see” your eyes guiltily darting around the room. If you mumble and go off on some tangent that makes sense to nobody (including yourself) she’s going to wonder what you’re trying to accomplish and be forced to ask you questions. You don’t want any of that.
- You don’t understand her phone language. A good phone sourcer immediately picks up on the tone and attitude of an answering gatekeeper. This happens almost instantaneously and if you can’t hear the subtleties in a gatekeeper’s mood or manner and adjust your course to take those things into account, you’re doomed to failure. When a gatekeeper answers, generally she’s going to talk to you comfortably or not. If you’re paying attention to her voice and the manner of her speech you’re going to know which end is up. The main point here is we cause our own rejection by the things we do. Mostly the things we don’t do right is because we’re not paying attention.