Of course, the cold-call didn’t exactly start well to begin with. As a PA or EA soon becomes aware, they will have to field countless cold-calls from sales people trying to gain the ear of the boss, especially when that person holds the company’s financial purse strings.
But this particular caller was doomed to fail right from the start by trying to pretend he was a personal friend of my Greek boss while not researching the pronunciation of his name: “Can I speak to Costa Coffeeloppoloss?” “Costa Coffee? No we don’t sell coffee, I think you’ve got the wrong number.” “Sorry, is that meant to be Costa Caffalopalace?” “No, not even close! What do you want?”
At that point it was a given that he was are cold-caller and, no matter what he has done, you feel as if you have, in some way, been cheated so are going to do nothing to help! Now, obviously on the back foot, the salesman, instead of taking stock and admit to his real intentions, decides to plough ahead and pour petrol on the fire.
Raising his voice, the guy takes a high tone and says: “Well, whatever the way his name is pronounced, I really, really need to speak to him on a very urgent matter!”
“I’m sorry, are you his GP?” “No!” “Well, then his dentist?” “No!” “Surely not his tailor, because that would be very important indeed.” “NO, of course I’m bloody not!”
They usually get aggressive when they’ve been ‘outed’ but, what these guys forget is, we gatekeepers usually know everything about our bosses and, if we do not know you, it is very unlikely to be an urgent personal matter!
But it’s not all bad news for you sales professionals because, despite some of our fearsome reputations, gatekeepers are still business people keen to promote good practice and open up opportunities for the executives for whom we work.
One salesman phoned with the opening line: “Good morning, can I speak to Ms Sterne (not my real name of course)?” “Sterne speaking.” “I’ve been looking for a company to approach with my service and, reading your company’s end of year executive statement, I think we could be very good for each other.”
Straight away he’d ticked two of the boxes: first, he’d done his homework and proceeded to back it up with relevant facts and figures which, having put together said executive statement myself, I knew to be correct; second, he was making the sales pitch to me. Because, let’s face it, if a salesman can’t be bothered trying to pitch to the gatekeeper, how on earth does he expect to get through to the money?
Naturally, it helped that this guy was a dyed-in-the-wool charmer, funny, polite and coming across as genuinely nice. He simply asked for help in getting to be put in front of the right person and so I did. I helped him find the right contact in the business, even though it ended up not being my boss.
Here, again, another big mistake sales guys make is always going to the top – 9 times out of ten, they are simply not interested and it is better to get buy-in from one of the executives whose remit covers that particular product or service.
So there you have it, not only did this chap get through the gatekeeper, he got the gatekeeper on his side to help him make the sale, all through being, polite, funny and above all HONEST!