5 Mistakes Recruiters Make When Speaking to Gatekeepers

To be successful in recruitment, one of the hardest ‘skills’ you need to learn is how to get past gatekeepers. It’s their job to stand between you and your prospect with express orders to refuse any calls that they think might waste that decision-maker’s time.

Over the years, I’ve heard about numerous terrible tactics recruiters have used to get past gatekeepers (pretending to be the prospect’s doctor is by far the worst!), but I’ve also picked up a few golden nuggets along the way too.

Here are the some of the biggest mistakes people make when speaking to gatekeepers, and what to do instead if you really want to get transferred through to your prospect.

Mistake #1: Falling straight into the gatekeeper’s lap

If you’re trying to get past gatekeepers, why would you make their number the first one you call? The best way to get past a gatekeeper is to avoid them altogether!

What to do instead:

You’d be surprised how often you can find a prospect’s direct dial or mobile number listed online, so before you settle for calling the gatekeeper, do some research to see if you can find your prospect’s direct dial first.

LinkedIn profiles and ‘meet the team’ pages on company websites are a great place to start your research, as they often contain contact details – especially if your prospect is client-facing.

A quick Google search of the prospect can really pay off too. You can find contact details in a variety of places online, like job adverts and company phone directories (every university in the UK has an online phone directory published online).

Mistake #2: Non-stop calling the gatekeeper

We’ve all seen (or been!) the recruiter who calls the gatekeeper non-stop (despite being repeatedly being told the prospect isn’t available) in the hope they get sick of fobbing you off, give up and finally put you through to your prospect.

This ‘tactic’ doesn’t work because it’s based on a silly assumption: That the prospect isn’t available. In reality, the gatekeeper isn’t putting you through because they think you’re being a pest and they’ll probably never put you through, no matter how much you badger them.

What to do instead:

Use your CRM to keep track of your sales calls and break up your pattern of outreach to ensure you’re not calling the same gatekeeper every single day.

If mix up your call times like this, the gatekeeper will be less likely to remember you, won’t think of you as a pesky recruiter and ultimately, will be more likely to put you through.   

Mistake #3: Not asking for a prospect’s direct dial

It’s easy to convince yourself that there’s no point asking for your prospect’s direct dial because the gatekeeper will never give it to you anyway.

But you’d be surprised how often gatekeepers will provide contact details if you just ask the right way.

And as the saying goes: ‘If you don’t ask, you won’t get’!

What to do instead:

To get a client’s direct dial, all you have to do is give the gatekeeper a good reason to give it to you.  

If your prospect’s out of the office, ask for the best mobile number to contact them on while they’re not at their desk.

You can also ask for your prospect’s direct dial when the gatekeeper has agreed to put you through, so you never have to risk going through them again. Just say something like: “Can I have their direct dial just in case we get cut off?”.

The worst thing that can happen when you ask for a direct dial is the gatekeeper tells you ‘no’ - so what’s the risk?

Mistake #4: Thinking it’s you vs. the gatekeeper

Thinking the gatekeeper is your enemy will doom you to failure from the start. The gatekeeper’s job is simple: to stop annoying and irrelevant calls getting through to decision makers. They’re not out to get you!

If you have a ‘me vs. the gatekeeper’ mindset when you pick up the phone, you won’t start the conversation with the right attitude and this will bring the gatekeeper’s guard up – and that’s the last thing you want.

What to do instead:

Always be polite and start every call with an upbeat tone so you don’t sound like a problem waiting to happen.

No matter how much pushback you get, never argue.  Gatekeepers never forget callers who are difficult to deal with, so if you’re too pushy you’ll end up with a permanent black mark against your name in the gatekeeper’s mind.

Instead, give a clear reason why you are calling, answer any questions you are asked concisely and – hey presto! – more often than not, you’ll earn your way through.

Mistake #5: Pretending to be someone else

When you’re getting knocked back by every gatekeeper you call, it can be tempting to lie and pretend to be someone else. You feel like the gatekeeper will never put you through if they know you’re a recruiter, so you might as well make up a story about who you are.

But lying to a gatekeeper will never work, as you’ll be exposed as soon as you tell your prospect who you are. People hate being lied to, so why would you want your first impression to be one where they see you’re willing to lie to get what you want?

What to do instead:

First of all, you need to ask yourself why you’re being knocked back by every gatekeeper you speak to and consider changing your approach – it’s not working and lying is certainly not going to help.   

Be honest about why you’re calling. If you’ve done the right thing and warmed your prospect up properly before the call, you can reference the touchpoints you’ve had with them so the gatekeeper knows you’re not just another cold call.

Whenever a gatekeeper asks me whether a prospect is expecting my call, I often use the line: “No, we don’t have a call booked call, but they’ll know why I’m calling”, which is often enough to get me put through.

If the gatekeeper does question you further, give them a specific reason for your call, but avoid giving them your entire sales pitch. They don’t care about this, they’re just looking for a good enough reason to put you though.

Getting past the gatekeeper is significantly easier if you've warmed up your prospect. This eBook will show you how to turn your cold calls into warm calls, so getting past gatekeepers becomes a breeze...  

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David Connolly

David is a Senior Growth Outreach Specialist at Firefish. After working as a 360 recruiter, he loves innovating recruitment with Firefish Software.

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