How to Get Past the Gatekeeper When Cold Calling
Part of being a freelancer is persistence: cold calling, checking up on a pitch, or setting up an interview with an important source all take a bit of determination to pull off successfully. But often, an obstacle lies in your way: someone who’s job it is to protect the person you need from such calls.
Previously, just a voice on the phone, today’s gatekeepers have a much wider reach: they filter phone calls and email, shield the recipient from tweets and other social media, and sift through their snail mail. But the result is still the same, they make it difficult for you to get through.
It can certainly be frustrating, but getting angry won’t further your career, nor will giving up completely. If you really need to get through to someone, try these ways to soften the gatekeeper:
- Stay polite: No matter how terse the gatekeeper may act, remain polite and unruffled. Eventually, he or she will feel guilty behaving nastily to someone with such good manners, and they’re bound to soften a bit.
- Get on their level: Verbally recognize that you know they’re just doing their job. Suggest that if they just pass along your message, or set up an appointment, you’d be happy to get out of their hair.
- Work with them: Ask how you can better accommodate them – when would they like you to call back? What is Mr. X’s preferred method to set up a meeting?
- Butter them up: A gift can warm the heart of anyone. Take advantage of a nearby holiday or seasonal specialty to break down barriers.
- Get personal: If you have a way with wit, try a lighthearted approach to warm your chilly reception. Or try to tap into a mutual interest or connection.
It’s frustrating to make repeated efforts to get through to someone, only to be shut down. Remember that showing your annoyance, either verbally or written, is seldom going to help your cause. If you feel like you’re about to burn a bridge, step away from the situation and give yourself time to cool off.
If the gatekeeper won’t budge, seek an alternate route: try to connect through someone else at that company, or hook up with your source through a professional organization. Or, wait a couple months, then try again. Perhaps a change in staffing or vacation will mix up the people you deal with. Finally, if nothing works, it may be time to put your energy elsewhere. Perhaps you’ll cross paths with this person informally some other time.
What successful tactics have you used to get past the gatekeeper and through to the person you want to connect with?