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Need to Get Past the Gatekeeper? Show a Little Respect.

a book titled getting part the gatekeeper by stephanie scheller

This article is excerpted from Getting Past the Gatekeeper, by Stephanie Scheller (@SuccessSteph). For more tips on how B2B sales reps can break through the first line of defense and reach the decision-makers, pick up the book on Kindle, and visit

If you want to get past the gatekeeper, you need to keep one thing in mind at all times: They are human too.

The best way to show them you understand that is to respect gatekeepers as equals, instead of trying to manipulate your way past them. [tweet this!] Mentally, you have to be prepared to give weight to them and their accomplishments, but it’s the physical manifestation of respect that makes a difference.

I encourage all my clients to recognize that gatekeepers know what they are talking about. In my experience, when a gatekeeper tells me they aren’t interested, my first instinct is to question them indignantly. How would the gatekeeper know? They didn’t even take the time to get to know what I’m offering!

Instead of getting indignant, I prefer to let them know, “No problem! I will go ahead and get you pulled from the call list. Do you mind sharing, just so we can learn, what it is about the opportunity that you aren’t interested in?”

Most of the time the gatekeeper will calm right down, and if there was a valid reason for the quick shoot-down, they’re very open to explaining why they came to that conclusion.

Usually, I hear that they’ve already got something similar in place, or had a bad experience with another sales rep. Rarely, I’ll get them to admit that the boss just doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now. They aren’t buying anything and don’t need anything—which is rarely a well-informed decision when it comes to whatever is being offered.

The point here is that it is a decision from someone who knows the inner workings of the company. And usually, they appreciate me respecting their knowledge, when so many other sales reps just get upset.

For as complicated as it can be to think about, respect is really an easy technique to use while selling. Think about the little things that make a difference for you. For example, one of my hot buttons is timeliness. Showing up late by more than a couple of minutes is one of the easiest ways to push my buttons and make me feel extremely disrespected. In my own head, I start to think that my time doesn’t mean anything to the person, and if my time doesn’t matter, why should anything else matter? (My advice: Even if you’re a minute late for a call, explain why you’re late in one quick sentence.)

We all want to think that we are unique individuals and there is no one else on the planet like us. And that is true to an extent, but we often have the same likes, dislikes, and hot buttons. So I always encourage my clients to start by analyzing yourself. Only then can you start to pick up on some of the hot topics that bother other people.

Briefly, I’ll break down a few of these hot topics and deal-breakers for you so you can know how to identify them when dealing with a gatekeeper; there are even more covered inside my book.

Listening vs. talking

Gatekeepers often have to listen to a lot of people, regardless of their own wants. The chance to have someone who wants to listen to them is flattering, and actually taking time to hear what they are telling you and process it is very flattering.

Conversely, trying to bulldoze through them is a quick way to lose their help. To see if this matters to them, give them a chance to talk. If they take it and run with it, it matters.


Integrity is being true to your word, to the core of your being. Don’t let yourself get caught in a lie. Even a white lie can be enough to cost you an opportunity. [tweet this!] I don’t recommend ever breaking this concept regardless of what’s at stake. But that could be because it’s another one of my personal hot-buttons.


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Expertise is very specific knowledge and experience within your industry. If your gatekeeper has spent any length of time in their industry, it’s a good bet that they value expertise. If you don’t have that expertise to bring to the table, bring someone who does, or find a way to demonstrate that you’re a safe bet to introduce to their boss, regardless.


Gatekeepers often carry a lot of responsibility, and knowing that you don’t take your responsibilities as seriously as they do is often a deal breaker for them. If they have a lot on their plate, gatekeepers will appreciate knowing they won’t have to babysit you if they get you in to talk to their boss.


For many people, how you treat their family is more important than how you treat them, and caring about family can be the way to win a gatekeeper’s heart. Ask them about their family, and share a few details about your own. If they enthusiastically respond, it’s important to them, and you can use that common ground to form a personal connection.


Gatekeepers may not have a specific title that they expect you to use, but I was born and raised Southern, and ma’am/sir and Mr./Mrs. are deep in my veins. Either way, most people have worked hard for their titles and giving gatekeepers the respect of using them can set you apart. If they don’t correct you when you use their title, then keep doing so.

Respect yourself and your gatekeeper enough to care!

Disregard any of these components, and not only will you come across as disrespectful, but you’ll quickly find yourself out on your ear and you may not even know why.

Related: 14 Things Successful Sales Reps Do Every Week, featuring more of Stephanie’s advice!


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