Getting through the smoke screen called gatekeeper.

Getting through the smoke screen called gatekeeper.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Getting through the smoke screen called: gatekeeper.

Question: On Gatekeeper messages: When the gatekeeper has to take a message, or alerts the person you are trying to call, and they ask: “May I ask what this is regarding?” Would you just say, “Yes, I would like to ask your boss to buy something.” What is your angle on this? By the way I sell advertising for a broadcast television station. Thanks for your time and your help! Rob

“May I ask what this is regarding” is a question with 2.5 answers:
Answer 1 would be the traditional boring, “I sell advertising and I want to know if the boss wants to buy some.” Or something equally as silly that tries to describe “what you do.” That will get you no place.
Answer 2 is a more inventive. One that states the benefits of ownership. In your case it would be, “I want to talk to him about generating more qualified sales leads for his sales team.” Or “I have some sales leads for him.”
And answer 2.5 is a cute one, a fun one, a memorable one. You can start out boring and say, “It’s a business matter of a personal nature”, you can just say, “No, It’s a secret.” That one has also worked for me. Or you can say something intriguing like it’s about available air time, or it’s about 1 minute or 30 seconds.

My opinion is that once the gatekeeper says, “What’s this in reference to”, 8 out of 10 times the call will not got through. You’ll be forwarded to someone else, you’ll be asked to send literature, or you’ll be politely refused by saying we’re not interested.

Here’s a few things you can do to avoid “What’s this in reference to.”
1. Scour your local Business Journal or other business magazines for articles that you think will benefit the recipient of your call.
2. Scour your local Business Journal or other business publications for a potential sales lead for the person or company you are trying to connect with.
3. Find something that was written about the company or the person that you are trying to connect with. Print it out, mail it to your prospect with a post-it note that says, “Nice article, I’d love to talk to you for 60 seconds.”
4. Since you are in the media (and even if you’re not) prepare a 30-second WOW message (commercial) that is so compelling that they almost have to take your call — something different than your competitors, something about greater productivity in the workplace, something about profit.
5. Prepare something of value for them. In your case, Rob, make up a cool commercial in advance. Or a tape of the ten best commercials of all time. Watch them together.

NEVER offer to save anyone money. This is one of the biggest mistakes that salespeople make. They think that a message about saving someone money will entice them to pick up the phone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ever get a call at home from a long distance phone company wanting to save you money? What do you do? You hang up. You’re pissed off. Saving money pisses people off. Earning more profit or increasing productivity will gain you the attention of any corporate executive.

The object of getting a call through is to be intriguing, and to be perceived as a person who has something of value to say that is actually worth listening to.

If your message sounds like everybody else, odds are you’ll get treated like everybody else, and not get your phone call returned, or not get your call through.

“What’s this in reference to?” is an opportunity, and a report card. The opportunity is for you to be creative and thereby get through on a higher percentage of your calls. The report card is that your call needs to be screened because you are not very well known in your industry or your community, therefore… GET KNOWN.

If Mel Gibson was on the phone would they say “What’s this in reference to, Mel?” or would they get up, run into the bosses office and scream, “OH MY GOD IT’S MEL!”

In sales, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

When someone says, “What is this in reference to?” it means that your call is being screened because they don’t know you. The object is to become known. Wouldn’t it be cool to say to the gatekeeper, “He’ll know what it is in reference to” or “Just tell him it’s Jeffrey on the phone, he’ll know.” Isn’t that more powerful than trying to make up some salesy self serving message?

And for those of you that doubt the value and the call back power of a fun voicemail, here’s the rest of Rob’s email…

P.S. I used your voicemail advice, Jeffrey. I’m new, so I don’t have too many customers calling me yet, but it was so unique it got about 15 of my coworkers in the sales department to call my voicemail after hours to hear what it said. When several of them told me, “You need to change that goofy voicemail!” I responded, “If you don’t think it will work, why did 15 of you call it just to hear what it said?” Thanks again for the advice! RL

GitBit: want to get through and or get EVERY CALL returned? Sure you do. Willing to do the hard work attached to it? Go to, register if you’re a first time user, and enter the words GET THROUGH in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, is the author of the bestselling book, The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts internet training programs on selling and customer service at He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to

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