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An interview with Alice the gatekeeper

Here are her biggest pet peeves about sales folk


In my last article, I talked a little about Alice the Gatekeeper.  Alice and her colleagues throughout the business world are tasked with making sure you and I, as teleprospectors, don’t get put through to waste their bosses’ valuable time on our sales pitches. Talk about the Patriots versus the Broncos kind of rivalry! I have decided after so many articles on selling over the phone, to turn the tables and interview Alice for a gatekeeper’s perspective on cold calls.

So, Alice, are you ready?

Sonny, I was born ready.  Show me a salesperson, and I’ll show you some dead telephone meat—also, I’ll show you the door.

Yikes!  I’ll be careful with you.  Can you tell me, Alice, what do you like most about answering the phone?

Sam, I like helping people, I really do. And I enjoy chatting with Charlie, the handsome sales rep I order office supplies from. Then I like talking with the big bosses. You never know when a raise could be in the conversation.

But what’s my favorite part of answering the phone? I solve problems.  When I know the answers to so many questions about my business, I feel important.

So, as the Gatekeeper, you seem to know everything that goes on in your company.

You betcha.  By hook or by crook, I know the inside scoop, the public persona, the low down and the up-town news of my world.  That’s why I have more than 20,000 followers on my Facebook page.

That’s truly impressive. So when it comes to telephone prospectors—

Call ‘em what they are—salespeople—

--So when it comes to telephone prospectors or salespeople, Alice, what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Have you got an hour? I mean, really.  There are so many peeves to choose from.  What’s a gatekeeper to say? These people get on the phone pretending to be my best friend when we’ve never talked before, or they act as if I’m nothing more than an annoying answering machine, and I should put them through to my boss for no good reason. 

Then there are the ones who try to get a sale out of me. Me! I mean, even if I were impressed with their pitches on their widgets and what-nots, who exactly is going to ask the receptionist his or her opinion on the next accounting software the company is going to buy?

My biggest pet peeve, though, comes from those doofuses who interrupt, don’t listen, and generally follow a script that was dated before it got from their laptop to the printer. Really! Do they honestly think I’m going to waste my time on those calls?  I get as many as thirty calls a day with people trying to force me into their scripts. Yuck!

That truly would annoy me, too. So how should tele—er—salespeople talk with you?

Sam, you’re one of the good ones, I can tell.  Okay, just between you, me, and my Facebook followers, here are some things I’d truly like in a sales call:

  • Honesty—you don’t care how I am, so puh-leese stop asking “how are you?” It wastes my time and yours.  Once, I told a solicitor that my mother just died. She said “okay,” and went right on with her pitch. Can you believe that? Grr!
  • Listen and learn—If you ask me a question, be sure you want the answer.  Yes, I have a ton of information at my fingertips, but sales people are often so focused on getting to the contact on their list (which is usually an outdated name), that they don’t listen to me. If you ask me when the last time was we replaced our office printer, I can find that out for you. But if you keep badgering me with questions that you don’t care about, why should I look up information for you?
  • Show some respect—this is hard to define, but your tone of voice, your pace of conversation, the things you address with me, all show how much respect you have for my position and myself.  Believe me, you can’t hide your contempt when you call. I hear it and will do my best to find a reason NOT to put you through to my boss as a result.
  • Brighten my day—I will always do my best to act professionally toward you, but I am a warm and soul-filled person.  Let’s have a real conversation and then be done.  I’ll remember you if you talk nicely, maybe give me something to smile about, and treat me like a real person.  And if I remember you positively, you can bet I’ll be on your side with regard to promoting your relationship with my boss.

Here’s one last question, Alice.  Have you ever made a cold call?

Eew! Choke, hack, cough. Blah!

That’s not in my job description.  I wouldn’t try to be you guys if my life depended on it.  I like giving information, not seeking it.

Thanks, Alice. Wishing you a great day.

Thanks, Sam.  Keep dialing.

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Sam Dobbins

Sam Dobbins is the founder and president of the Cold Call King, A Sales Development Consulting Firm, formed in 2004.  Learn more at www.coldcallking.com. And reach the Cold Call King at sam@coldcallking.com or (303) 954-8553.

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