Quick Tips

Getting Past ‘The Gatekeeper’ To Make Appointments With… The M.A.N.

In today’s very tough sales market, it is becoming increasingly challenging for a salesperson to get through to the decision maker – the ‘M.A.N.’.  This is the person with the Money, the Authority, and the Need. (It can be a male or female).  Many customers have a PA or secretary, who will answer calls on the decision maker’s behalf.  The PA may deal with numerous incoming sales calls in a day, and is therefore usually experienced in acting as a ‘gatekeeper’ for the M.A.N.

So, be fully prepared for dealing with the ‘gatekeeper’.  Have your answers ready, as they are likely to ask questions, or make statements, in response to your call, as follows:

“What is the call regarding?”

Your answer:
… should be given straight away; hesitation creates suspicion.  Provide a plausible, clear, and truthful reason, which can include:

  • A potential benefit
  • Knowledge of the prospect
  • Something topical

“It’s regarding cost savings on your XXX budget”
“It’s to discuss whether they are interested in reducing their costs on XXX”
“It’s regarding ways to improve XXX”
“It’s regarding the rising fuel costs and potential savings”
“It’s in regard to the latest changes in legislation”

If the gatekeeper answers: “I can help you with that”

Your response is to:
… thank them for their help, and then ask a question you know they cannot answer.

“That’s great… can you tell me your strategy for meeting the latest industry changes in the export regulations?”

Have a backup question in case they do answer the first one!  When they cannot answer the first, or the second backup question, ask to speak to the person who can answer these (which is the M.A.N. you were aiming to speak to in the first place!).

If the gatekeeper’s response is: “Can I take a message?”

Your answer should not appear to be dismissive of the PA’s (gatekeeper’s) offer for help, but should aim to ‘keep control of the process’, so you can call back another time.

For example:

Your response:
You can, of course.  However, it’s quite a long and detailed message, and it would be easier if I call back later.  When is the best time to reach him / her?”

Of course, if you cannot reach the customer after a number of attempts, you may decide to leave a message.

If the gatekeeper responds: “Please leave your number and I’ll get him / her to call you back”

Your best answer…
… is similar to the previous response such as: “I can leave my number.  However, I’m going into a meeting shortly, and I don’t want to annoy them by not being available if they call.  When is the best time to call back?”

Gatekeeper: “Sorry, he /she does not take sales calls”

Your initial response should always be that it is not a sales call, but a call for another truthful reason, that is plausible / believable, and has a possible benefit, such as:

“Sorry, it’s not a sales call…”
“I would like to discuss possible cost savings on your XXX purchases.”
“I want to identify whether they are (interested in saving / need to save) money on their XXX.”

The reason should be very strong, sound important, and be authoritative.  It also helps if it is a ‘hot topic’ in their particular industry.

If this fails, then revert back to the tactic used in the previous example:

Gatekeeper: “Is this a sales call?”

This is a very similar version to the previous answer, and should be dealt with in a similar way.  You can answer by saying “No, it’s not”, because, at this stage, you are merely trying to ascertain some information.  Then you may continue by offering a possible benefit saying: “it’s a call to identify whether the rising costs of supplies are an issue, and whether you / they are looking at ways to reduce costs”.  Of course, if you can make it very current, especially if there are industry developments which will have an impact on the customer’s business, that is even better… such as: “It’s in relation to the new regulation that’s just come into force in the last two months, and how that affects the compliance of your organization”.

Gatekeeper: “Can you send the information via post / email?”

In this instance, it is advisable to be slightly demeaning about the information you can send, such as:

 “I’m happy to send the information I have.  However, it cannot cover everything, and may not specifically address the key issues I think your business has now, and will have in the near future.  I would like the opportunity to discuss these issues face-to-face”

Then, revert back to asking for a short appointment.

The alternative option is to state that you need to speak to the decision maker to ascertain which information to send, as you do not want to “overload their Inbox with a lot of irrelevant attachments”.

If you are actually connected to the decision maker (the M.A.N.), your aim is to try to get an appointment!

Gatekeeper: “Is he / she expecting your call?”

In this instance, you should truthfully answer “No”.

Your best option might then be to say that you “understand that he / she does not normally take calls from someone they are not expecting a call from”.  Then ask if you can send the M.A.N. some information / or an email, because you strongly believe it will be of interest and relevance to him / her.

Sending An Email

If you decide to send an email, state in it that you will be calling him / her to discuss the content.  When you make the follow-up call, which should be just a day or so afterwards, and before the PA asks you the same question again, (“Is he / she expecting your call?”) state (in a matter of fact style) that he / she is expecting your call (because truthfully, you stated in your email, that you would be calling!).

You could be cheeky and set a ‘Read’ or ‘Received’ request on your email.  Then, if you get a response, you can say the reason for calling is regarding an email that he / she sent to you!

Some salespeople will answer the initial question from the PA of “Is he / she expecting your call?” with “Yes”.Their justification for this is that if they are a leading supplier in the market, and they are contacting a leading customer, then surely the customer would be expecting a call from the salesperson!  This option, of course, has the risk of annoying the customer, and if used, you must be able to handle the decision maker’s response!


  • Ask for the contact by name
  • Use the PA’s name if you have it.  If not, thank them at the end of any call and ask for their name.  Then use it in future calls
  • Sound confident – Talk as if you should be put through
  • Be sure your opening statement has something that will be of key interest to the contact, e.g. that what you have to offer is relevant to them.  The greater the relevance to the contact, the more likely it is you will get to speak to them.  Therefore, be sure your prospecting is thorough, so there is a direct relationship between what you have to offer, and the person you want to speak to – the M.A.N.!
  • Remember: the PA is a person too – ask for their help (many people (but not all) try to help, when asked)
  • If you do not have the decision maker’s name (the M.A.N.), ask for the person who is responsible for the product, or service, you are offering.  Make sure you note the full name, job title, and department, for your records
  • If you are having difficulties getting through, it may be advisable to send a carefully crafted email or letter, so they know something about you.  Take time to prepare it, so that it is more professional than any of your competitors.  Say you will be calling.  At least they will be expecting your call.   You will also be able to say that you are calling regarding the information you sent
  • If all else fails, is there anyone else in the customer’s organization who it may be worthwhile speaking to?
  • You can also try the ‘smoke and mirrors’ technique with the ‘gatekeeper’, whereby you would say something like “it’s regarding the ongoing supply of XXX”.  With this technique you are ‘implying’ that you are an existing supplier, but not actually saying that you are!


Many decision makers screen their calls using their voice mail.  Few, if any, ever return calls from salespeople.  There is little you can do to get round voice mail.  However, here are a few ideas:

  • Try to call just outside office hours.  If the official working hours are 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. the M.A.N. may be in early, or stay later than the ‘gatekeeper’.  If you call at this time, you may just catch them directly.
  • Can you get through to a colleague who may be able to put you through?
  • Does the switchboard have an alternative number, such as a mobile phone number they will be prepared to give you?

We hope these suggestions and tips help you with your selling.  You will learn many new ideas if you attend one of our Sales & Marketing Public Courses, with a maximum of just 12 delegates on every course – delivered by a top-class professional Spearhead Trainer. 

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