What is it about sellers and the fear of not being able to 'get past the gatekeeper'? Granted, there are some really good ones out there who perform their task of screening every call quite well. Even so, whether you get past them or not depends on you and your approach. Most sellers need to adjust their attitude about making calls and the role of the person whom they first encounter on the other end of the line.
Remember, the gatekeeper is not your primary caregiver, so you owe them nothing and can lighten up! Here are three tactics that have worked for me.
When they ask 'May I tell him who's calling?' here are two responses:
1) 'Sure!', then pause. (This always results in a bit of stunned silence.) Then, they'll ask, 'May I have your name?' and you can laugh and say, 'Oh! I haven't given that to you, have I? It's Bob Smith, is Joe in this morning?', OR,
2) 'Sure!, but it won't mean anything to them yet'. This usually gets a chuckle and then you can ask 'Are they in today?'
Never use your contact's last name.
The biggest tip off to a gatekeeper/receptionist that you're an outsider is when you use someone's last name. Even when their first name is common don't use their last! Here's why this is so critical - friends and family members ask for them by their first name or nickname. One thing a receptionist never wants to do is upset a friend or family member by not connecting their call. So use first names only. Try this and keep track of how many times it works for you.
Solicit their help when you're going in cold, or your contact name is invalid. They usually appreciate your asking; you can hear it in their voice. Here's how I do this: 'Mind if I take 30 seconds, tell you why I'm calling and then you can direct me to the right person?' I've never had anyone say no. Then, when I get connected to whomever they feel is the right person, I say 'Hello, I was just speaking with Mary about our services and she felt it best that I speak with you. Is this a bad time?"
Even if you get an automated system, always press 0 to connect with a live person, worst case you'll get practice; best case, you'll create an ally that will get you through to the very person you've been trying to reach.