There’s a reason virtual receptionists and auto attendants were invented: to update and automate corporate telecom systems. But ask sales reps why they were created, and they’ll most likely say, “to keep the decision maker hidden from people like me!”

Reaching decision makers has become increasingly difficult as new technologies, innovations, and personnel assume the gatekeeper role, designed to intentionally protect and isolate executive leaders.

“You need to have a plan to get past the gatekeeper to the decision maker—that is part of the sales call,” Steve Schiffman, author of ColdCalling Techniques, said in a success.com article. “The biggest mistake salespeople make is not asking for the right person.”

Consequently, companies are revising their sales strategies and looking for ways to get around the gatekeeper. Indeed, these initiatives are as important as securing a CRM platform, investing in a sales automation system, and conceptualizing an effective lead nurturing campaign. So how do you circumvent the gatekeeper to reach the person with the buying power?

Know Who’s in Charge: Trying to reel in a prospective buyer without access to pertinent company information—like who’s at the helm of the company and his or her full name—is a lot like trying to fish without bait. That’s why companies like Hoover’s and Dun & Bradstreet make it easy for businesses to reach the right decision makers by providing critical information about more than 53 million business professionals. The next time you call a potential buyer, instead of asking, “May I please speak to your product manager?” enlist the help of a third-party provider to know the first and last names of your prospect before making the call.

Keep Track of Personnel Changes: Companies that employ a best-in-class sales strategy don’t rely on receptionists to notify them of personnel changes. Rather, they stay current with their prospect’s corporate roster and update their CRM, sales, and lead gen platforms regularly. The C-suite is vulnerable (consider that the average tenure of a CMO is about four years, according to the latest CMO tenure study conducted by executive search consulting firm Spencer Stuart). A fully-baked sales strategy anticipates turnover, and calls for companies to routinely participate in data cleansing and hygiene practices to ensure their information is always up to date.

Be Unique: Most likely the executive you want is routinely inundated with calls like yours. Therefore, make sure your sales reps tailor their pitches. Throw away the standard elevator pitch, and encourage your team to do its homework. For instance, take note of the “isms” and verbiage used by the decision maker. Pay attention to the chief executive’s previous purchasing decisions. And figure out the best time to reach the individual. Calm, confident, and custom pitches will go a whole lot further than the canned approach.

Now are you ready to outsmart the auto attendant?

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