David Kirkpatrick

B2B Marketing: 3 tips for getting past the telephone gatekeeper when nurturing leads

Lead nurturing is an important part of the longer B2B buying cycle. Not every lead generated is completely ready to become a customer.

Having a process in place that keeps that person in the buying cycle allows you stay visible and provides regular touch points for the nurtured lead. Most lead nurturing programs are very content-heavy and include phone calls and emails sent to the lead offering industry or company information they might find useful.

Lead nurturing by telephone is the more time-intensive effort. Phone calls also offer the opportunity to create a strong connection with the lead. It’s relatively easy to set up an automatic email send with a link to an interesting industry article, or with a white paper attached as a PDF. A phone call provides a great opportunity to discover more information about your lead’s buying cycle and what content they find most valuable.

When calling that lead, you may run into the same problem faced by any teleprospector conducting anything from cold call sales all the way to reaching out to customers — the gatekeeper.

That’s the person somewhere along the trail of that phone call takes that simply says, “No, you cannot speak with that person.”

So if you have a teleprospecting team making these nurturing calls for you, you must make sure that they have more than a great script. They must also have a successful process in place to actually get a hold of the decision maker or influencer.

Three tips to get past the gatekeeper

Facing that roadblock can be frustrating, but Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa), has three tips to help you reach the person you want to speak with. As part of our Leads Group, he has plenty of experience picking up the phone and reaching out to prospects and leads.

Tip #1. Make sure your call has value beyond the sale. Because you are engaging in lead nurturing and not trying to immediately sell something, your callers must [M1] explain the information you have to offer could be useful to whoever you are trying to reach.

“When you are talking to that switchboard individual, or even an executive assistant, first explain to them what your goal is. That you are not trying to sell something, but rather you are trying to get them information,” Brandon says.

He adds, “You might say something like, ‘Many other CFOs that I have been speaking to have found that the white paper I’m trying to get to the person at your company was very useful to them.’”

Tip #2. Reach out to the contact’s assistant. If having your callers explaining the value of the call didn’t get the gatekeeper to budge, have them ask to speak with your contact’s assistant. Maybe your contact just doesn’t take phone calls as a matter of policy and this will give you a way to more directly reach them.

“We regularly will get through to the assistant and then send them an email,” Brandon states. “And they will pass that email around to the boss if they think it is of value to them. Then we will get a call back, or the next time we call in we can get past that barrier.”

Tip #3. Persistence (and a little ingenuity) pays off. Brandon’s third tip is very simple — call back another day. He says if your callers are up against a very diligent gatekeeper, by continuing to call back, someone different will eventually answer the phone.

“If this is somebody important for you to get hold of, call back next week, call back a month from now and somebody else might pick up the phone,” he explains.

What is the ingenuity part of this tip? Make some of those call backs on off hours or on a holiday.

Untrained staff might be answering the phone at those times, or your caller might just get lucky …

“You will be surprised as to how many managers will pick up the phone, or executives will pick up the phone, when their assistant is not there.”

The key is to remain persistent, don’t let one missed connection keep your callers from nurturing other leads, and never take getting blocked by a gatekeeper personally. And don’t show frustration. Take a breath, regroup and try out Brandon’s three tips for getting that gate to open.

Photo credit: Damian Yerrick

Related Resources

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified (Members library)

Lead Nurturing: 3-part funnel campaign creates 70% increase in inbound calls to sales reps (Members library)

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges (Open access)

To Call or Email? That is the Question

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

B2B Lead Generation: 4 ways to use teleprospecting in your next pilot (and 2 ways to measure it)

B2B Funnel Optimization: What happens after you capture the lead?


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B2B Marketing



  1. Chuck Meyer
    July 28th, 2011 at 14:00 | #1

    Great article. Good points.
    I think this is an issue we in sales have all dealt with.

  2. September 5th, 2011 at 06:37 | #2

    Another way for B2B marketers to engage with prospects is via highly-targeted social advertising channels. For example, LinkedIn’s DirectAds Program allows you to target professionals by industry, company size, seniority, job function, location and more.

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