Develop Confidence When Placing Calls to the Gatekeeper

When I was a baby sourcer, I was filled with all sorts of terrifying fears about what I would say, what I would do, what would happen IF that Gatekeeper asked me any questions! I laugh now at my (mostly) unfounded fears, but I understand this is a common thread that runs through all telephone names sourcing discussions:

What happens when?

I ask you back, what happens when WHAT? The likelihood is that she is not going to ask you anything if you’ve approached her as you should be approaching all your telephone names sourcing calls: with confidence, with precision and, most important, with a routine.

The routine thing we’ve been discussing lately on the boards. You know, the “always identify yourself (name only), repeat her name back to her, and ask for precisely what it is you want (in most cases)” part.

Moving beyond that, though, what’s up with this confidence thing? How can you be confident when you’re making your calls into those companies that seem so terrifying?

Tap into Your Belief System

Instead of assuming she will not give you the information you seek (because of your own preconceived notions), turn the tables and ask yourself why wouldn’t she give you the information you seek? It’s a misconception that all Gatekeepers are sensitized to our “motives” and armed to the teeth with defenses. The great majority fall into that general population who has never heard of telephone names sourcing.

You tell me, if the greater percentage of recruiters has never heard of it (and this is true) why would their Gatekeepers have heard of it?

It’s just not true. The faster you lose this “excuse” from your perforated bag of defenses, the faster and better you’re going to get on in the Recruitosphere (a big call out to my friend the Recruiting Animal who coined this terminology).

Telephone names sourcing is a head game, so determine what responses you can elicit from the head of that Gatekeeper. Most of the time she is completely unaware how the information she so freely gives out can be used.

“But isn’t that ‘manipulating’ people and isn’t that a bad thing?”

Is it? I suggest you reflect upon your own value systems and decide for yourself.

“It’s a means to an end.”

Yep, it sure is.

“It’s unethical.”

Is it?

“It’s tricking people.”

Is it, really?

Setting up unfair terms of social exchange is the basic problem with manipulation. I’m suggesting here that “unfair” does not have to be a component of telephone names sourcing.

I do not believe telephone names sourcing “sets people up” for unfair exchanges. If I ask a direct question, knowing where it is I need to go, and I get a direct response, then there is no “manipulation” at all. Instead, it is simply an exchange of information.

If I choose my words carefully (which I do) and approach her cautiously and carefully, using all my powers of observation, and say very little to her (which I usually do), I am pretty much assured of this valuable information exchange. Notice I did not say “powers of persuasion.”

I don’t see the Gatekeeper as my enemy. She is the first voice of that company I am penetrating. If I can’t get the information from her, I know there are many ways around her where there stands a very good chance that I will get the information I seek. There’s always a way in!

I believe I have an obligation to do a job for my customer, and because of what I do someone just might, down the road, yes, just might, receive an opportunity that may or may not be better than the opportunity they have at the present time.

Article Continues Below

It’s up to that person to decide, and I see telephone names sourcing as a good thing in the world. In the real world, people are chewed up and spit out by commerce every day. Telephone names sourcing avails some of them with the chance to not “land” so hard if and when that happens to them.

It also pays well.

Similar to recruiting, telephone names sourcing is very much like sales. The buyer doesn’t usually buy the product as much as they “buy” the salesperson. In most instances where there is a salesperson involved, what gets bought doesn’t usually get bought unless the buyer “likes” the salesperson.

When you’re telephone names sourcing, you have three to five seconds to make that happen.

That is not a lot of time! Here are some basic things that can be accomplished in three to five seconds:

“Hi, Louise, this is Maureen Sharib.”

Or perhaps this:

“Hi, Louise, this is Maureen Sharib. Can you please tell me who??”

Or this:

“Hi, Louise, this is Maureen Sharib. I hope you can help me.”

Or maybe, even, occasionally:

“Hi, Louise, this is Maureen Sharib. I have Mike Jones as the Operations Manager there. Is that still correct?”

What I’m suggesting here is that the first thing the Gatekeeper hears in your voice is your tonality. If it’s pleasant, she’s going to continue to listen to you, and if it’s palatable to her ear she’s going to begin to pay attention to what you say.

If you’ve removed the mystery in the call by identifying yourself upfront, and she doesn’t have to take the time to ask you “Who’s calling?” you’ve eliminated several wasted seconds from your approach. Being honest about who you are, and by being direct by asking her exactly the information you seek, will get you much farther, much faster than any long, drawn-out imaginary tale about your mission that could land you in serious trouble.

Recently a gentleman approached me during a break in a seminar I was giving in Austin. He said, “You know, Maureen, what you say is true. Telephone names sourcing is simple. But it’s not easy.”

I couldn’t agree more. Adding to simple, I would also suggest telephone names sourcing is direct, FAST, and beats the heck out of some of the recruiting methods in use today. Try it. You just might like it.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!