Getting past the gatekeeper is not about muscling your way through the gates; it’s about the customer opening the gates for you. The gatekeeper is the first line of defense for the decision maker and the salesperson’s first line of resistance. Salespeople and gatekeepers have grappled for decades.
The relationship between salespeople and gatekeepers has created misperceptions on both sides. Gatekeepers think, “Oh great. Here comes another salesperson.” Salespeople think, “Oh great. Here is another gatekeeper.” This perception leads to a fruitless interaction.
Salespeople try to overpower the gatekeeper, but this rarely works. Salespeople push harder and gatekeepers dig in their heels deeper. The first impression becomes a lasting impression, and neither party benefits.
The title “gatekeeper” can be misleading. Wouldn’t it make more sense to view the gatekeeper as a bridge maker? This individual is the bridge to the decision maker. They can also bridge the information gap, but many salespeople will leave without gathering the necessary information.
Getting to the key decision maker is not about scaling the wall or muscling through the gates; it’s about opening the gates. Here are seven tips to help you open up the gates.
Have an appointment
The easiest way to get past the gatekeeper is to schedule an appointment. Before you walk in cold, try calling the customer or sending them an e-mail to firm up the appointment. If they are still unresponsive, tell the customer you will be there at a specific time and date, then show up.
Build a relationship
Building relationships is a fundamental selling skill. Many salespeople build relationships with decision makers, influencers, and end users. But what about the gatekeeper? The next time you meet with a gatekeeper, try building a relationship with them. Ask them their name? How long they have been with a company? Just have a conversation, be polite, and remember to thank them for their help.
Respect the process
If the gatekeeper is not allowed to give out names or accept marketing material, don’t pry. Instead of arguing with the gatekeeper, research the prospect. Ask the gatekeeper if there is a specific protocol or process you should follow.
Salespeople experience rejection on a daily basis. It is part of the job. But don’t let a “no solicitation” sign reject you. Why let a sign reject you when you can get the full experience from a human being? Think of how many other salespeople turn away at this first sign of resistance.
If the decision maker is “in a meeting,” gather some additional information. Ask the gatekeeper what time works best to call back. How does the decision maker schedule meetings? You can also qualify the opportunity by asking about employee size and number of locations. This basic information can increase you’re likelihood of success.
Know the decision maker’s name
When you request to speak with someone, ask for them by name, not title. Knowing the decision maker’s name helps build your credibility. Also, it feeds the perception that you know this individual. If you know them, they know you.
The gatekeeper fields requests from salespeople all day. Being different is key. Your message has to stand out among the rest. What can you do to stand out and be different from the bunch? A salesperson recently told me that they bring a small gift to each gatekeeper. What a great way to make a lasting impression.
During your next round of cold calls, incorporate some of these tactics. By employing these tactics you differentiate yourself from other salespeople. Although rejection is part of sales, so is acceptance. Employ these tactics and increase your likelihood of acceptance.