One gatekeeper I heard about really prepared for salespeople by inventing a fictitious director and going so far as setting him up a fictitious voice mail account.
Whenever a salesperson would call and ask, “Who is in charge of…,” the gatekeeper would name Mr. Fictitious Director. She would then ask if they wanted his voicemail, and if they said yes, she would connect them.
When someone would call and ask for Mr. Fictitious Director, they would be told he was on another line, and would they like to hold? These callers would then be put on hold indefinitely, or put through to the fake voicemail that never made callbacks.
Occasionally, reps would call and say they talked to Mr. Fictitious Director last week and were told to call back today. The gatekeeper would respond with, R-E-A-L-L-Y, and then put them on eternal hold.
She would then enter their name and the company’s name on a list of vendors they would never do business with.
Dealing with gatekeepers, by phone or in person is a fact of sales life, so you are much wiser to respond to them professionally rather than by tips and tricks, like the anecdote you just read.
Since a gatekeeper is an administrative person put in place to screen decision makers from salespeople like you, it really doesn’t matter how good you are at presenting your service if you can’t secure passage to the buyer. Many gatekeepers will only let you through if you can convince them their boss has something to gain from seeing you. Otherwise, you will be directed to a low-level person with no influence over the buying process, and your offering will be viewed as a commodity, due to your inability to differentiate it to someone who cares.
Good gatekeepers know a great deal about their businesses and their bosses, so you should build bridges by having conversations that flatter their egos and lead you on a path of progress toward reaching the buyer.
Of course, no two companies are structured exactly alike, so your approach will need to vary, but here are a few ideas to help you reach your ultimate buying prospect:
If she asks, “What’s your call in connection with,” you might respond with a question connected to the buyer’s job, such as, “It’s about training. That is her area of responsibility, right?”
Recognize that gatekeepers can be vital to your information-gathering mission, and you should attempt to compile intelligence during every contact. You should secure tidbits of information about decision makers, their personal schedule, what else is currently happening in their department or company, and maybe even the best (and worst) calling times.
You might also distinguish yourself from competitors by using humor and creativity while conversing with gatekeepers, as long as you never lie. Lying may get you past her once, but when she realizes what you did, you will have an influential enemy to deal with in the future.
When the admin says, “Does Mr. Big know you?” you should answer honestly. Assuming the answer is no and she refuses to let you through, consider sending a note to her with a letter for the buyer attached. The gatekeeper note should remind her of the previous call and, why you think the buyer would benefit from seeing you. Don’t forget to ask her to forward the buyer letter to her boss.
You might ask her, “Since I know my company can submit a very competitive quote for ________, what would you do in my position?” If you are determined to be a bit sneaky, you might make a plan to meet the buyer outside their protected habitat. For example, you might rendezvous at an association meeting or investor conference, or make contact with the buyer early, before the gate is protected, or after her normal quitting time. Many buyers work long hours and answer their own lines during these times, and tend to be more relaxed and informal than during normal business hours.
Regardless how you approach gatekeepers, remember that everyone you meet has invisible signs around their necks saying, “Make Me Feel Special.” If you respond to that sign, you will probably never have to talk to Mr. Fictitious Director’s voicemail!
©2016 Robinson Training Solutions, LLC