Sales books and the internet are full of tips on how to ‘get past’ or ‘get around’ the gatekeeper. Here’s a news flash – the gatekeepers have read these as well. He/she is alert to your best efforts at bulling or ‘schmoozing’ and is adept at deflecting your best efforts.
What we find most distasteful is the condescending attitude sales professionals have been taught regarding their relationship with this individual: someone to pass by on their way to the decision maker (DM).
Re-evaluate the role of the Gatekeeper (GK):
1. The GK IS the decision maker. They decide how far you will get within the company.
2. In smaller companies (100 or less) the person who answers the phone is usually the ‘heartbeat’ of the organization. They are regarded by co-workers and owners as important and their opinions have high value.
3. Remember DM’s are busy. If the GK is an administrative assistant they cannot generally say yes to a proposal but probably have been given the latitude to say no.
4. People in a GK’s position normally feel responsible for protecting the DM from unnecessary interruptions and pesky sales professionals. Generally speaking, they have an incentive to block you out. By letting you through the gate, they could receive consequences ranging from negative comments by the DM to losing their job. In other words, helping you get through to the DM may cause them discomfort.
Always keep this thought in mind as you work with them. They may expect to receive more negative than positive consequences from helping you except in two special situations:
a) They really like/trust you
b) You already have a strong connection with the DM.
As a result, you only have two options when it comes to working with the GK:
a) Go out of your way to connect with them
b) Find a way to meet or contact the DM that removes the GK from the process.
For our purposes, we will focus on the first approach –connecting with the GK.
Here are eight keys for developing a strong relationship with the GK:
1. They are people, too. They do not want to be used, manipulated, or persuaded to let you through. If they feel that you do not care about them, they will probably block you from the DM.
2. They usually work closely with the DM.They generally understand the company’s goals, challenges, and priorities. They have information that can help you. If you take the time to connect with them and develop mutual trust, you may learn some valuable information.
3. They often have a trusted adviser relationship with the DM. Treat them with the same respect you would give the DM.
4. The competent ones are part bloodhound. They can usually “smell a fake a mile off.”
5. When the gatekeeper asks the reason for your call, answer with the same basic script you would use for the DM. This includes using your power statements.
6. Ask for their name and use it during the conversation. Put it in your notes for future reference.
7. Treat them with respect.
8. Use your skills in Rapport Mastery℠to build a genuine relationship with them.
Remember that the most important person you talk with during any given phone call is the one who answers the phone. Their impression of you will often determine whether you speak with anyone else or not.