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Getting past the gatekeeper

Liz Wendling //June 29, 2012//

Getting past the gatekeeper

Liz Wendling //June 29, 2012//

In today’s business climate. salespeople are finding it harder and harder to reach decision makers and connect with new customers. Years ago, it was easy to call someone and actually talk to them live. Not anymore. Many businesses are putting up barriers designed to keep strangers and salespeople out of the workplace.

Most salespeople know that the receptionist or gatekeeper has been specifically trained to keep you from talking to or even getting close to the decision makers.  With their stealth-like phone abilities, they hold the key to your success or failure in their hands, and their job depends on it. They’re great at what they do, and if you think you can fool them, you’re dead wrong.

Getting past gatekeepers can be tough because you’re on their turf, they’re guarding the gates and what they say goes.  They decide who gets in and who doesn’t. Your goal is to treat them like the intelligent, honest and hardworking people they are. They already know you’re a salesperson; your attempts to schmooze and charm them are simply annoying. Worse, this behavior plays up to all of the salesperson stereotypes that people dislike so much.

Most salespeople assume that the gatekeeper doesn’t have the time, judgment, or influence to help them, and immediately ask for the decision-maker.  Huge mistake!  Some gatekeepers have influence over the type of person or company that gets through the gates. They are trained to screen out salespeople who view them as just an irritating obstacle. Treat every gatekeeper with courtesy and respect. They’re just doing their job and they do it well.

One way to ensure your calls will come to a complete stop is to try too hard to engage in small talk by asking them how they are doing, did they have a good weekend or are they having a great day. You’re wasting their time and perhaps your only opportunity. Everyone else who’s calling asks the same outdated and time-wasting questions. The biggest mistake you can make is not quickly getting to the point of your call. Let them know you have a purpose and a reason why you’re calling. They’re busy and don’t have time for chit-chat.

Don’t buy into the belief that you need specific tricks, fancy footwork and a few good one-liners to make your way past the gatekeeper. If your calling strategy involves “tricks” then you are wasting time, money and energy. Tricks are for amateurs.

You must start by changing your mindset around the gatekeeper. It’s not about how to get past the gatekeeper it’s about how to work with the gatekeeper.  Your only job is to engage them and convince them that your message has value. Work with them and they’ll work for you. Don’t ever resort to lying about why you’re calling or use some the gimmicks still being taught today to get past them.  They’ve heard them all and they no longer work.

Like it or not, some gatekeepers are now part of the sales process, one of the decision maker’s most trusted advisors. You must “sell” them and stop looking for ways to get past them.

Getting past the gatekeeper is what separates the sales superstars from the rest of the pack. It takes resourcefulness, persistence, creativity and a willingness to try different approaches.

Gatekeepers can either be your friend or your enemy. If they see you as just another annoying caller, you’ll stand little chance of getting the decision maker to take your call. If they like you and see you as a persistent salesperson, they’ll give you respect, open the gate and put your call through. Remember, they decide if you get through the gates or not. It’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell.