One Day Sales Seminar
How to Get Past the Gatekeeper

by Michael Hellerman

How to Get Past the Gatekeeper

Most business owners and executives responsible for key decisions have a gatekeeper. A common misconception is that gatekeepers are there to prevent a sale from taking place. They think that gatekeepers just say no. But this assumption is often wrong. Understanding their role and then winning them over are how to get past the gatekeeper.

Of course once you are speaking to your target contact, the job of selling is only just beginning. That is why you need a quick and efficient strategy to speak to the right person.


They Just Say No? No They Don’t

Saying no is not what a gatekeeper does. Instead their job is to protect and insulate their boss from distractions and things that will ultimately waste time.

Here are three key things to remember when talking to a gatekeeper:

They know more about the target contact than you do

  1. They know more about the company than you do
  2. They usually care about the company and their career so they want to do things for the company that is beneficial

If you use this knowledge you can turn a gatekeeper into an asset, as well as breaking down the barriers between you and the target contact.

A number of scenarios might happen when you are speaking to a gatekeeper.

Ideally you want them to put you through to the contact so you can speak with them directly. The second best option is that the gatekeeper personally delivers the message. You will have to follow this up with another call, but hopefully the subsequent call will mean you get through. The third best option, if you don’t already have the contact’s email, is to get their personal email address. The fourth best option is getting put through to their voicemail, although this is rarely worthwhile. The fifth best option is being passed off to a lower level manager in the organization without a direct recommendation or referral from your target contact. And the worst option is to be told your product or service is not required – by the gatekeeper.

Here is a strategy to give you a better chance of achieving one of the positive outcomes.


Stage 1: Respect

The first step to successfully dealing with a gatekeeper is to show them politeness and respect. Remember, they know more about the company than you do, regardless of how great and beneficial your product is.

Show that you appreciate what they do, as well as their knowledge and opinion. What you shouldn’t do is patronize them with a bland compliment about their telephone voice. And don’t launch into a product explanation or details of your features and benefits.

Instead explain that you understand a real problem that the company faces and tell the gatekeeper that you think you have a solution that might fit.


Stage 2: Offer Value

Here are some ways that you can show the gatekeeper that what you have to offer has value:

Do your research – if you don’t know the company how can you understand that they have a problem that you might be able to solve.

  • Always be honest and authentic.
  • Use language they understand but never treat them as inferior.
  • Act as if you are in the know by using your research – this will give the gatekeeper confidence that passing on the information rather than filtering it is the best course of action.
  • Give clear instructions as to what you want to happen – do you want an appointment with the decision maker, a telephone conversation, or something else?


Stage 3: Persistence and Follow-Through

Even with all of this you will still probably have to follow-up several times before you get speaking to the right person – persistence is as crucial to getting past gatekeepers as anything else. But if you follow this plan you will increase your chances of success, and you will get that success quicker.

The final point is to make sure you don’t start ignoring the gatekeeper once your conversation with the decision maker starts. When speaking to the decision maker, offer praise to the gatekeeper – the decision maker will be impressed and they will feed the compliment back. Also, keep the gatekeeper informed of your progress with the sale. Keeping them on your side and involved can only help your cause.

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