Get Past The Gatekeeper: Five Steps To Get To the Decision Maker (It’s Easier Than You Think!)
When making big sales, you’ve got to get to the decision maker to make your presentation. And often you’ll need to get past a gatekeeper before you gain access to the power broker. Getting past the receptionist, secretary, or personal assistant can be a real challenge.
Read on to discover how you can convince the gatekeeper to grant admission to the C-suite.
Recognize the Gatekeeper’s Role
Your first step is to understand the gatekeeper’s role and responsibilities.
The decision maker has a gatekeeper to screen who gets access, protecting the executive from unwanted sales people and their own people so that they have time and energy to accomplish their mission.
The gatekeeper’s job is to open the gate for people who can complement their boss’s agenda and close the gate on those who will complicate their life. I bet you could use a gatekeeper.
When the gatekeeper sees you bringing value they’ll let you in. That’s your mission.
Respect the Gatekeeper’s Power
Your second step is to respect the true power of the gatekeeper.
The boss counts on the gatekeeper to find and oversee solutions to common problems. In reality, the gatekeeper is an important influencer in many deals. Executives have a high level of trust in their assistants, often exceeding their confidence in family members. They seek their opinions. They request that they identify and research solutions. They value their insight and intuition. That’s real power.
Many sales people see the gatekeeper as an obstacle with no power. Big mistake! Sales people try to fool the gatekeeper into giving them access, yet this always backfires.
They may try to bluff their way in: “Let me speak with [boss’s first name], this is his old buddy, Dave.” When the boss doesn’t recognize “buddy Dave” the gate closes forever. Oh yes, the gatekeeper recognizes people’s voices, you can’t fool them.
The gatekeeper can totally shut down access. If you’re judged, “Don’t use them, they’re a jerk,” you’re out in the cold. Happens all the time.
Instead, respect their power and their position. Treat them like they run the company, because they do.
Sell to Them First
Your third step is to sell the gatekeeper on the big idea.
Now that you understand that the gatekeeper has power and can connect you to the boss with a recommendation and endorsement, you also get that they are your first sale.
Don’t cheapen your in-person call by bringing a dozen donuts. A five-dollar goodie box insults because it’s the peace offering of a cheap, obese, polyester suited, mustachioed sales loser. (You know the archetype.) Instead bring something they crave: respect for their position and recognition of their role, exactly what a svelte savvy sales pro delivers.
Call on them in person or via the phone (better yet) with a script like this:
“I’m [your name] with [your company] and the reason for my call is to find out if you think that I may have something of interest to [boss’s name]. Do you have sixty seconds to see if this makes sense?”
The objective of this script is to recognize their influence and respect their position. They will be willing to hear what you have to say because of the unusual and respectful approach and because you are asking permission to get their valued opinion.
Next, ask a question about a common issue that you can solve in terms that the gatekeeper may experience.
“Do you ever hear [boss’s name] complain about [most common problem] or [another common problem] and you don’t quite know how to best help them?”
If you’ve done your homework and have a well-defined qualifying scenario, they’ll say, “Yes, I sometimes hear that.”
“Well, we are the people who work with companies like yours to [solution to problem] so that they [new outcome], which means [value of new outcome]. Would you like to learn more?”
If your messaging is relevant you’ll get another minute or two to describe what you do, cementing your relationship and gaining access to the executive.
Wrap up with, “If you think this might be valuable, would you please schedule 15 minutes with [boss’s name] for an executive presentation that outlines how this might work for your company?”
To gain bonus points, say, “I appreciate your opinion. Would you be willing to review my presentation to make sure that what I have to say hits the mark?”
A “yes” means you are in!
Give Them Kudos
The fourth step is to express their value and contribution to the boss and to them.
When you meet with the executive, make sure that you give genuine praise for their assistant. A little gratitude goes a long way.
“I really appreciate [assistant’s name] insight and ability. You’ve got a gem there.”
After your meeting, send the gatekeeper a token gift within the company’s guidelines. Flowers (not roses because you’re not flirting), a modest gift basket, or a $25.00 restaurant gift card produces a remarkable impression. Make the sentiment one of appreciation: “A token of thanks for your insight and assistance. [Your company name.]”
Recognizing the rarely rewarded results in a real ally.
Ask Them for Referrals
The fifth step is to capitalize on your new relationship.
Next time you speak with them ask, “Who can you think of that would appreciate something like this? Would you set up an introduction with them?”
You’ll be delighted by who they know and how they’ll sell you to other gatekeepers.