Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally?

Tips for Handling Gatekeepers

Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally? Tips for handling gatekeepers


You’re gearing up to make the phone call and you go through the scenario in your head. 


You visualise the dream conversation that will take place with the very person that will sign the deal to edge you closer to reaching your sales quota. You can almost taste the commission payment and BOOM....denied! Someone gets in the way and tells you this is not going to happen, grrr!

Those darn gatekeepers are ruining it!!! Sound familiar?

So what’s your plan when it comes to dealing with gatekeepers?

Do you even have a plan for handling gatekeepers?

And what do you think about those people tasked to guard your prized decision maker against your advances?

The fact that they’re referred to as gatekeepers implies the natural trepidation salespeople feel towards them.

Since my sales career began some time ago I can still recall the amount of time and energy sales teams would invest in developing unscrupulous tactics to side step the gatekeeper and land the goal of reaching the buyer.

Such tactics can range from mild intimidation or the use of power play to simple distortion of truths or using nuances of the english language to mislead. To cite an example I’ve come across in the recruitment industry is, “this is a personal call” for the gatekeeper, which changes to, “this is a personnel call” for the decision maker.

By no means am I suggesting that these don’t work as I have seen them achieve their aim but it does come at a cost and that is the integrity of the business executing them. Especially as the glaringly obvious question is why would you start the relationship with a lie?

If you’re in the luxurious position of being able to burn through leads and don’t rely on repeat business then by all means carry on but if you truly value your reputation and want to invest in a sustainable business relationship then there is a better way.

Whatever the business one of the greatest attributes you can possess is to understand what the person you are dealing with wants. If you understand the motivation of the person you are speaking with, it will facilitate the interaction you have with them and therefore will put you in a better position to achieve your aims.

This may require some guesswork on your part and some calculated assumptions but it is safe to say you won’t be far off the mark. That said, if in doubt then feel free to ask them questions.

Simply put when applied to the gatekeeper it’s worth remembering they have a job to do and will act to serve the best interest of their colleague and organisation.

Think about it, while navigating your way through Linkedin have you ever come across anyone with “Gatekeeper” as their job title? The answer will almost certainly be no and that’s because the position does not exist. So here's some tips I want to share with you when dealing with the gatekeeper.

Be Human

So first things first, remember that you are dealing with a person and not an obstacle so take this into consideration and apply a human approach to the interaction. Make them complicit in your request and ask for their help in taking you a step closer to that elusive conversation with your desired contact. “How do you do that?” I hear you ask, well read on...



Develop Rapport


If they answer the phone by mentioning their name, repeat it back to them and if you didn’t hear what they said ask them to repeat it. By doing this you can quickly gauge their tone and make that snap decision on how to best engage with them. Do they come across as matter of fact? If so then keep to the point. Or are they chattier in nature, in which case you have the opportunity to develop rapport and maybe elicit some invaluable company information or insight.



Be careful with assumptions


Make no assumptions about the gatekeepers role. In modern organisations it’s not unusual for senior colleagues and decision makers to take calls so how you approach the conversation can determine whether you succeed or fail in your sales interaction so try not to fall at the first hurdle. Furthermore advances in technology means your targeted organisation can block future calls and emails from you and your organisation.



Be Prepared


Always enter the conversation prepared to speak with a potential gatekeeper. Have your positioning statement ready in condensed form and ensure you cover the following 3 bases:

1. The purpose of the call in brief.
2. Outline why it’s worth your desired contact taking the call - what’s in it for them? And finally...
3. Set expectations. Respect your contact’s time and say that you wish to be granted a couple of minutes to state your piece and if there is no perceived value in continuing the conversation then you will respectfully end the call.

By following the steps above you are getting the gatekeeper onside by demonstrating your value and professionalism so that they are seen as credible internal referrers by their colleagues.

If these steps don’t result in a sales conversation then and there then graciously accept the next option the gatekeeper offers.

In these challenging economic times it’s not unusual to be offered an email address, whether that’s to a personal or group inbox as more than ever people are working remotely which limits the ability for calls to be transferred.

And in these situations it’s increasingly important for emails to work harder to get the attention you require but let’s leave that for another time.

Suffice to say that with due consideration and respect to the process you can indeed turn an old sales adversary that is a gatekeeper into a friendly business ally. Furthermore wouldn’t it make your working day more enjoyable having delightful, less combative conversations that ultimately put you in a better position to achieve your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?

I would love to hear your stories on handling gatekeepers and let me know if there is anything you think I have missed.

Whether you have any comments, observations or questions around the topic then feel free to share them in the comments section below.


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