5 Ways to Leverage Your Opportunity with the Gatekeeper


Gatekeepers are not obstacles to overcome; rather, they are your potential allies. They are often the initial, make-or-break link in the sales process. Sales professionals who form alliances with gatekeepers often reap rewards for doing so, and the process is quick and painless. Here’s how:

1. Make a connection. Approach the gatekeeper with sincerity. What would be meaningful and relevant to this person? They’ve seen every approach—underhanded, manipulative, sticky-sweet, and everything in between. Too often, Gatekeepers get the message: “I’m a low person on the totem pole. I’m neither valuable nor relevant.” Conversely, the gatekeeper treated with dignity and respect feels appreciated, and becomes an invaluable asset.

2. Bring quality and substance to the table. Do not call with a product pitch or a fake appointment with a decision-maker whose name happened to be on LinkedIn or the company’s website. Instead, utilize your industry contacts: “We work with these folks that you already know…” It may also be beneficial to provide documentation—research, white papers, etc.–for the gatekeeper to pass along. Let him be the messenger for new and useful information.

3. Build relationships by building rapport. Get the gatekeeper’s name and follow up with a note or phone call. During the callback, say her name, remind her that you spoke previously, and thank her for being so helpful. A personalized follow-up will distinguish you from the crowd.

4. Don’t sell the gatekeeper. That is not the goal. The goal is to utilize the gatekeeper as your “springboard” into the account. Gatekeepers often provide a significant bounce: “Yes, let me put you right through to her.” Other times, they may simply be courteous: “Well, I can give you the name of the secretary who handles his calendar.” That’s progress, either way.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Practice approaching gatekeepers like an athletic team practices a play: until every player gets it right. After a phone conversation with or visit to a potential client, share the experience with the sales manager. Salespeople can role-play with gatekeepers of various styles–different moods, attitudes, and defense strategies. With practice, the sales team will know how to handle them all.

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