If the process of selling was a basketball game, moving beyond the gatekeeper is akin to the inbound play. The offense can’t move the ball or score until they can effectively pass the ball into the field of play and maintain possession. Although the gatekeeper is NOT the enemy, they are, in effect, playing defense and your role is to find a way past the defense to engage the decision-maker.
Below is a list of 19 strategies for getting past the gatekeeper.
1. Don’t deceive
Telling a lie may get you past the gatekeeper, but you will never sell them anything. You remove credibility and you can’t start a successful business relationship with a lie. If you define success as having a conversation with the prospect, then you might feel like deceiving the gatekeeper to get access to the decision maker is a success. However, if success is a landing a new loyal client, this approach is not recommended.
2. Don’t be a jerk
Talking down to a gatekeeper is not a winning strategy either. At times they will put you through to their boss regardless of your language and attitude, but the gatekeeper's negative experience with you can still impact how the prospect perceives you, and their willingness to give you a chance. Treat everybody with respect and be honest.
3. Don’t say you know the prospect if you don’t
If you don’t know the prospect, don’t tell the gatekeeper that you do. If you didn’t meet him at a trade show last quarter or if you didn’t play golf with her recently, don’t say that you did.
4. Don’t tell the gatekeeper you have an appointment if you don’t
The gatekeeper is often the keeper of the prospect’s calendar. This is a rookie move and is impossible to recover from.
5. Don’t bull rush the gatekeeper
I define bull rush as not giving the gatekeeper an opportunity to object and using a tone of self-importance. It might include something like: “Just put me through now.”
6. Don’t be intimidated
If you sound like you shouldn’t be speaking to the prospect, you never will. Just be confident that you have something of real value to say to the prospect.
7. Don’t be sneaky
Fishing around and not telling the gatekeeper who you are or what company you are with when asked falls into this category.
8. Don’t forget their name
Using the gatekeeper’s name once or twice during your short conversation will help you build rapport and will do wonders for your second call if you are not able to get through on your first attempt.
9. Don’t be stressed
Just relax. The gatekeeper can sense when you are nervous, and if you are nervous to speak to the gatekeeper, they will never let you through to speak to their boss.
10. Don’t read a script
Reading is a dead-end approach. Practice your opening line and then role-play with your boss/spouse/colleagues how you will respond to the 3-4 most common objections you expect to hear from the gatekeeper.
11. Don’t try to wing it
Have a goal for every call you make. Know exactly what you want to accomplish with every conversation you attempt to have. It is too hard to get people on the phone these days to not capitalize on each conversation.
12. Don’t treat them like the enemy
The gatekeeper is not the enemy. They are simply doing their job. Don’t give them any reason to not connect you with the prospect. Treat them with respect and give them credit for their position.
13. Don’t sound like a sales rep
Decision makers talk with one another at an “eye-to-eye” level. Sound relaxed, confident and friendly. If you sound like your rent is counting on getting through, the gatekeeper will sense it and shut you down.
14. Don’t stop listening just because they are a gatekeeper
Pay attention to everything the gatekeeper says. They will often pass along clues and bits of information that can be useful when you speak to your prospect or decision maker.
15. Don’t sell to the gatekeeper
You might need to explain your reason for calling, but don’t “pitch to the gatekeeper.” If they ask for more information after your short explanation of the reason for your call, you might counter by asking them to explain how they are involved in the decision making process. I call this charging for information. Don’t give information away without asking for information in return.
16. Don’t underestimate the gatekeeper’s influence
In smaller companies, people wear lots of different hats. In large organizations, gatekeepers can carry tremendous influence over an executive’s time and priorities. Don’t assume the gatekeeper is not involved in the decision. Treat them with respect, and you will never have an uncomfortable moment.
17. Don’t get too personal
You want to build rapport, but some sales people go too far and waste valuable selling time building relationships with gatekeepers. Keep your eye on the prize.
18. Don’t give up
Gatekeepers are a part of the fabric of sales. There is not a silver bullet for moving beyond the gatekeeper, but a successful sales person must remain committed to prospecting if they are to have any significant long-term success.
19. Don’t burn the bridge
Burning the bridge with a gatekeeper is a fatal mistake. At small companies, gatekeepers get promoted to decision-making positions, and at large companies, gatekeepers move to support different executives. Worse yet, gatekeepers are often promoted along with the executives that they support. Burning a bridge with a gatekeeper could lock you out of a potential client for years.
For some additional reading on gatekeepers, check out the following article!