Gatekeepers Are Your ResponsibilityArticle by Colleen Francis, January 20, 2020
Good deals get stuck when you lack access to the right people to successfully close a sale.
There are two ways that lack of access occurs. The first way—as I’ve talked about recently—happens when you try to only go straight to a decision maker and miss the opportunity to connect with a range of influencers who can help make that sale happen.
Let’s talk now about the second way the access door remains shut: when you allow gatekeepers to keep it that way. It’s your responsibility to address this.
In today’s market, there are two kinds of gatekeepers. First, there is the traditional kind in the form of an executive assistant (or a similar position) who physically blocks you from gaining access to a decision maker’s calendar. Second, there is that group of informal decision makers—influencers—within an organization who can make or break a deal.
With both types of gatekeepers, they only block you if you let them. So, here are three field-tested strategies you must employ every day to successfully manage gatekeepers and accelerate sales.
1. Prevention strategies
The best way to handle a gatekeeper is to prevent them from becoming an obstacle in the first place. You do that by putting a check on their power. There is safety in numbers ! Ensure there are multiple people involved in your meetings, so you are not dealing with a gatekeeper one-on-one. Take your manager or a colleague with you to your meeting with that customer’s organization. Ask that gatekeeper if there are others in their organization they’d like to invite to that meeting as well. When your prospect knows that more people are attending on your end, they are more likely to invite others from their organization as well.
Use social media as a power tool to gain direct access to decision makers and influencers. Get introduced to your target customers online first before you meet in person (especially via LinkedIn). This turns a cold introduction into a warm one and it doesn’t require you to go through a gatekeeper first.
Here’s one more prevention strategy: hold your meeting with a target client at your facility instead of theirs. It gives them the opportunity to get out of the office and puts you on home turf where you have an advantage over a gatekeeper. One client of mine arranges for their best prospects to be picked up by a car service and brought to their facility for a tour and a meeting. One benefit of this approach is they encourage multiple influencers to attend the event, ensuring that a single gatekeeper can never block access to others in the organization.
2. Circumvention strategies
Your second type of strategy for dealing with gatekeepers involves circumventing them—but without stirring up resentment on their part. The best way to do that involves showcasing your expertise. People respond best to those who speak and act with authority and confidence. So, take the opportunity to communicate reassuring messages: give them proof that you have what it takes to deliver on your promises. Cite case studies from your previous work that highlight your success across the organization, naming multiple decision makers and influencers. For example: “Here’s a selection of what my best customers have done with the product/service I’m selling.” When your gatekeepers sees the broad influence you can have in their organization, they are more likely to open up your access to a variety of contacts.
Another circumvention strategy is to make your calls early or late in the day so you can reach your targeted decision maker directly. This works particularly well with traditional gatekeepers, as they tend to be highly scheduled in their work hours—sticking closely to a 9-5 workday.
Lastly, call the gatekeeper directly and invite them to be part of the sales process. What do you have to lose? See it as an opportunity to include them in the conversation and have them feel like they are part of the decision making process.
3. Leverage strategies
Leverage strategies are also popular with salespeople because it involves taking actions that aren’t seen as overly aggressive and yet are highly effective in getting results.
Leverage power to speak to power. Communicate that your manager would like to speak to the decision maker in a target organization. Does this give the impression you have no power on your own? Not necessarily. Sometimes you must call on others to help re-establish your footing to secure a deal.
Next, consider inviting technical specialists to sit in on your meetings. They can help you leverage a “team sell” approach by bringing an outside perspective. It also gives your gatekeeper the opportunity to invite their own technical experts to the table.
Ask questions that a gatekeeper can’t answer. That way, they must get others involved. Ask about service downtime and warrantee matters, and make getting answers conditional on you being able to put together a proposal.
Last but not least, always give a gatekeeper a choice. Be inclusive—not exclusive—with your language. Make them feel like they are part of a solution. Let’s say you want to call someone else in the organization and invite them to be part of a discussion on a sale, you can achieve your goal in less time if you present it first to a gatekeeper. You could say: “I’ll need to meet with your VP of Marketing to involve them in this discussion…would you like to be included in this call, or would you prefer that I go at it alone?”
Every gatekeeper is a potential obstacle holding you back from getting the sales results you’re looking for. But don’t blame them if they are successful! It’s your job to manage them. Do this skillfully by implementing all three types of strategies I’ve outlined and transform your stuck deals into accelerated sales success.