The GateKeeper

OK, so you know you could make the sale, if only you could talk to the decision maker. The only thing between you and making the sale is the gatekeeper aka the administrative assistant or the secretary. So how do you convince that person to open the gate and allow you in to present to the decision maker exactly what he or she wants or needs? This is every sales persons dilemma at one time another.

Let’s talk about what doesn’t work including lying, bullying, threatening, bribing, pulling rank, coercing, insulting, being pushy or aggressive and all other likewise types of negative behavior. That pretty much covers what doesn’t work.

So let’s take a look at what can work when it comes to passing the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper’s job is keep the decision maker insulated from anyone who doesn’t have something of value to offer to the decision maker. It’s as simple as that. So you need to convince the gate keeper that what you have is something the decision maker needs, wants or could use to make their job easier, better, more productive, or more profitable. Something that offers a competitive edge can unlock the gate.

Additionally it’s imperative that the gatekeeper knows that it will not involve a lot of time. The gatekeeper’s job also requires that the decision maker’s time be valued and protected. So convincing the gatekeeper that you will be respectful of time is also to your benefit.

Also keep in mind that you don’t always know exactly how the gatekeeper fits into the organizational chart. Let me give you a case in point. Years ago, when I was a real rookie in sales, I was working with my field trainer so he could “show me the ropes”. He had a tendency to focus on titles, and unfortunately treated gatekeepers and secretaries less respectful than one would hope. Anyway he was able to secure an appointment directly with the decision maker, and he made a rather compelling presentation and was able to secure an agreement to do business. As we left, he let me know “this is how it’s done kid”. About a month later, I asked him how the new client was doing, and he said that they had backed out of the agreement and decided not to do business, and when I asked him why, he never gave me a clear answer. A couple of months later the field trainer was no longer with our company. I decided to contact the company that reneged on the agreement to see exactly what went wrong. I met with the decision maker and he told me that he decided not to do business with our company based on the gatekeeper’s negative feelings about our salesman. It turned out the gatekeeper was the wife of the decision maker.

If you subscribe to dealing with people in a kind and respectful manner, then that’s half the ‘battle’ to getting the gate unlocked. Often times it may require perseverance on your part, but if you go the extra mile it isn’t very crowded, and if you do it in the right way the gatekeeper can become you ally.