Shortcut to success: Appreciate gatekeepers & thank the doorman

Shortcut to success: Appreciate gatekeepers & thank the doorman

At a time when it’s easy to inflate our own egos through likes on Instagram, connections on LinkedIn and followers on Twitter, we can quickly lose humility. Yet a humble perspective will help us find more growth and unlock opportunities.

This is especially true in business.

After surpassing your quota expectations month after month and being on what feels like a rocketship, you might lose sight of the big picture. But by staying humble and recognizing that you’re human—just like everyone else you interact with—you can avoid the career plateau that often accompanies a growing ego.

That’s why I hate the term “gatekeepers.”

At the end of the day, we’re talking about human beings.

They’re operations professionals and they deserve our respect, especially if we want them to champion our products and services. Still, because the term “gatekeepers” is so commonly used, I’m going to run with it in this piece.

I’ve met hundreds of impressive sales professionals who have been able to achieve amazing results in a short period of time. Yet some of them lack the humility that is required to succeed in sales long term. You can gauge somebody’s humility based on how they treat assistants, custodians, servers, or the doorkeeper.

Treating these folks right can be a shortcut to success. Of course, humility alone is not enough—you also need to master selling techniques and learn how to handle objections that come up when you engage prospects.

Let me preface this by saying:

You shouldn’t treat these people with respect ONLY because they could help you be successful. You should treat these people with respect because they’re PEOPLE.

But... there are benefits:

Gatekeepers often have the stakeholder’s ear

In many organizations, before you sell to the true decision-maker you need to connect with somebody who filters the plethora of opportunities coming the decision-maker’s way. It might be an associate. It might be an assistant. It might be an intern. It might be a manager. It’s your job to build a strong enough relationship with this individual that they’ll tell the decision-maker you’re worth talking to.  

Gatekeepers can make your life difficult

If you’re rushing an assistant and putting unnecessary pressure on them to give you an introduction just because you have a deadline, that can hurt you long term. I’ve seen sales execs play the passive-aggressive game by CC-ing an assistant’s boss or manager, and 95% of the time it doesn’t go as planned.

If you make a gatekeeper hate you, they can make the approval process more difficult and your ability to sell within the organization more challenging.

Gatekeepers can move up internally

The other thing that salespeople often forget is that a gatekeeper today could be the decision-maker tomorrow. If you’ve treated a gatekeeper poorly, it’s very likely that as soon as they get that promotion, your service or product is going to get scrapped because there’s already a disconnect between you and them.

So what can you do to build rapport with gatekeepers?

It’s simple: Understand their motivations.

Start by understanding what is important to them as an individual and how they view their role within the company. We talk about the 3 levels of customer needs, but gatekeepers’ needs are often overlooked by salespeople.

These needs consist of things like:

  • Company goals, e.g., entering new markets, hitting a growth goal, decreasing customer churn, etc.
  • Career goals, e.g., getting promoted, getting a raise, securing their position, being positioned as an expert, getting recruited by another company, etc.
  • Personal life goals, e.g., wanting to spend more time with family, moving elsewhere, providing their kids with a better education, spending less time with their family, etc.

If you’re trying to establish trust with the gatekeeper and want that introduction, you have to understand their needs. Do they want to be viewed as an expert? Do they want you to make their life easier? Do they want you to help them grow their career? What can you do to help them achieve their goals?

That’s the position you need to take.

Don’t assume superiority. Embrace humility.

In a recent psychology study, researchers were looking for what characterizes truly humble people. The conclusion was:

Humility is unrelated to downplaying your positive traits and accomplishments. Rather, what separates the humble from the nonhumble is the belief that your positive traits and accomplishments do not entitle you to special treatment.

That’s right.

Even if you're crushing it with cold calls and exceeding quota month after month, it doesn’t entitle you to special treatment when it comes to the real world. Recognizing this will hopefully keep you humble and ensure that you’re approaching gatekeepers with respect. Not only will this perspective help you unlock a shortcut to the decision-maker you’re trying to influence, but it will give you a leg up in all aspects of life.

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