3 strategies for getting past gatekeepers
How often do you reach a decision-maker on the first call? It’s rare, I know. Most of the time, you connect with an executive assistant, office administrator, or intern. They’re the gatekeepers, right? The first obstacle between you and the close.
They ultimately decide whether you’ll pitch your product or service to anyone else in the company. It's no surprise that the relationship between these people and sales reps has always been difficult: they don't have the authority to make a buying decision, but they do have the authority to stop you from making a sale.
So how can you incentivize gatekeepers to connect you with decision-makers?
Stop calling them gatekeepers
Seriously. Let’s all agree to kill this term.
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.
When we think of them as roadblocks, we miss the point entirely.
Yes, one of their main responsibilities is to keep distance between salespeople and decision-makers, but they’re also valuable sources of information.
Don’t worry about getting past the gatekeeper
Instead, ask yourself: How can I get this person to buy into my vision?
These 3 strategies should help you answer that question.
1. Provide value
Plenty of articles warn that you shouldn’t sell to gatekeepers, but that’s bullshit.
These people may not make the decisions, but they’re absolutely stakeholders in this process.
Empathy is such an important skill in sales. You need a hard-nosed attitude that produces results, but you also need a fine-tuned emotional antenna.
When you start your pitch or ask to speak to their boss, they’re already weighing the pros and cons. What’s the upside to linking you with a decision-maker? Is this worth interrupting someone else’s busy schedule? Will this get me a raise? Will it get me fired?
Your first objective is to minimize the perceived risk.
All you need is fifteen minutes. You want to talk about a product that could help their business. You’re calling to solve a problem.
If the situation calls for it, turn things around: let them know that it’s risky NOT to let you speak with a decision-maker. They need to buy your product because the competition already recognizes its value. They can’t afford to pass on this opportunity.
As you craft your pitch, consider these questions:
- What’s the risk?
- What’s the reward?
- Which problems can you solve?
- What are their individual goals?
- How can you support them in achieving these goals?
Like any multi-stakeholder sales process, you need to figure out how to satisfy the wants and needs of each person involved in this purchase.
2. Build trust
To build trust, just be honest and straightforward.
Consider the 3 levels of customer needs: company, department, and individual.
You can build trust by addressing any or all of these needs. The company can save money. A department can streamline workflows. An office administrator can get promoted after recommending you to a decision-maker.
Do everything you can to bridge the gap between doubt and trust.
Use testimonials to demonstrate that you deliver on your promises. Discuss the other businesses you’ve helped and why you helped them. Share a story about your days as an intern. Let them know you’ve been where they are, and you understand the responsibility that comes with such a position.
If you can’t establish trust, if they don’t believe you’re acting with their best interests in mind, if you don’t form a connection, there’s little chance that they’ll ever champion your product or service.
3. Manage objections
Identify common sales objections you encounter at this stage. What are they concerned about? What scares them? What gets in the way of a close?
Your concise and thoughtful responses to these questions will help to provide additional value and build trust.
Here are a few objections you’ll likely hear:
- We don’t have time for this.
- My boss doesn’t want to talk with sales reps.
- We’ve tried something like this before, but it didn’t work.
- Just send us some information.
- It’s not a priority right now.
When your list is complete, create an objection management document so that you can deal with pushback more effectively.
Successful salespeople ♥ gatekeepers operations professionals
My advice is pretty simple: don’t treat executive assistants, office administrators, and interns like nuisances. Don’t call them gatekeepers.
Once they buy into your vision—after you’ve provided value, built trust, and managed their objections—they’re much more likely to pass you along to the people with purchasing power, the decision-makers.
Never let an objection stall a deal again. Learn how to handle any objection with the objection management template.
Prefer to listen? Check out this video where I explain how to build value with operations professionals in order to reach the decision maker.
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