Customer Experience News & Trends

6 steps to get past the gatekeeper

Gatekeepers are probably one of the top causes of insomnia among sales professionals — often because salespeople don’t know how to get past them.

A gatekeeper is anyone who keeps you from executing your sales strategy and getting where you want to go. Some salespeople try to go around or over gatekeepers. Outstanding salespeople learn how to work with them.

Here’s a six-step process to help you deal with gatekeepers:

  1. Assess the risk and opportunity Ask yourself what you can gain or lose if you  challenge the gatekeeper. On the plus side is the opportunity to see a decision-maker and opening a new account. The negatives include the possibility of making the gatekeeper angry and losing the business. Remember, the gatekeeper wants to block you. Take it personally. Be persistent. Often you can wear down a block and get to the decision maker.
  2. Understand the gatekeeper’s motivation. Some gatekeepers feel they are doing their job when they protect a decision maker’s time by blocking salespeople. A few gatekeepers are control freaks who may feel threatened by your contact with higher ranking executives. Some feel that you might make a bad impression on a decision maker and hurt their reputation within the company. Other gatekeepers prefer the status quo, staying with a present supplier. The most difficult gatekeepers are the ones who don’t understand the value you bring, so they refuse to put you in front of a decision maker.
  3. Assume you can’t be blocked. Gatekeepers may be insecure about their role, their position, and their strength within the organization. When confronted by a secure and positive salesperson, they may be reluctant to set up a block. The key is for a salesperson to communicate, “I can’t be blocked. I sell value. I sell solutions and nobody can put me in a box.” When you’re positive and assertive, it’s difficult for others to block you.
  4. Involve the gatekeeper in the process. Try inviting the gatekeeper to review the presentation you’ll be making to the decision maker. By participating in the process, some gatekeepers go from opponent to advocate. Solicit their insight and advice. Share with them the process you’ve gone through, and ask for their insights regarding your strategy with the decision maker.
  5. Go over or around the block. Of all the strategies, this is the most emotionally difficult. Some gatekeepers become angry if they feel salespeople are going over or around them. Gatekeepers have distinct motivations and one of those may be that they want you to lose. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t be concerned with the gatekeeper’s feelings. You should take this type of block personally and respond by gaining access to the decision maker and showing the value of your product or service.
  6. Don’t act as your own gatekeeper. Some salespeople act as their own worst gatekeeper, assuming they’re supposed to work with certain contacts even though no one has told them so. They get so concerned about the gatekeeper becoming angry if they talk to someone else within the organization, they don’t even try. Remember, when you’re positive and assertive, it’s very difficult for anyone to block you.

Adapted from Beyond Selling Value by Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch (Dearborn Trade Publishing, Chicago, IL). The authors have more than 40 years experience in direct sales, sales management, and sales consulting and training.

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