Getting Past the Gatekeeper

How do you get past the gatekeeper?

Learn how to get past the gatekeeper by understanding their role.
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The Gatekeeper

2007 David Peterson

There is no one scarier to an average sales representative than the dreaded gatekeeper. This is the one person in an organization that can shut down sales calls before you can even spit out your opening sentence. The gatekeeper can shut down the call and can make you feel miserable in less than 3 seconds.

Why do average sales reps get so choked up on this person in the organization? You don't typically hear professional sales representatives saying "...oh she was a bi*&h, she wouldn't let me pass..."

Here is what professional sales reps realize about gatekeepers:

  1. Professional sales reps realize that the main function of a gatekeeper is to just control the access to the particular person they are trying to reach.

  2. Professional sales reps realize that gatekeepers are just people like you and I. They have good days and bad days, they get paid to do a job, and they are pressed for time.

  3. Professional sales reps realize that the organization's gatekeeper might be the first line of sales defense but they also personally know everyone in the organization and they know everyone's role in the organization. The gatekeeper is probably not the boss but they always know who is in charge of the department that you need.

  4. Finally professional sales reps realize that gatekeepers know what is happening in their organization and often times depending on the size of the organization they are in an influencing role.

Contrast the above statements with that of an average sales rep's opinion concerning gatekeepers...

  1. Average sales reps think that the gatekeepers are used to keep every salesperson and every product they represent away from their boss.

  2. Average sales reps think that the gatekeeper is hired into that role because they are spiteful people who will not typically listen to them or anyone else.

  3. Average sales reps think that in order to succeed you need to blow right past the gatekeeper to get to the boss. 

  4. The average sales rep thinks that since the gatekeepers are not influential people they have no need for them.

Anyone can blow right past the gatekeeper. The question is... should you blow right past? 

The answer is No - never blow past the gatekeeper. 

The reason is even if you do get past that first line of the sales defense the decision maker will know you just blew right past a valued employee. If you are that dishonest by hiding your true intentions they how can the decision maker trust you in the future. 

My advice discovered through my years of experience would be to use the gatekeeper's knowledge of the organization to help you.

Let's work through a few examples. First the average sales rep trying to blow past the gatekeeper...

  • Example #1 "Is Bob in...?"

    • Company: "This is Kate with Acme Chemical, I am Bob Jones's Executive Assistant, how can I help you?"

    • Average Sales Rep: "Hi Kate is Bob in?"

    • Kate: "Yes Bob is in hold on one second and I will get him."

    • Bob: "This is Bob how can I help you?"

    • Average Sales Rep: "Hi Bob this is Jim Smith with Ace Chemicals and I wanted to speak with  you about our new chemical supplements that will save you a lot of money over the next few year. Here's how..."

    • Bob: "Jim I don't need to cut you off but now is not a good time. I'll call you when I need the supplements."

    • Average Sales Rep: "Thanks Bob here is my number..."

  • Example #2 "You need this right now..."

    • Company: "This is Kate with Acme Chemical, I am Bob Jones's Executive Assistant, how can I help you?"

    • Average Sales Rep: "Hi Kate I need to quickly speak with the department head of chemical purchasing, I think you need this supplement right now."

    • Kate: "I will get Bob right away, hold on one second and I will get him on the phone."

    • Average Sales Rep: "Hi Bob this is Jim Smith with Ace Chemicals and I wanted to speak with you about our new chemical supplements that will save you a lot of money over the next few year. Here's how..."

    • Bob: "Jim I don't mean to cut you off but now is not a good time. I'll call you when I need the supplements."

    • Average Sales Rep: "Thanks Bob here is my number..."

Now I agree both of the examples worked to get past the gatekeeper. In example #1 the average rep is acting like they already have a business relationship with Bob. In example #2 the average sales rep is acting like there is an emergency in the business and they need to speak with the decision maker quickly.

Both move past the gatekeeper but neither advances the sales process. The sales process is open, probe, pitch, and close. Where do you think the average rep is at in this moment in time? He has barely had a chance to begin his opening.

Let's look at our second set of examples from the professional sales rep trying to get past the gatekeeper.

  • Example #1 "I was hoping..."

    • Company: "This is Kate with Acme Chemical, I am Bob Jones's Executive Assistant, how can I help you?"

    • Professional Sales Rep: "Hi Kate, this is Jim Smith with Ace Chemicals I was hoping you could help me?"

    • Kate: "Hi Jim I'm not sure, but who or what are you looking for?"

    • Professional Sales Rep: "I was told by my management that your company is a very large purchaser of chemical supplements is that true?"

    • Kate: "Well Jim I believe that is true so let's see you probably need to see several people like Keith in chemical purchasing or Bill in production, which direction do you think you would start with? "

    • Professional Sales Rep: "Typically I would start with Keith but maybe in this case I should start with Bill in production to make sure you even need our chemical supplements. If it is not too much trouble can you transfer me in that direction?"

    • Kate: "No problem Jim, I will transfer you right now."

    • Professional Sales Rep: "Thank you Kate, I will stop by and introduce myself personally when I visit your company. Have a great day."

  • Example #2 When you don't know if there is a need...

    • Company: "This is Kate with Acme Chemical, I am Bob Jones's Executive Assistant, how can I help you?"

    • Professional Sales Rep: "Hi Kate, I'm Jim Smith, with Ace Chemicals.  Kate, I don't want to take up too much of your time but judging by the size and type of your company I believe that you use our type of chemical supplements. I'm not really sure if you need our product so would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?"

    • Kate: "Well Jim I'm really busy but if you make it quick..."

    • Professional Sales Rep: "Kate since you are the Executive Assistant you probably know a lot about the business, can you tell me what types of chemicals your company produces and sells?"

    • Kate: "Yes Jim we..."

The two examples above from the professional sales reps demonstrate that the gatekeeper can actually be your professional ally. In example #1 the Executive Assistant is going to place a call from her office to production. You have just become very important to Bill in production. You are not calling him, one of the executives is calling him on your behalf. Plus even more important you didn't waste Bob's time since he is not really part of the sales process.

In example #2 you don't know if the company needs your product. Start asking about the person's company. They will tell you. Professional sales reps understand that people like to talk about themselves and their business. It's natural for them to tell you what you need to know.

Notice in example #2 we may not want to move past the gatekeeper. There is a pretty good chance that they really don't need your product. Kate may not be the final authority but she will give you a good idea about your chances.

Gatekeepers are not scary people. They are people just like you and I, trying to do their job in the best possible manner. If you treat the gatekeeper as a respected member of their organization you will have a better chance of moving the sale process forward vs. just blowing past them for the sake of getting to the next person. 

Look at it this way... Really isn't the next person a gatekeeper as well?

Sincerely,

David Peterson

David Peterson

Author of: 

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