In the B2B sales process, the gatekeeper is typically a receptionist or an executive assistant or a designated person who is trained and responsible for keeping a prospect from being bothered by irrelevant callers.
Just as we train salespeople to get past the gatekeeper, gatekeepers are trained to deflect calls that are unimportant. The gatekeeper screens calls and visitors, typically deflecting the ones he believes are not a good use of their supervisor's time.
Gatekeepers have two main concerns:
- Keeping the wrong person away from the boss
- Allowing the right person to see the boss
If they get it wrong, which decision has the greater consequence? In order to reach the prospect or decision-maker, you'll need to demonstrate to the gatekeeper that it will benefit the decision-maker to speak with you—and you usually have less than 30 seconds to do it.
Here are the top ten techniques to get through the gatekeeper (with respect and integrity) to the decision-maker:
- The one who asks the questions is the one who controls the call (redirect with a question).
- Never take a “no” from someone who doesn’t have the authority to give you a “yes.”
- Do not give the gatekeeper your pitch. Don’t let them be the judge.
- Script your original message in under 30 seconds.
- Don’t leave your company name.
- Know your objective: getting a qualified conversation with a decision-maker.
- Be polite and professional.
- Use humor; it works!
- If possible, do close and schedule with a follow-up call or preferably an appointment.
- If you don’t know who the decision-maker is, ask the gatekeeper who sets company policy and budgeting.
Remember, you will never be able to gain control of gatekeepers if you believe they have more authority over your value proposition than you do. Resist with conviction the urge to pitch gatekeepers. Know your objective, and realize that gatekeepers can be an excellent source of information. And, do not assume gatekeepers are your enemy. Gatekeepers can be an ally or obstacle to get to your prospect; it’s up to you.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2012, and has been refreshed with new information.