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Polish Your Sales Tactics - Gatekeepers

If you can’t get past the gatekeeper how are you going to make a sale? How do you intend to achieve success in the sales field if you cannot override an objection?

Successful sales all follow a similar pattern:
• Identify prospective clients.
• Make contact with the prospect.
• Identify if there is a genuine need for your offering.
• Present products or services.
• Identify & overcome objections.
• Close.
• Follow up service.

The cycle, however, will be break down at the first stage if you are unable to gain access to a decision maker. Why pitch your proposition or service to a secretary that has no decision making authority (a secretary that will most likely be underpaid, overworked and not overly enthused about the prospect of having something else to deal with).

Gatekeepers are not medieval guardians of the underworld

A secretary, or gatekeeper in the marketing world, is not a fire breathing dragon targeted solely with the task of stopping you in your tracks. Sure, there are some secretaries and personal assistants that take great delight in making life hard for sales people but these are actually few and far between. The vast majority of the time a gatekeeper will treat you with exactly the same courtesy you extend to them – don’t expect a great deal of help if you are brash and rude when requesting assistance.

Get the gatekeeper on your side

Most secretaries and junior members of staff tasked with answering calls will know a surprising amount about senior members of staff – they are also used to the tactics deployed by sales reps so you have to be inventive without being deceptive.

Sometimes this is not even necessary – it can come as quite a shock when a receptionist passes you straight though to a high level DM with no effort or skill required at all! This phenomenon is not going to happen every time, however, so it is your job as a salesperson to convince the gatekeeper that their boss will benefit significantly from speaking to you.

If the boss is “not in the office” don’t give up altogether. Receptionists can be a mine of useful information so engaging them in a conversation could result in the receipt of some invaluable information. If you come across a particularly helpful and friendly receptionist you should use this to your advantage – it would be nice to find out who supplies a prospect before making contact, you may even be able to glean an idea of how the DM currently feels about said supplier.

Start as you mean to go on

I would strongly recommend you get off on the right foot. Be polite and respectful. Thank them for their help. I would strongly urge you not to pretend to be anything other than a salesperson – experienced gatekeepers will be able to recognise a sales call a mile off so you might as well call a spade a spade.

Turn it around, don’t be sneaky. Give them as much information about yourself as possible including your company name and the reason for your call. Of course there is always a chance they will offer transfer you directly to the DM’s voicemail – change tack and ask if there is anyone else you could speak to.

There are many other tactics you can use to get gatekeepers on your side without actually being dishonest. Write down the gatekeepers name, use it a couple of times during the conversation and remember to use it next time you call. In doing this they will identify that you are treating them like a person rather than a barrier – it can also give you a good opening for the next call.

The important thing to remember is that you need them on your side!