Sales isn’t easy. Being good at sales is even harder.
The challenge only grows when salespeople put false obstacles in their way.
Some are self-made. Others are put into their heads by so-called “sales experts.” Still others come from trite “you have to read this” sales training literature.
The concept of “The Gatekeeper” is true for all three. A gatekeeper is, of course, someone who stands between you and a decisionmaker you’re trying to contact. In some organizations, layers of gatekeepers might stand between you and your goal.
Traditional sales training instructs that the gatekeeper is a person to be overcome by any means necessary. After all, they’re just an obstacle to your reaching the head honcho! Get them out of the way!
Well, no. You can’t outsmart the gatekeeper. They deal with salespeople all the time. They’ve been instructed on handling uninvited sales calls. Like it or not, they’re smarter than any salesperson.
So, what now?
In my last article, I put forth a decidedly Don Quixote-ish, flipping-off-conventional-wisdom idea: Don’t try to get past the gatekeeper.
First, you’ll waste all sorts of time and energy in the (probably unsuccessful) effort. Second, taking the gatekeeper head-on – and engaging them – will reap far greater rewards.
“Sure,” you’re likely saying. “Easier said than done.”
No, not if you’re willing to adjust your approach. Here’s where you take all those sales training manuals, books and videos … and chuck them out the window.
Let’s tackle the “don’ts” first. One very simple reason explains why most people fail at cold calling: they sound like salespeople.
The giveaways are too numerous to count. Gatekeepers spot them a mile away. Think you’re getting through? Next call, please.
To start, don’t go fishing. Yes, fishing.
“Fishing” is asking lots of questions. It’s not even a red flag to gatekeepers. It’s a bright scarlet flashing light that warns “Dump the call! Dump the call!”
Don’t ask the gatekeeper’s name. Don’t ask what they do. Don’t ask “qualifying” questions.
You know who does this? Salespeople. Fishing = salesperson. The equation couldn’t be easier.
Next, don’t be evasive. What do you have to hide? Answer their questions. It’s how you answer that makes you different … and can open doors.
Finally – and I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but unfortunately it’s still necessary for some salespeople – don’t be flippant or dismissive of the gatekeeper. This is a real person. They have feelings and emotions, just like you.
Be nice. Be respectful. Be patient. Your mother’s old saying – “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” – is supremely accurate.
If you’re still a jerk who somehow considers the gatekeeper beneath you, consider this: He/she is someone the decision maker knows and trusts. Their opinion carries weight with the person you’re desperately trying to reach.
Hack off the gatekeeper, and the challenging process of cold calling just got even harder.
The gatekeeper can be your ally – even an advocate. My next article will cover the “do’s” of making this happen.