Overcoming the Gatekeeper
S: The most unpleasant figure is the “gatekeeper”! They always prevent us from reaching those who can really make a decision. How to overcome them as soon as possible?
T: Let’s understand first who the “gatekeeper” is and why they exists in this world. The answer seems obvious from the name: the gatekeeper guards the “gate” to the Decision Maker (DM), and his task is to “keep and not let go.” Then they really need to be “overcome.” You should overcome their resistance and break through the “gate” to the guarded object -- the DM.
However, you can look at this issue in a slightly different way. The “gatekeeper,” in fact, performs not one, but two tasks: firstly, to protect the decision-maker from people who he does not need, and secondly, to let in those who may really be needed by the decision-maker. So, it’s not just a “guardian” but rather a person who makes a preliminary decision: could you be useful to the DM and company, can you bring any benefit, or is your proposal useless or even harmful? There is a third task, as well: to inform the decision maker about you if you have passed the test and gatekeeper decided to let you in.
Do you feel that the word “gatekeeper” is wrong? Maybe a better word is “guide.” The gatekeeper should be overcome, and the guide should be followed.
Your first task is to help the “gatekeeper” (so far, I still use the old, habitual name) make a decision: can your offer (product or service) be useful and beneficial for the job the decision maker is responsible for. So, you should go through exactly the same Sales Cycle except for some steps: for example, you should not discuss the price and payment terms with the “gatekeeper,” this is the decision-maker’s job. You only need to prove that your product (service) is beneficial for the area the decision maker is responsible for and to show some of the benefits that the decision maker and his area will gain as a result of purchasing your product.
If you were able to convince the guide, and they decided to let you in, provide them with information so that they can properly introduce you to the decision maker and create an “initial positive image” for you.
Do you need to establish and maintain a long-term relationship with the gatekeeper? You want to sell your goods and services to this buyer permanently. So, how do you intend to get to them next time? That’s my point. Proper relations with the “gatekeeper” not only facilitate your access to the decision-maker with new offers, but also help you figure out in advance how relevant and timely your proposal is. Make friends with the “gatekeeper,” treat him/her with respect, it pays off handsomely!
In dealing with the “gatekeeper,” as well as in dealing with the decision-maker, the main thing is the competent handling of their fears. True, the “gatekeeper” has somewhat different fears than the decision-maker: they are associated not with the purchase, but rather with the letting you in to the decision-maker. The main types of these fears can be represented by the following list:
The boss does not have time
The boss believes that we need other products
It is unlikely that the boss will like what you offer
The boss is not interested in such products
The boss does not want to deal with companies like yours one
Send me materials, & I’ll show them to my boss
I am at a loss to say when the boss could meet with you.
Expressing such fears, the “gatekeeper” either tries to “get you off his back” or expects some concessions on your part. Naturally, you are not satisfied with either. Shift the conversation to another level: try to find out what troubles your counterpart fears. And then ask “naively”: “If we could find out how to avoid these troubles, could you make an appointment with the decision-maker?” Then, schedule a short, 10-15 minutes personal meeting with the “guide” to help him avoid these troubles: this talk needs to be face-to-face!
But what if you get right to the decision maker? He does not have a “gatekeeper”, he is his own “gatekeeper.” His tasks during this cold call are the same as those of the “guide”: to collect preliminary information, to understand whether your offer is of any value, and to decide whether you should be cut off or accepted. If he doubts if a personal meeting is advisable, he might use of the same objections (concerns, fears) the gatekeeper uses.
Be calm and confident. Most importantly, do not get into the discussion of the fears themselves. Use a simple three-question approach:
What is stopping you from meeting me face-to-face?
What trouble might happen if you meet with me?
If there is a way to avoid this trouble, do you agree to meet with me?
Stick to this three-step approach. This is your main “weapon” against all sorts of tricks and fears at this stage.
And if you get the response, “Well, it’s unlikely to succeed” to the offer “to talk about avoiding the trouble”, reply calmly: “Let’s try! What will we lose, except for 10-15 minutes?” Stand like a Steadfast Tin Soldier. “It will take about 10-15 minutes, no more. But if something works out, then everyone will be fine, right? You won’t get in trouble, and that’s the main thing.”