By definition a gatekeeper is ‘a person that sifts through everyone who wants to talk to the owner or executive.’ A gatekeeper may also be the processes of a business and other abstract variables, such as timing and availability that pose a hindrance to anyone trying to connect to a potential client – especially in order to make a pitch. How to overcome this type of sales barrier has become a skill or tactic many have sought to master. Here are some pointers that will assist in such circumstances.
Good old research is the first, best step to gaining an advantage. Sun Tzu, a renowned general from ancient China and author of The Art of War, emphasises knowing your enemy. While your customer isn’t exactly your opposition, you still have to conquer the barriers to reach that client, including their own possible resistance, so similar principles apply. You need to know their business structures, interests, and if possible processes.
This information will be advantageous when trying to set an appointment with a decision maker and during the meeting itself. It may also assist in narrowing down whom to speak to, which is often half the battle. Also, if you succeed in obtaining relevant contact details for the other party or a close associate, then such an email address, phone number or social media connection can actually help avoid going through the gatekeeper altogether.
Connect with people, first – do not pitch
A second crucial component is to know what to say and how to say it. If you have to go through a gatekeeper, then it is useful to have a short intro prepared, one that convinces the listener that you have something of real value to add to the business. The gatekeeper, in the better interests of the businessperson and company concerned, will then feel compelled to pass you on to the right individual.
Once you have made it through to the decision maker, don’t overload him or her with all the product, technical and sales information in detail. This is likely to bore him and on the first appointment he may not have the time available or attention span for such a presentation. Rather focus on setting a proper appointment where you can have a detailed discussion. And seek first to understand, then be understood. This puts you in great stead to understand if the client will in fact have interest in your product or solution, and if so which sales approach would work best. Sales.about.com stipulates using a qualifier such as: ‘Before I take up more of your time I want to be sure that my product is the right fit for you. May I ask a few quick questions?’ These nicely coined questions also make the customer feel valued by alluding to their benefits, vis-a-vis saving his or her time.
Offer a thank you token
Having set up an appointment, whether via the gatekeeper or directly with the decision maker, it would be wise to leave a token or small gift to remember you by. The gatekeeper would likely appreciate this even more (he or she may not usually be inclined to being appreciated in this way by suppliers and customers), and later will be more inclined to put you through to ‘the boss’ quicker. The gift will leave a good air when you leave and to make certain, ensure it’s a good quality branded gift that’s thoughtful and of use to the recipient.
As a salesperson it is fundamental that you consider the above guidelines, especially if you are having a hard time securing those must-have meetings for greater success. Start with the above pointers and document your results and sales performance for periodic assessments.
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