Getting to the decision maker or other influential people can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things a salesperson has to do, they almost see anybody that stands in their way as the enemy. However, if you simply consider that they are doing their job in the same way that you are doing yours, your life can be that much easier.
Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Them” provides us with a myriad of suggestions on how to build relationships. In his book he talks of the importance of first impressions and this equally applies with that of the gatekeeper. Positive happy tones of voice will certainly start to break down the initial barriers.
Although obstructive gatekeepers are usually resistant to protracted conversations, the importance of rapport building through low risk open-ended questions can be beneficial especially when coupled with a genuine interest in the person you are talking to.
Gatekeepers feel their role is to protect that inside “the sanctuary”, and it is appealing to this parent like the attitude that often pays dividends, after all if you can pitch your wares to the gatekeeper’s organisation, surely they will be better off because of it, won’t they? It is taking this attitude during the conversations and written communications with gatekeepers that will help ensure success. This opens up another barrier that needs to be overcome, namely that of your own self-confidence. Quite often the only thing standing in your way to success is self-belief where a small dose of positive thinking and affirmation may be just what the doctor ordered.
Gatekeepers are intrinsic members of any decision-making unit who should be treated with respect and with whom all of the usual sales cycle processes merit consideration.
The importance of “rapport building” has already been discussed. The next stage of the sales cycle is“questioning”. With gatekeepers this equates to understanding their position relating to why they feel the need to protect. Salespeople know that once they have identified a need, they match this with a “benefits based proposition”. So turning to our gatekeeper means presenting your reason as to why their organisation would be better off by talking to you. Fortunately, as we know that all “objections” give us an opportunity to further seal the deal, when the gatekeeper gives us reasons as to why the buck stops with them, we can use our tried and tested objection handling techniques. As a reminder, these techniques include persuasion, reframing and compromise, amongst others. The final stage of the sales cycle is the “close”, which should be delivered with confidence, remembering of course that the sales cycle is aptly named that, should you meet with resistance you should start back at the beginning.
Research shows us that most salespeople tend to give up trying to penetrate a customer after three communication attempts, however, the same research also tells us that most buyers acquiesce after seven attempts. This does not mean seven phone calls or seven emails, it means a variety of communication attempts. One strategy that often works is an introductory email stating a reason why a conversation with you would be beneficial and that you will be re-contacting via the telephone on a given date and time. The call to action is, therefore “please be ready for my call”. This heightens the awareness of your contact and may even pique their interest in anticipation of your carefully crafted teaser email.
One final word of encouragement, rejection is by no means a reflection on you as an individual, it is purely a small hurdle along the way to the riches that lie ahead. Try to learn from each rejection, persevere whenever you feel that others would retire and think laterally about the core messages in your attempts to circumnavigate the gatekeeper, who after all will ultimately be thankful that they wisely allowed you through the door when you demonstrate with clarity their justification for doing so.
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