Prospecting is hard work. Whether you enjoy prospecting or not, it is work that must be done. Unless you are a sales rep in the fortunate situation where your phone is ringing off the hook, if you don’t go out and make something happen, then nothing will happen.
Having the privilege to talk to many smart sales organizations that need to proactively reach out to prospects, the discussion usually turns to dealing with “the gatekeeper”. This is the person (usually an administrative assistant) who answers the phone of your decision maker.
Many of you routinely execute strategies to “get around” or avoid the gatekeeper. This may include calling before/after regular business hours or sending emails. While this approach occasionally yields a positive result, these strategies are becoming less and less effective as more and more admins not only answer the phone, but also are tasked with checking voice messages and screening/categorizing the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of emails the executive receives.
There are others of you who look to befriend the gatekeeper. Still, these attempts, more often than not, don’t yield the most desired outcomes. Despite all your efforts, the results often end in frustration and lack of success.
It doesn’t have to be that way. At FRONTLINE Selling, we have studied over 1.8 million outreach efforts, including more than 500,000 conversations with executive administrative assistants. The reality is these so called “gatekeepers” aren’t born gatekeepers; they become gatekeepers by both the intentional actions of those looking to circumvent them, and the often-unintentional actions of the sales people looking to make friends with them.
What I mean is (for the most part), the gatekeepers are not there to keep you or your sales reps out. They are there to determine if you are worthy of being let in. After all, their boss should not only WANT to talk to your reps; they have an obligation to talk them because they have solutions that the boss is unaware of, that can help them run their business better, faster, smarter.
Gatekeepers become gatekeepers mostly because of the actions of sales people. Think about it for a second. When someone knocks on your door or your phone rings, what is the first thought that comes to mind? — “Who is it?” We want to know who it is because our Limbic system is making a “friend or foe” / ”fight or flight” emotional decision.
The same thing goes on for the administrative assistant when you call. Like yours, their Limbic system is naturally suspicious of who is calling and what they want. They are protective and often make a snap, subconscious, emotional judgment. If they sense (even to most remote level) unfamiliarity or uneasiness, e.g., thought: this sales person doesn’t provide value, is trying to circumvent me, manipulate me or not respect me, then the defense mechanism activates and voila’ — you just created a gatekeeper!
How can your reps avoid creating a gatekeeper? Here are four simple things:
- STOP thinking of them as “gatekeepers”. Think of the administrative assistants much more as “tour guides”. Your subconscious will help drive appropriate behaviors.
- Always identify yourself (first and last name) and your company name before uttering any other words. This lowers (notice I didn’t say “eliminates”) their suspicion as much as possible.
- Ask them their name, repeat it and ask them for help. Everyone loves to hear his or her name spoken. This will further humanize your interaction, keeping their natural suspicions from creeping back up.
- Get to the point of what you want. This could be a conversation, appointment or whatever makes sense for your sales process. Avoid chit chat about the weather, the Super Bowl, etc., unless they initiate it.Now, go help your team create some new tour guides.
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