Starting today, I am posting a series of posts on B2B sales dilemmas based on questions I receive from salespeople. This post, the first, is about a struggle that is real to anyone whose role requires them to gain a meeting, making it valuable for SDRs, BDRs, and anyone in a hunter role. Here is how you get past the gatekeeper.
Respect Their Role and Obligation
The person who answers the phone and screens emails for your contact is essential to the person for whom they work. One of their primary roles is protecting that individual’s time, allowing that person to focus on their most important outcomes. By the very nature of their position, they are obligated to screen out anything that isn’t a priority.
The problem for those of us in B2B sales is that we believe we can generate new or better results that are worth the contact’s time, attention, and investment. You can choose to use an approach that starts—and likely ends—with conflict, but you are better off respecting the person and their role.
The person for whom the gatekeeper works likes and trusts them and expects them to block all but what’s important, critical, or essential. Their gatekeeper (whatever the title) is part of their team. They will value this person, and if you mistreat them, a simple conversation with the person they work for can end any possibility of you gaining a meeting. Were you to win your dream client’s business; you will likely be communicating with their gatekeeper. Respect their role and their obligation.
Enlist Their Help
If you are smart, charming, and possess fast rapport skills, you can try to enlist your gatekeeper’s help. To do this, you need to start by acknowledging their role, and asking questions about how you might be able to acquire, say, twenty-minutes on their calendar to provide an executive briefing about a topic you know would be valuable to the contact.
The reason you have to start with respecting the gatekeeper’s role is that you don’t want the gatekeeper to have negative feelings about you. By asking the person who controls access to a decision-maker for their help gaining a meeting, you stand a chance of beginning a positive relationship with them. This is especially true if you recognize you are not going to get a meeting on your first call.
Like anything else in sales, this sometimes works. There are more times, however, when this isn’t enough to get you past the gatekeeper and in front of the contact you need. It would help if you had a patient, professional plan to persist using a prospecting sequence that allows you to use multiple mediums over time, many of which should be value creation without an ask.
Ask Them to Vet Your Idea
If you are calling an executive or a person who is sure to be part of a team responsible for a specific outcome, you have a theory for why you believe they need to change. You have ideas about how they can improve their results or achieve some strategic outcome you can enable. Sharing this with the person screening out distractions can improve your chance of getting a meeting.
You can share the reason for your call, your theory, the implications of not changing, and how what you might share in a meeting will benefit the person whose time they are protecting. Remember, this person not only screens out, but they also screen in what they believe deserves attention. If what you have to say is important and would benefit the contact you are pursuing, you can sometimes make an ally in acquiring their time by sharing your ideas with you.
In some cases, you might ask the gatekeeper to allow you to brief them, giving them a chance to vet your idea. By doing so, you show you respect their role, and you demonstrate your confidence in having something worth the decision maker’s time. It can’t harm you to make allies, especially one who can grant access to decision-makers.
Selling your dream client might be the result of first selling their gatekeeper.
Find Another Gatekeeper
In sales, nothing works one hundred percent of the time. You have to be resourceful and persistent if you want a meeting with the contacts and B2B buyers inside your dream client’s company. One of the best things you can do is expand your idea of what makes one a gatekeeper.
The Vice President of Operations is a gatekeeper for the CEO. The CEO is a gatekeeper for the Chairman of the Board. You increase your options on how to get to the contact you want to meet by expanding the definition of gatekeeper to include any person who might be able to help you secure access to the connection with whom you are trying to acquire a meeting.
B2B salespeople have long been admonished to start as high as possible in an organization, working their way down. If you call on small to medium-sized businesses, you might start at the top of the organizational chart. In enterprise sales, however, you aren’t likely to acquire a meeting with the CEO—nor is it likely you’ll need one.
By broadening the people you contact to gain a meeting, you increase your chances. You might also be identifying the people who will be affected by any decision to buy from you. You don’t have to go directly at the contact; you can find other contacts who don’t believe the value they create is screening out salespeople but to screen in people with good ideas.
Communicate Early Saturday Morning
A lot of us have the experience of communicating with executives outside of work hours. Some seemingly large percentage of executives read their email on Saturday mornings, a time at which their gatekeeper isn’t going to be screening their email.
Schedule your email to show up in your contact’s inbox at 7:00 AM on Saturday. You want to be at or near the top of their inbox, and you need a message that suggests what you have to share is their worth their time—even if they never buy from you (the Trading Value rule).
If you want to get past the gatekeeper, try your best to engage them and win their heart and mind. When you have no other choice, try to find another gatekeeper who may be more interested in sharing the value you are trying to create.
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