Receptionists, clerks, secretaries and administrative assistants are the “gatekeepers” of business. An experienced gatekeeper is usually adept at screening cold calls and recognizing sales professionals who attempt to reach the decision maker without an appointment. This is part of his or her job: helping the decision-maker avoid interruptions and stay productive. The sales professional’s best bet is to treat the gatekeeper as a potential ally rather than an adversary.
To meet with better success in talking with gatekeepers and contacting decision-makers, keep the following tips in mind:
Be polite and treat gate- keepers with respect. Remember that they are doing their job, just like you are, and it’s in their best interest to ensure that the boss is not interrupted without very good reason. Rudeness will not help you.
Leave a detailed message. State the reason for your call and briefly explain why you think the decision-maker would be interested. A busy decision-maker is not likely to return a call from someone he or she doesn’t know and who hasn’t explained what is wanted or needed.
Be truthful with the gatekeeper. Don’t claim to have an existing relationship with the decision-maker if you don’t, or prevaricate about your purpose. When the deception is revealed, the gatekeeper will ensure that you never get to talk to the decision-maker. Besides, who wants to do business with someone who comes across as dishonest? It makes a poor impression and is unlikely to help your chances.
Recognize that gatekeepers can actually help you. This person probably knows useful information about the company that you don’t know. Don’t tie gatekeepers up for too long — they have other callers and visitors to deal with — but ask a few questions while you have their attention.
Dropping in without an appointment will rarely get you access to the decision- maker, and the gatekeeper isn’t going to put you on the calendar on the spot, either. You might drop by to introduce yourself to the gatekeeper, though: explain your purpose, leave a card, and then call the office later to make an appointment.
When requesting an appointment, give the gate- keeper a limited and specific time frame. If you let he or she know you only want 10 minutes of the decision-maker’s time, the gatekeeper will relay that information to his or her boss. The decision-maker may be more open to taking a meeting if he or she knows in advance exactly how much time is needed in his or her schedule for it.
Take a hint. If you are being turned back repeatedly, it is very possible that the decision-maker doesn’t want to talk to you and has told the gatekeeper as much. The gatekeeper may not state this outright, but if you are continually told that the decision-maker is unavailable, it may be time to try another approach, like direct mail.
As a sales professional, you will sometimes find yourself interacting with gatekeepers. Remember and follow these seven rules to get better results.