Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Past The Gatekeepers

Jamie Herzlich jherzlich@aol.com

You're convinced you have a great product or service and want to get it to the right people, but before you can even make a pitch, you're stopped dead in your tracks by the gatekeeper.

The gatekeeper can take many forms: personal assistant, secretary, office manager or even voice mail. Getting past these gatekeepers can be a daunting task, but it's not impossible, experts say. It just requires a little more planning and persistence on your part.Gatekeepers are "specifically trained to keep you away," says Jeff Goldberg of Jeff Goldberg & Associates, a Long Beach sales training and consulting firm. "If you're going to get in touch with the people you want to sell to, you'd better figure out how you're going to get past them or through them."

So how do you best do that?Well, it starts with understanding who the key decision makers are, so you can best focus your efforts on reaching them and not be handed off from gatekeeper to gatekeeper, experts say."Do your homework first," advises Maura Halligan of AdvantEdge Sales Training Inc. in Massapequa Park. "You don't use the gatekeeper to do your homework for you."Create an ideal client or customer profile, suggests sales trainer Wendy Weiss of Weiss Communications Llc in Manhattan and author of "Cold Calling for Women" (DFD Publications, $15.95).

Look at your existing customer base and analyze what the titles of the key decision makers are, she notes. That will give you a better idea of the kinds of people you should be targeting.You can also check out online databases like jigsaw.com, which has more than nine million business contacts in a searchable directory.And if all else fails, you can always verify with the gatekeeper if the person you are requesting is an appropriate fit. Just be sure when speaking to the gatekeeper that you don't approach that person in a passive or submissive way, Goldberg says.

Be polite, but ask firmly to speak to the person in charge.Speak with "authority, self- confidence and assurance," adds Weiss, also known as "The Queen of Cold Calling." If you behave like a boss, the secretary will perceive you as being a boss and give more value, importance and urgency to your call, she notes.If he or she asks what you're calling about, offer some information like "I'd like to discuss some ideas related to cash flow," and then try to take control of the conversation by asking again if their boss is available, advises Linda Berke of Taylor Performance Solutions in Melville, which offers sales training. If they say they're unavailable, ask when would be a good time to reach them, she suggests.

To help avoid a lot of this resistance, try getting a referral, Halligan says. So you might say to the gatekeeper, "I was told to call your boss by X," she notes. Another way is to mention another company in their industry that you're doing work for. So you'd say, "We just finished a project for X, and we thought since your company is in the same business, there could be some good opportunities here," she notes.

Of course, the rules change if you get voice mail rather than a person. It's best to call again, but if you have to leave a message, keep it short, suggests Michelle Nichols, a sales expert and president of Hug Your Kids Llc in Reno, Nev."Make sure your first five to 10 words are extremely relevant," she adds. "You need to leave a compelling message with a benefit in it."If your calls go unanswered, put the prospect aside and try the person again at a later date, Goldberg says."You don't want to harass people," he says. "You should always have enough leads so no one gatekeeper matters to you.


If the front door doesn't work ... Try calling when the gatekeeper isn't likely to be around, either before 9 a.m., after 5 p.m. or even on a Saturday. You'd be surprised how many executives arrive early or stay later, and you just may catch them at their desk. Look for their direct dial on their company Web site, or some companies offer extensions via an automated telephone directory. You can also dial a random extension or department and ask to be transferred.


1 comment:

HugYourKidsToday said...

Toni, Thanks for sharing these ideas with your readers.
Readers, feel free to let your friends in sales know about these ideas.
If you're a working parent, I'd welcome you to check out my website: http://www.hugyourkidstoday.com
Michelle Nichols

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