One of the biggest challenges in sales is often just getting past the gatekeeper and some of them are very good at keeping you away from the decision maker. As a sales professional, you will never let anything get between you and your bone. Gatekeepers and cold calling are practically synonymous and, in our article last month, we already established that cold calling is no fun.
Before we address this issue, we do want to keep certain things in mind …
- The gatekeeper is performing their task exactly as they have been instructed. Okay, sometimes they may be performing this task with a zeal that may be in excess of its original purpose which is generally to protect the decision maker from sales weasels and charlatans. I ass/u/me you are neither.
- The gatekeeper is a person and is deserving of your courtesy and respect. They may even be more than they might appear to be on the surface. While not necessarily the decision maker, they may be a strong influencer.
- The gatekeeper can be your biggest obstacle or they can also be a tremendous ally. You get to choose which. Rule #1 – whenever possible, be on friendly terms with the gatekeeper!
It is very difficult to discuss this topic in terms of social selling without also touching on real-life sales 101. This much we know about the gatekeeper …
- They can smell a salesperson a mile away – If you place a call and either ask to speak to whoever is in charge of “X” or, you just simply ask “Is Mr. Smith there please?” … you have already been identified and you have also invited the follow-up questions of “Who is calling, please?” “What company are you with?” “What is this call about, please?” “Is Mr. Smith expecting your call?” Not only have you been made, you are quite probably already toast. You have lost control of the call.
- If you don’t control the conversation, they will – Direct the conversation by being transparent and requesting an action. “Hi, Jane (I have previously identified the gatekeeper’s name), this is Craig Jamieson with Adaptive Business Services calling for Joe Smith, please. Could you please connect me?” There is no need to ask me questions as I have already given the answers and I have also not asked a yes or no question … I have requested an action (please connect me). Another option that I find to be quite effective is … “I wonder who could help me out please. I am looking for the person who is in charge of evaluating your “x”. Would that be you?” What makes this so successful is that they are either going to accept that responsibility or they are going to tell you who does have that responsibility. Regardless, you have just scored major brownie points! :)
If you are presented with a particularly effective gatekeeper, you might need to bypass this situation …
- Who often arrives early and stays after the rest of the office has gone home? The decision maker. Who does not? The gatekeeper.
- What time does the gatekeeper go to lunch? This would be a good time to call.
- Do you know somebody else in this company who can then transfer your call?
- Who might relate to your plight of not being able to reach your target? Another salesperson or the sales manager. Ask them for help in getting through to the decision maker.
- If all else fails, try either dialing numbers that might be direct dials in their rotation or ask for somebody else who is not being guarded and then, when they answer … “Oh, I’m sorry. I was being transferred to Joe Smith and somehow I ended up at your station. Could you transfer me, please?”
I have a better idea. Why not bypass the gatekeeper altogether? Who needs a key when you never have to see the lock? Let’s try some doors that have no locks instead.
Social selling is something that is conducted away from traditional company infrastructures. It is connecting with that individual one-on-one prior to ever moving that conversation to their office. If there are gatekeepers found on personal networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+), I have never run into one. In fact, most decision makers that I know will treat these networks much the same way as they will treat their personal email … “for my eyes only”.
We have at least two options …
Go to them directly – Start with LinkedIn. I have found that for most people on LinkedIn, even their public profile is a wealth of information.
- Do they list a way to be contacted?
- What can you learn about them? What are their likes and their interests?
- Are we connected through others?
- Do you share a group(s) or might you wish to join one that they are members of. Groups are what I like to call connection agnostic. You do not need to be formally connected on any level to be able to converse with any group member within the group setting.
If you have a LinkedIn premium account that offers InMails, you can private message anybody on LinkedIn. If they are displaying the LinkedIn OpenLink symbol, they have indicated that they will accept private messages from anybody on the network.
Do not ignore the other social networks. We are always looking for opportunities to engage and those can be found on many different channels. There are several free and paid tools out there that will automatically (generally based on an email address) discover social profiles for your contacts. If you use Outlook, check out Xobni (free). For Gmail and Google Apps users there is Rapportive which incidentally, is now owned by LinkedIn (free). If you are looking for a fully configured Social CRM that will also do social discovery, consider Nimble (free and paid). Another free LinkedIn owned mini-CRM to look at might be Connected.
Ask to be introduced – Who else do you know in that organization? Who do you know that either knows the decision maker or who knows someone else in that organization? Will they provide you with an introduction? Back in the day, the answers to these questions may have been found in our rolodex and that was only after one heck of a lot of hit and miss phone calls. Mostly “miss” and always time consuming.
Today your rolodex is called LinkedIn although you have multiple electronic card files including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ so, it only makes sense to start with these. If you already know the person’s name, start with a LinkedIn people search and see how you might already be connected within your network. If you do not know their name, go to their company page on LinkedIn and see who else you might know, or be second or third degree connected to. From there, your path becomes pretty clear.
Finally, always seek to provide value and, in this way, you will attract others. Make your name, who you are, and what you are about visible. Engage socially and then nurture that relationship. Those are my tips for the day. What else might you add to this discussion??