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A Sales Rep's Guide to Getting Past the Gatekeeper

Posted by IndustrySelect on Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Getting past the gatekeeper in B2B sales


You know you have a great product that manufacturers in the U.S. will want. After hearing your presentation, a decision-maker will know it too. But before you can make your pitch, you need to enter the inner sanctum, which means getting past the gatekeeper in B2B sales. Navigating around that obstacle presents a daunting challenge. The following tips will put you on track to leap the hurdles and reach your goal.

Always Show Respect

A gatekeeper may be a receptionist, a secretary or an administrative assistant. Floor leads and managers may be your first contacts in an industrial facility. If you're selling machinery, it may be a tech. For software, it could be an IT person.

Many times the employees who do those jobs get little recognition. If you can do a little research, such as checking the gatekeeper’s LinkedIn, use any positive information you glean. Giving them their due will go a long way toward establishing the relationship you’ll need to move forward.

Remember the gatekeeper’s name and use it. Avoid using nicknames or diminutives unless you and the concierge are well acquainted. Addressing a person too casually can make you sound dismissive or even insulting.

In addition, don’t waste a gatekeeper’s time. If you say you need only a few minutes to explain your purpose, don’t push the boundaries. Show that you consider them capable of judging the value of your visit. If you can convince the guardian that you won’t waste the decision-maker's time either, you stand a much better chance of contacting your potential prospect.

Make It Personal

When you have the opportunity, make a point of considering the gatekeeper’s outside activities. If you have a conversation while waiting, try discussing mutual interests. Take note of hobbies, sports or charitable causes for return visits. As soon as you get the opportunity, write your observations in a notebook or put them on your phone. Find out if you can do anything for the gatekeeper. Offering some high-quality marketing swag, like a company pen that doesn’t skip or a compact reference tool, can go a long way toward building an alliance.

Be the Person You’d Want to Know

Courtesies like please and thank you go a long way toward building bridges. Show sufficient confidence in yourself and your product to avoid communicating your anxiety about making a sale. Gatekeepers have enough problems of their own. They don’t need to hear about yours. Instead of focusing on yourself, consider the gatekeeper's workplace challenges. If you show kindness and understanding, you’ll stand a better chance of finding it returned.

Don’t Duck the Gatekeeper's Questions

You’re not the first representative intent on getting past the gatekeeper, and you're unlikely to be the last. The person on guard will know if you’re trying to fudge your way to a decision-maker. So, if the gatekeeper inquires whether you’re making a cold call, and you are, admit it. If you don’t know precisely who is the right person to talk to, acknowledge that. Your honesty could earn you a pass to the company's higher realms.

Don't Lie

Lying involves more than evading a question and can be even more damaging. Even if a lie initially gets you to your target, it can backfire later. If a decision-maker finds out you’ve lied to a staffer, you’ve not only lost your sale but sabotaged any future transactions. No one wants to do business with an untrustworthy source.

Get Prepared

While you may or may not be able to gather information about a gatekeeper, you should equip yourself to answer a full range of questions about your product. In this era of shortages and shipping delays, you should be able to provide reasonable estimates of delivery times. Having a handle on sustainability and environmental issues is also becoming increasingly important.

Beyond understanding your product, you’ll find it essential to discover your potential customer and your competitors as much as possible. A successful sales rep must understand the company's problem they're claiming to solve and why they're offering a superior solution. If a product similar to yours fails to address the customer's needs, you must be knowledgeable enough to explain why yours will succeed.

Get Started

No matter your experience level, picking up the phone or approaching a reception area can still have you reaching for antacids. To boost your confidence, try following these scripts for a cold call.

You: "(insert name of decision-maker) please. This is (insert your name)."

Impatient gatekeeper: “What is this regarding?”

You: “I have some information for (decision-maker) about (whatever you’re selling). I was going to send an email, but I wanted to take a few minutes to clarify a few points.”

If you’re put through, be sure to say thank you. However, the gatekeeper may ask if the decision-maker is expecting your call. Try:

“I don’t have an appointment, but can you tell (decision-maker) that (your name) is calling?”

If the gatekeeper puts still puts you off by asking if the decision-maker will know what this is about, say:

“No, not specifically. But can you tell (decision-maker) that I’m calling about (industry pain point your product addresses)? I’m happy to hold.”

Again, don’t forget to say thank you.

Make a Direct Connection

So far, this article offers approaches for getting around the gatekeeper as you contact manufacturers in the U.S. However, what if you could skip that step entirely?

One way to bypass lower levels altogether is gaining access to executive email. A premium subscription to IndustrySelect will allow you to do just that. Learn more about Premium here. Or, to see what IndustrySelect is all about, try a free demo today!

Want to keep up with the latest sales and marketing trends and exclusive industrial statistics from MNI? The free weekly IndustrySelect Insider email is the industry's top source for sales, marketing and industrial news you can't find anywhere else. Subscribe here.

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