It’s time to rewrite the meaning of ‘gatekeeper’. Gatekeepers are no longer just the typical trusty office assistants telemarketers have been grappling with since the 60s. Folks much higher on the corporate ladder have now become gatekeepers in their own right — even decision makers themselves. That can only mean one thing: you need a new bag of tricks.
The first trick is picking your gatekeepers wisely. There’s no point in wasting time and effort when you find one that is just genetically-wired to say ‘no’. To steer clear of this trap, look for any of the following tell-tale signs:
1. You can’t even identify one at all. Sometimes gatekeepers can double as influencers or smaller decision makers. You could find yourself getting past the decision maker’s secretary only to be redirected to the person next in line that could be another gatekeeper. That’s why you have to be prepared for anybody who might want in on the buying process. If that’s still a hard puzzle for you, get out! Plan harder before making another go.
2. Trouble becomes more than worth. Convincing gatekeepers comes at a price. If that price winds up bigger than the potential deal size or expected customer lifetime value, best to leave the gatekeeper alone. On the other hand, determining the value can still be tough so try something like looking at other opportunities you could also pursue or even ones that have already yielded some sales.
3. You’re actually sales-pitching. You know all too well to whom your pitch has been reserved for, and it surely isn’t the gatekeeper. What you need is something more along the lines of a justification. Recall common strategies like sending their boss an email or verifying the information their superiors wrote because they attended your event.
4. There’s no other way to get through. In her January 2013 Harvard Business Review article, branding consultant Dory Clark shares her insights on how decision-makers can become their ‘own best gatekeepers’. That can be either good news or bad news depending on how much value you can deliver to that decision maker before hitting their gatekeeper. Look back to sign #3. How much confidence do you have in your offer? If not a lot, best back off and muster it all up before trying again.
Now just because you will identify gatekeepers that are not worth bothering doesn’t mean things will stay that way forever. Each of these four signs show that there is still something you can do to ramp up value (whether it’s the value of your overall prospect list, your offers etc). Ramping it up though means backing off for the moment until your next attempt.