If you've spent any time in sales and especially Business to Business (B2B) sales you'll have run into and likely been blocked by more gatekeepers than you can count. The problem is, that to make the sale you need to talk to a decision-maker and the gatekeeper's job is to keep you from getting there.
The gatekeeper's job is NOT to prevent you from getting to the decision-maker. The gatekeeper's job is to filter traffic so that the decision-maker only has to deal with the things they actually want to deal with.
Think of gatekeepers like email SPAM filters. The second thing to remember is that gatekeepers are people too and they have feelings. Think of gatekeepers like email SPAM filters with feelings.
So what does this mean for you?
Your Goals aren't actually opposite. - Although they may be opposing at times, they are not actually opposite. This means that there may be a way to work together.
Gatekeepers can help you - They hold the keys after-all. Having gates unlocked for you is easier than trying to break through them.
Gatekeepers want to help you - Sure, they may not know they want to help you yet, but would you want to be the person who kept "the best thing ever" secret from your boss?
If the gatekeeper's job is to filter the traffic so that only the conversations the decision-maker wants to have get through, then your job is to convince the gatekeeper that the decision-maker would want to talk to you. If you believe in your product and there is a need for it, why wouldn't they want to speak with you? A gatekeepers biggest worry is letting someone through that the decision-maker (usually their boss) absolutely did not want to talk to. At the same time, they want to be helpful and bring good suggestions and ideas to their bosses. Additional to the 10 great sales tips, below are a few things you can stand out from the crowd and make yourself one of those "good suggestions" they pass along.
Be respectful of their time - Being respectful of the gatekeepers time tells them that you will likely respect the decision-makers time. They are protecting the decision-maker's time, so demonstrating this is one of the biggest steps towards getting put through. Asking permission to take a minute of their time to let them know why you're contacting them tells them you won't go on a fifteen-minute ramble if they transfer you to the boss.
Befriend the gatekeeper - People don't often go looking to speak with the gatekeeper, instead of trying to rush past them take time to get to know them. You may be surprised how far a little time invested can go. You're likely going to be speaking with them again soon, so the better you are at this the warmer the next conversation will be. Friendly gatekeepers may even work with you and help you reach the decision-maker. Taking interest in their lives and remembering details for future conversations can be extremely helpful.
Ask for help - If you're struggling ask them for help determining the best way to reach the person you are looking for. Humans are (generally) wired to help people who ask for it sincerely. Although it may not be something you'd naturally do, you'll be positively surprised by the results.
Check your tone - Gatekeepers are shutting down pushy sales-people constantly throughout the day. Approaching them with a softer tone and asking for their help takes them out of the defensive and allows you to interact with them. Also remember that different sales approaches will be needed with different people.
Gatekeepers are just trying to do their job after all, much like you. Though most salespeople think of them as people who get in the way, they can actually be your greatest ally in the company and allow you to reach individuals that are normally inaccessible. Instead of pushing past them, take the time to engage them and you'll likely see an increase in your success in reaching the decision-maker.