Vice President of Sales at Copper
If you’ve ever tried to sell your product to another person or business, you’ve likely experienced the sting of a gatekeeper’s disapproval.
In many cases, this gatekeeper is the reason that a sale is doomed before it even had a chance. After all, how can you get through to the all-important decision-maker if you can’t get a foot in the door?
As you navigate the tricky waters of dealing with a gatekeeper, it’s critical to remember that it’s literally their job to keep out salespeople and marketers. So, if you’re wondering how to get past the gatekeeper, you’ll need to focus on giving them value, not wasting their time, and building positive rapport.
It will take some strategy—and perhaps a shift in your attitude—but creating a good relationship with a gatekeeper can earn you an internal advocate, which will strengthen your chances of winning over the decision-maker later on.
Let’s look closer at the gatekeeper’s role, as well as seven tips to help you win them over and get through to the decision-maker.
Who is a gatekeeper?
Generally speaking, a company’s gatekeepers are the people who screen contact attempts from outside organizations. Gatekeepers often control your fate in the sense that they decide whether you and your offering are valuable and relevant enough to make it through to decision-makers.
Depending on the structure of the company, the gatekeeper can work as a broad contact point for the organization, or work directly under a key decision-maker.
They may take several positions, including:
- Junior salesperson
- Executive assistant
- Director (who’s responsible for sourcing products)
You can search for these roles on LinkedIn to source potential gatekeepers to reach out to at a business. If you’re lucky, you may even find who they’re screening calls and emails for:
Pro-tip: Sometimes, the “gatekeeper” and the decision-maker are the same person!
Regardless of their title, you simply won’t get through until you can demonstrate value. Let’s look at some tips on how to do that.
1. Note their personal details
People like to be remembered. If you call and speak to a gatekeeper at a specific company, note what they reveal about themselves.
Did they mention their first name? Role? Office hours? Interests, or something going on that day? Little details can make all the difference. You can also pull great info from their LinkedIn profile. Take a few minutes after the call to write down important personal details.
To save time and make things easier, this should be done directly in your CRM:
USING COPPER TO RECORD KEY INFO YOU HAVE ON GATEKEEPERS GUARANTEES PERSONALIZED INTERACTIONS.
The next time you call, you’ll be able to reference your previous conversation and leverage the intel you gained to build rapport.
For example, lead with something like “Hi Darcy, this is Kevin James—we spoke on Wednesday, how did the presentation you were preparing for end up going?” This increases the likelihood that they’ll ultimately help facilitate the conversation you want to have with their boss.
2. Create reminders to reconnect
When you have a tight schedule and lots to remember, opportunities to nurture gatekeeper relationships can fly by. Soon you might check your calendar and realize you haven’t connected with someone in weeks—or worse, months.
A lot can happen when you lose touch with a gatekeeper at a target organization:
- They might forget your previous conversations
- They may find other companies to work with
- You may have to rebuild the relationship from the ground up, essentially wasting the resources and effort you put in initially
- Ultimately, the right moment might have passed you by!
Pro-tip: Keep your relationships with gatekeepers strong by setting reminders to reconnect. Using a CRM can help you streamline the process—rather than relying on your own memory and notes, your CRM records the date of your last conversation and reminds you when to get in touch again, even if it’s just to make sure everything is going well.
Within Copper, you can search for gatekeepers you haven’t contacted for a certain period of time. Filter your contacts based on criteria like “last contacted” date to determine who you need to follow up with:
IN COPPER, YOU CAN FILTER YOUR LEADS AND CONTACTS TO FIND PEOPLE YOU HAVEN’T TALKED TO IN A SPECIFIC NUMBER OF DAYS.
You can then compile these contacts into a list of gatekeepers to follow up with. One of the benefits of using Copper is that it’ll send you automatic reminders after a certain number of days, preventing any contacts from flying under the radar.
3. Personalize your communication
Knowing the gatekeeper’s communication style can make it easier for you to personalize your communication.
For instance, if someone never responds via email, it might be more beneficial for you to give them a call. Start the conversation by mentioning a popular client or comment on a recent piece of news you discovered on their company’s LinkedIn page. Try something like this:
I saw on LinkedIn that your company just closed series B funding, congratulations! After our client [Company X] secured their series B, their next biggest challenge was [something your company does]. Is this something that your company is facing too?”
On the other hand, if a gatekeeper is constantly away from their desk, sending an email might be the best way to connect. Your CRM is the perfect place to log the gatekeeper’s preferences—it can store and pull crucial information for you, so you and your team can use the right communication channel to start the conversation:
THIS GATEKEEPER PREFERS SLACK AND EMAIL. IN COPPER, YOU CAN SAVE THAT INFORMATION—AND COMPOSE AN EMAIL IN THE SAME WINDOW.
4. Keep track of touchpoints
Building strong rapport with a gatekeeper means showing them that you’re really paying attention.
Tracking your interactions can help you avoid self-inflicted roadblocks like repeating yourself, having an inconsistent communication flow, or forgetting important facts. Beyond just storing demographic and personal data about your contacts, use your CRM to track every touchpoint you have. Using Copper as your CRM automates that whole process—for example, it captures all of your emails and meetings from Gmail and Google Calendar and attaches them to your contacts’ records for easy access. You can also log phone calls so you have a record of what you talked about:
5. Choose your words wisely when asking for the decision maker
Once you’ve built a strong enough relationship, it’s time to ask for the decision maker. But don’t just ask:
“Can I speak with your boss?”
You spent a lot of time building rapport with them. Asking to connect with the decision-maker clumsily will compromise the relationship.
Instead, you need to choose your words carefully when you make the ask. Let’s assume the gatekeeper is a confident go-getter. They’re always full of questions and have expressed enthusiasm in making an impact on the business.
In this scenario, it would be a good idea to position the gatekeeper as the driver of your shared initiative and frame your question in a way that it emphasizes what a smart decision they’re making for connecting you to the boss:
“I know your company has been looking for a solution like this for months and I don’t want you to have to hold this up any longer. How can I position you for success when you take this to your CEO, and when would it work for us to schedule a call together?”
Pro-tip: Gong.io is a useful tool for honing your word choice. It analyzes your past conversations—with this gatekeeper as well as with others—and helps identify words that lead to a positive response. You can then use them in your conversation.
6. Use the decision-maker’s first name
Sounds so simple, but it’s extremely effective. Asking for a decision-maker by their first name gives the impression that you know this individual and have a right to speak with them. You could say something like, “Hi, it’s Brad Smith, is David in?” Visiting company profiles on LinkedIn will help you see the complete names of all those who work at a particular organization.
For example, below is Copper’s company page on LinkedIn. By clicking on the “see all 129 employees on LinkedIn” URL on the right, you can see a compilation of employee profiles:
With the help of this list, you can identify who the decision-maker is and see their full name:
7. If all else fails, try a different gatekeeper—or just go straight for the decision-maker.
In some cases, you’ll find that all the respect and strategy in the world still doesn’t work. In that case, it’s time to consider other options.
You might be able to contact the decision-maker directly, or perhaps you’ll find success aiming for another contact horizontally or lower where you can build trust and advocacy before working your way up to decision-makers.
This tactic might work especially well in a B2B sales setting, where team members who are lower in seniority might actually be the main end users of your product or service. Use LinkedIn to do your research.
If you can secure these individuals as the “champions” of your offering, you can gain a sturdy foothold in the organization.
Getting past the gatekeeper takes time.
Sometimes, it seems like winning over the gatekeeper is an impossible task. But with some patience, persistence, and respect, you might find that it’s feasible after all.
One of the most important things to remember is that gatekeepers are people too. And when you think about it, the better they are at keeping pushy or irrelevant salespeople out, the better they are at doing their job.
That’s why it’s your job to prove that you’re valuable to them and their team, pleasant to work with, and worthy of getting passed up to the decision-maker.
The strategies detailed above are just a few of the many ways to level up your sales game. What strategies do you use to get past the gatekeeper?