Slaying the Gatekeepers:
How to Get to the Top
to Make the Sale
Further.” That might as well be the sign implied, perceived or
implanted in most people’s minds when it comes to dealing with
gatekeepers. Yet, if left in place, these blockers can kill your
chances of making the sale because they control where and how your
message moves upward.
amazing how people stick with gatekeepers until they are about to lose
the deal. Then, they come
up with all sorts of creative ideas to charge upwards. Here are seven
ways to move these dragons out of the way.
Always Put Together A Penetration Strategy:
Once a prospect gives you a genuine hit – real interest
– stop and map the territory.
Recruit a team early because you can not go this alone for
who’s impacted and who’s powerful.
The focus must be that the powerful will be interviewed by
someone on the team. Assign
responsibilities and completion dates specifying who will get to
see whom. Discuss how gatekeepers will be handled before they get
in the way.
the deal the higher it goes and the more blocks you’ll encounter.
So brainstorm before you dig in and never believe in rubber
stamps or, “It’s a technical sale” – no matter what you
Have a penetration attitude:
Most people block themselves for fear of alienating
someone. Get over it.
Unless that someone says, “Do not go around me.”
There is no reason to think you shouldn’t. Besides how
can you propose intelligently or quote price or without knowing
directly what all the impacted and senior people want?
is the best way to get an
with a partner. Dry run in a mirror until you can ask the questions
without laughing. Structure
what you’ll ask and how you’ll address issues? Practice confronting the
gatekeeper. Suck it in and say, “It seems you are concerned about me
speaking with others. Please
tell me what’s bothering you.”
Say it confidently, with conviction.
Then silence. Let
him tells you. Don’t
argue or try to justify. Just
acknowledge and take his issue to the team for help.
Show the gatekeeper how to win with you:
If you don’t give the gatekeeper what she wants, there is
absolutely no reason to let you get higher.
This is tricky and complex.
Her win involves two parts – hers and her boss’s.
Since a gatekeeper is always a subordinate, she wants (1)
what she wants, and more importantly (2) what she perceives her
boss wants – even if the perception is incorrect.
example, the gatekeeper wants ease of use and thinks the boss wants
low price, but in reality the boss wants reliable service. So you will have to at least give the allusion of low price, as
well as, ease of use before she’ll let you pass.
the gatekeeper feels is easy to use, or how low the price should be
are not written in the specs. The
spec is black and white and she feels in living color. So to understand her criteria to win, you have to ask her, and
then probe for specifics about what she means by ease-of-use.
time you meet someone (anyone) is the best time to learn. They know you don’t know them so they are willing to talk up
a storm. So don’t waste
this opportunity with a presentation about your company. Use this
first encounter to learn what she wants and observe her style.
know what will sooth the dragon, try to post phone your presentation
until you’ve had time to build a colorful case showing her you can
deliver her desires better than any alternative. The way you deliver
is just as critical. So
practice matching your chemistry to hers.
Relieve the fears, risks and perceived losses:
The reason people block is the fear of losing something.
They may fear losing status, respect, credibility with
bosses, a nasty comment, money, more stress, etc.
It could be
anything, and assuming to know is very risky - you will probably
assume wrong. Therefore,
ask the gatekeeper to explain any concerns or risks he may have with
this purchase, the procedure, or its outcome. Again, don’t argue. Take
this to the team and decide how to relieve those fears with something
substantial – a tours, testimonials, guarantees, etc.
assume gatekeepers fear losing
control. A more common
reason is the fear of getting stuck with your stuff and not liking it.
However the biggest fear is the boss’ impression. Subordinates do not want to disappoint their boss so they
become extra cautious and extra demanding.
Gatekeepers never make the final decision:
Drill this into your head:
Determine signing authorities to see who has to eventually
approve your level of expenditure.
Anything above $50,000 gets the attention of the CEO,
President, GM, – the Profit and Loss Manager.
This person will eventually decide – even if it a subtle
Here is a
myth buster. CFO’s never
give final approval unless it is directly related to accounting.
Anything involving other functions of the company, even if they
reports through the CFO, i.e. IT or HR, will be approved by the P/L
leader. Like any other
gatekeeper, CFO’s can kill a deal, but only advise to move forward.
Build a network of contacts:
Never hit head-on nor try to go straight up.
If a house said “Pit-Bull Guarded” you’d use another
entry. Approach from
the flanks. You know
people that know people. Ask your associates, other vendors, etc.
for help. You have to
reach-out because these helpers will not chase after you asking if
they can be of assistance.
penetrate like a virus. Grab
hold wherever. Then go out
and up and out again. Win-over
as many as possible and keep asking for information and introductions.
Everybody has a boss so focus on getting introduced. Go around
the gatekeeper only when you have a lot of support in high places.
Otherwise the gatekeeper may not like it and easily eliminate
Keep asking yourself,
“What happens if competition gets to the top and
I don’t?” Gatekeepers
can be anyone – administrative assistants, functional
subordinates, purchasing people –
anyone except the leader.
They can let you pass, hold you off or kick you out, which
are all important considerations in your pursuit.
Like price they are part of the landscape and must be
handled. Start with
the gatekeepers in mind because the dragons will eventually rise
up. Tame them early
and watch your closing ratio soar.
Read other articles and learn more
about Sam Manfer.
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and