You’ve created a description of your ideal customer or ideal business client. You know where she works and where she plays. You know her pains and her problems, her joys and her aspirations. You know all about the challenges her business faces. You know where to find her, and yet, the squadron of gatekeepers surrounding her has made contact practically impossible. You might as well be trying to schedule lunch with the prime minister.
Here’s rule number one: Don’t lower your goal. It’s our job, as brand builders, to continually look for ways to enhance our lists and our peer groups, so that we always feel challenged to better ourselves and our brands.
Here’s rule number two: Read the rest of this article to learn about my top tips for getting past gatekeepers and making contact with your dream clients and the decision makers for your ideal B2B accounts.
Blocked by the Gatekeeper? No Sweat.
Gatekeepers are just doing their jobs. If they let everyone through to their bosses, they’d be fired. So let’s not vent frustrations on the gatekeepers themselves. Instead, let’s look for loopholes, and ‘polite’ ways of navigating through the system.
- Correspond Directly with Your Ideal Customer. Rather than mailing information to a company address, ensure that it gets into the hands of the decision-maker by addressing it to him or her and marking the envelope CONFIDENTIAL. This may help to deter receptionists from opening mail and disposing of it before your ideal client (or the person who makes decisions for your ideal B2B) sees it.
- Use the Decision Maker’s First Name. Nothing says, “I don’t know your boss, but I’m going to try to get to him” like “May I speak to Mr. Smith?” Instead, ask for Gary.
- Be Prepared to Answer that Uncomfortable Question. Send a letter or an email. In that initial correspondence, indicate that you will be making a follow-up call. That way, when the gatekeeper asks “Is she expecting your call?” you can say, “Yes, she is.”
- Adjust your View of the Gatekeeper. It’s common for salespeople to view the gatekeeper as the enemy; when in fact, the gatekeeper is the person who’s letting in the ‘good guys.’ Are you a good guy? Then that gatekeeper is your friend. Always approach these gatekeepers with a sense of comradery, rather than confrontation. Remember, they’re experts at this. They can sense a pending conflict and will end the call faster than you can say, “Yes, I’ll hold.”
- Speak Confidently. This is not about condescension, but rather about adopting an air of experience. If you make contact with a gatekeeper, and he gets the sense that you’re new to the industry, or that you’re calling for your boss, he will have no problem saying NO. However, if you sound like the boss, he’ll be more likely to acquiesce.
- Save the Pitch for the Decision Maker. One of the most common mistakes I see with gatekeeper navigation is the attempt to sell directly to the gatekeeper. This is a mistake because it gives that gatekeeper an opening to say NO. Instead, when asked why you’re calling, name a problem their boss is having or a department within the company that you want to work with. This will give a point of reference for the call transfer, but no sales pitch to turn down.
- Forget about Middle Management. When you think about making contact with middle management (like department managers), it may seem like a step in the right direction (as opposed to receptionists and administrative or personal assistants); when in fact, you’re not doing yourself any favours. These people are also accomplished gatekeepers…except they’re usually not as polite when rejecting your efforts. Aim for the stars. Forget about middle management (unless it includes a primary decision-maker).
- Tap the Gatekeeper’s Bank of Knowledge. Who knows more about the operations of the business and their boss than the gatekeeper? Usually no one. Check with her to make sure you have your facts right. Show a real interest in the company and in her boss’s procedures and needs. Not only will you gather valuable information, she will feel more vested in this potential relationship (and be more likely to want to continue it).
- Make Friends. Always remember that gatekeepers usually have a key to the gate. This means they can choose who gets in and who’s banned from the kingdom. Treat them well. Start conversation; ask them how they’re doing (and listen); show them that you remember things they’ve said; bring them gifts; tell them how much you respect them and appreciate what they do for you. Gatekeepers will make decisions based on who treats them well, and who they think their boss would like to work with—even more than on the product or service you’re selling.
- Keep the Gatekeeper Involved. A gatekeeper will feel used if she lets you in, only to then be ignored because you don’t think you need her anymore. Keep the gatekeeper in the loop by copying her on emails, by stopping by her desk to chat when you visit her boss and by continuing to do all the nice things you did before she granted you access.
- Have Integrity. If your goal is to be forever banned from accessing decision-makers, then go ahead and lie to gatekeepers or try to pull off sneaky tactics. Claiming you’re someone you’re not or asking to use the restroom and then popping into the boss’s office are never good strategies.
You should now be more prepared than ever to send that email, make that telephone call or stop into the office of the decision maker for your ideal B2B. As you proceed, think back on the times that salespeople made a positive impression on you. Was it because they were selling a great product? Or because they used subversive tactics?
Or was it because they placed importance on what you thought, and seemed genuinely interested in helping?
Remember this as you move forward, and always know that you can get loads of support and advice in the How to Build a Brand Facebook group (free) and in the Brand Builders Club (get started for just £17 [$30] per month). See you there!