Gatekeepers & Screeners: Roadblock or Asset?

Problem: Mike’s company had developed a new product line and, for the moment, his primary responsibility was cold calling to develop a list of prospects for it. Mike’s last serious cold calling activity was a few years ago and he remembered the frustration involved with trying to get past the gatekeepers. Today it seemed even more difficult getting to the decision makers aa the gatekeepers’ skills were undoubtedly more effective. Now those memories were flooding back and his enthusiasm for making these calls was fading quickly. He was under some pressure to get results quickly and that was adding to his frustration.

Analysis: Mike’s difficulties were a result of his old sales programming. He was trying everything in his power to get “past” the gatekeepers, from pretending to be the decision maker’s friend, to trying to bully his way through. Those approaches hadn’t worked very well back in the old days, he remembered, but he figured his experience would make the difference. It didn’t. Nothing was working.

Prescription: Doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results is insanity, as we know. So let’s look at the reality of the situation. Gatekeepers (defined here as the decision maker’s personal assistant) all have one thing in common: they know the boss better than you do and are often privy to company policies, vendor relationships, and other information that can be helpful to the salesperson. So why not leverage that asset? The screener/gatekeeper can help you immensely, if you’ll let them. Next time you’ve got the screener and can’t get through to the boss, try this simple, yet effective approach.

Politely and briefly tell the screener why you called and what your product or service does. Ask the screener if s/he thinks it’s something the boss would be interested in. You may find out quickly that it isn’t and, if so, I’d move on. But if it is, ask how to best communicate your message to the boss. You’ll save yourself lots of valuable prospecting time with this approach, improve your knowledge of the prospect, and your next call won’t be a cold one.