Updated March 30, 2022
We previously discussed what you need to avoid while interacting with gatekeepers in business. Those points remain valid. But it’s also helpful to spend some time thinking about what you should be doing while interacting with gatekeepers.
This update will help you do that. Keep reading to learn three proactive strategies you can use to get through gatekeepers and reach decision-makers. You can also check out this article for more information.
B2B sales is a complicated field. You are, after all, convincing an entire organization of the value of your product or service. This typically means getting organizational approval at multiple levels, which often requires a salesperson to use several different sales tactics for a single sale. One of the most challenging parts of the B2B sales cycle is learning how to deal with gatekeepers in business – keep reading to learn more.
Gatekeepers in business
What they are
A gatekeeper can be anyone who blocks you from speaking with a decision-maker within an organization. The decision-maker may be a manager, supervisor, director, president, or executive. It’s the gatekeeper’s job to screen unwanted calls so the important decision-maker doesn’t interrupt their day with various distractions that can impact their efficiency and output.
Who they are
There are multiple people within a company that act as gatekeepers. But the most common positions for these people are the following:
- Administrative assistants
- Middle management
If you’re talking to one of these workers, then there’s a good chance you’ll need to get past them before you speak with someone who can decide between buying your product or service.
Why they exist
You can think of gatekeepers as a type of shield. They protect a gatekeeper’s valuable time so that they’re able to spend the vast majority of it working on tasks that will contribute to their company’s continued success.
How gatekeepers in business impact the B2B sales process
Gatekeepers impact the B2B sales process by putting a barrier between you and the person you need to speak to close your sale. They add a new step that you need to complete before converting a lead into a paying customer. You have to get past them to reach your sales goals.
That means developing a skillset for dealing with B2B gatekeepers is essential for every salesperson that works with these types of leads. One way of developing that skill set is to eliminate the habits that could cause you to fall flat when interacting with a gatekeeper in business. We’ve included some tips for doing that in the next section.
What not to do when interacting with a B2B gatekeeper
Don’t treat them like an inconvenience
As with most interactions in life, a little courtesy can go a long way. Ultimately, the gatekeeper has the power to put your message through to a decision-maker or not. And, while treating them well doesn’t guarantee that your message gets through, treating them poorly confirms they won’t go out of their way to help you.
With that in mind, make it a point of emphasis to be kind and respectful toward any gatekeepers you interact with. In some situations, adopting that approach could be all you need to get in touch with the decision-maker.
Don’t let them stop your sales process
Gatekeepers are going to try and stop you from reaching decision-makers more often than not. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on trying to make a sale with the company if a gatekeeper puts a wall up.
Instead, look for alternatives to approach someone at the company. There are tons of different ways to get in contact with people who work at a business. It’s possible that you just need to find the right person who can act as an entry point for you. Try looking up contact information for high-level employees on social media platforms and call just after regular business hours to make contact – just be sure to quickly schedule a time during regular hours to talk.
The critical thing here is being resourceful. No two sales processes are exactly alike, so you need to be adaptable and always on the hunt for the best way to contact someone who will be receptive to your sales efforts.
Don’t pitch them (unless they’re a particular type of employee)
It’s also generally not a good idea to make your pitch to a gatekeeper in business, according to Sales Hacker. Typically, gatekeepers don’t have any type of decision-making authority. They often focus on administrative tasks, which means they won’t have the context needed to evaluate the quality of your pitch either.
If you do try to pitch a gatekeeper, you’re probably just going to annoy them and make them feel like you’re wasting their time. So it’s generally something you should avoid.
However, one thing that’s important to note here is that there are rare instances in which it does make sense to pitch to a gatekeeper. But this only happens when the gatekeeper is a researcher who works on the same team as the person who would decide on purchasing your product.
The easiest way to figure this out is to ask. But if you still aren’t sure, it’s better to err on the side of not giving the pitch.
Don’t rely on calls alone
Cold calls are a tried-and-true method for getting in touch with corporations. But there are other strategies you can employ to move your sales process forward at a faster pace.
LinkedIn is an excellent resource for getting in touch with decision-makers. These employees are often more receptive to responding to a LinkedIn message or post that they find interesting than they are to taking a cold call during regular business hours.
If you decide to use this method, make sure to keep your first LinkedIn message short. Aim for three lines, if you can. The first line should introduce you, the second line should introduce your product, and the third should explain how that product can benefit the decision-maker’s company.
Once you’ve reached out via LinkedIn, follow up with a phone call. And your follow-up call is much likelier to be successful than it would be if you had made it without introducing who you are to the prospect on LinkedIn first. SalesBuzz also provides some helpful hints on what and what not to say while cold calling a gatekeeper in business.
16 strategies for breaking through to gatekeepers
Do your research before placing a call
Even with a cold call, you don’t have to go in blindly. With the vast amount of information online, it’s possible to better target your call before dialing. Do your research on the business first to determine who might be the decision-maker for your particular product or service.
Once you know who you’re looking for, try to locate specific company information and phone numbers, rather than placing your call to the first number that appears on Google. In addition, knowing the goals and priorities of the company will help you craft the best pitch possible.
Be (mostly) honest
When you’re struggling to break through a gatekeeper in business, it can be tempting to use whatever tactics you can to get what you want. This is an obvious one, but outright lying is never a tactic worth embracing.
You risk damaging your credibility when you lie. If your call does get through to a decision-maker and it’s discovered you used highly deceptive tactics, how will they feel about buying something from you?
The bottom line is this: when you lie to get what you want, you damage your reputation. And that has lasting impact that stretches far beyond whatever your sales mission.
Try interacting with another department
When you cold call a decision-maker, you’ll often be routed through to their secretary or an assistant. These gatekeepers are usually very familiar with cold calls and will have in-depth training on dealing with them. This training usually involves not passing the call off to the decision-maker.
Avoid this person altogether by reaching out to another department instead of the one where your target buyer works.
For example, it may be easier for you to get in touch with someone on a company’s marketing team. And these people likely won’t have had much training about how to deal with cold calls. So they may pass you off to a decision-maker without putting up much of a fight.
Get in touch with someone they work closely with
Contact someone with a close professional connection to your target buyer instead of the buyer. These people are often not in decision-maker roles, making it easier to get through to them directly.
You have a few options once you get in touch with someone who works closely with your target buyer. Some salespeople are completely honest at this point in the process. Their message boils down to something like, “I want to talk to this person. Can you get me in contact with them?”
Forge a relationship
It’s not pointless to develop a relationship with the gatekeeper. In fact, your conversation with the gatekeeper can completely determine the message they pass on to their associates. The tone you use can determine whether or not you get a chance to make your pitch and make a sale.
Here’s what to do:
- Demonstrate your understanding that the gatekeeper is important. When you ask them for their opinion, and imply that their time is valuable, they are more likely to take kindly to you.
- Really listen to your gatekeeper. When they speak to you, listen thoughtfully before you respond. You’ll get a lot further than if you bulldoze through your pitch.
- Offer your help to the gatekeeper. Ask the golden question: “What can I do to make your life easier?” From there, you can guide your conversation towards your business and how it can help the gatekeeper and their associates.
- Of course, use your manners. Saying “Thank you for taking my call! I’m looking for the person who handles the software, would you please direct me to them?” will yield better results than just saying, “I have a matter to discuss with whoever handles your software.”
Be ready to answer tough questions
One of the ways a gatekeeper can halt your B2B sales efforts is to throw you some tough questions. When they point out a potential problem with your solution, you need to have an answer ready, so they don’t have an easy excuse to end the conversation.
This is another reason why doing your research is so important. You’ll only be able to answer these hard questions effectively if you know both your product and the prospect’s needs well enough.
Try engaging on social media first
It will always be difficult to succeed with a new prospect when you approach them cold. That’s why it’s a good move to engage with a new lead on social first. Doing so could help you warm them up so your first real conversation with a lead doesn’t get cut short by a gatekeeper.
LinkedIn is a great platform for this since people go on it expecting to network. But don’t make your first message a sales one. You’ll have more success if you reach out to a lead with a piece of information they find valuable.
For example, you could share a blog post that you think the lead would find interesting. It’s a great way to build a professional relationship before giving them the hard sell.
Leverage your network
It can also be beneficial to seek out a referral before approaching a new prospect. If you know someone who knows the person you want to pitch, that can get your foot in the door.
That’s the key to all of these tips: You’re looking for a way to get on a phone call or in a room with a decision-maker. You may not have the resources needed to take advantage of all of these tips, but you’ll be able to make your pitch as long as you understand what you have at your disposal and leverage it correctly.
Gatekeepers are good at detecting salespeople who side-step tough questions and just aren’t entirely honest. That’s why it’s essential to be direct and to the point when you speak with one.
Remember, gatekeepers are sophisticated, knowledgeable professionals. You’re not going to be able to talk your way out of rejection if they decide to end your sales efforts. So you don’t want to give them an extra reason to reject you.
Gatekeepers may be getting a dozen calls a day from B2B sales reps, so set yourself apart. Go the extra mile by showing up in person, sending a handwritten note, or even delivering a small gift.
Don’t give up too soon
You likely already know how important it is to be persistent in sales. But it’s worth repeating that you need to bring that mentality to the process of dealing with gatekeepers in business.
Salespeople get past gatekeepers every day. Whether or not you will be able to will ultimately come down to how you approach them. If the first thing that you try doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try again.
Think about things from their perspective
Breaking through a gatekeeper’s roadblock requires empathy. If you want to get through to a decision-maker, you have to know what they want to hear – and that means understanding their point of view.
So next time you’re getting ready to reach out to a gatekeeper, get inside their head before you do. Imagine fielding calls from people like yourself all day. And you’re responsible for passing only the most relevant messages onto your boss.
Keeping these things in mind can help you shape what you say in the right way to break through.
Research shows that between 60 and 70% of how a person views us comes from our non-verbal cues. That means there’s an argument to be made that what you say to a gatekeeper isn’t even as important as how you say it.
If you appear nervous, unfriendly, or display other negative emotions, that could significantly influence how the gatekeeper views your conversation.
Even though this tends to happen subconsciously, it makes sense. If a salesperson can’t even sound confident about what they’re trying to sell, then why would a gatekeeper believe the product is important enough to take to their boss?
Don’t do too much
Another thing worth keeping in mind is that less is often more when you speak with a gatekeeper. You want to state your case clearly and plainly. Don’t talk in circles and say more than you need to to get your point across.
When you belabor a point, you tend to sound nervous. If that happens, it’s unlikely they’ll pass you through to the decision-maker you want to reach.
Tell a joke
Telling a joke may seem like something you shouldn’t do during a business call. But studies show that funny people are viewed as more intelligent.
Making a gatekeeper laugh, or crack a smile at least, could be the first step to getting them to pass your message on to a key decision-maker.
That old cliche that practice makes perfect is still around for a reason. The more you do something, the better you tend to get at it. So if you’re struggling to get through to decision-makers in business, persistence could be the best way forward.
You may even want to enlist the help of a coworker who can help you run through your script a few times before making your next call. It could be just what you need to reach your sales goals.
What to do when you can’t get past a gatekeeper
There are many good tips in this article that you can use to make it past a gatekeeper. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful every time you try to break through to a decision-maker.
Here’s what else you can do.
Ask for help from someone in your company
Check in to see if anyone else at your company can help you get some facetime with the decision-maker you’re trying to meet. One of your coworkers may have a relationship with someone at the company they can leverage to help you out.
Maybe someone you work with previously also worked at the company you’re trying to contact. Or perhaps they went to school with someone you’d like to reach. Either way, you may be able to leverage this connection to reach your goals.
LinkedIn is a good resource for this. You can use it to see which of your connections might be able to help you out.
Look for opportunities to meet decision-makers in person
It’s really easy for a gatekeeper to keep you away from decision-makers when you call them on the phone. But most decision-makers won’t have gatekeepers around them when they’re at in-person events.
That’s why you might want to try approaching a decision-maker at an upcoming networking event you know they’ll be at. It could give you the opportunity you need to convince them to speak with you down the line.
Take what you can get
Even when it seems impossible to get through to a gatekeeper, you can leave the conversation better off than you were before. The gatekeeper has access to tons of important information. Just a tidbit about your prospect’s schedule could make the conversation worth your time. Maybe you can get a single name or phone number that gets you closer to making a sale.
When you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with your gatekeeper, there’s still more information to be gained. Ask questions like “Do you already have a product like the one I’m selling?” or “Are you completely satisfied with the product you’re currently using?” The gatekeeper might even hint at some of the company’s pain points so you know how to approach the decision-maker when that day comes.
Try again at a later date
If you’ve tried to reach a decision-maker and are struggling, then it may be time to give it a rest. Sometimes, you just get unlucky and attempt to reach out to a decision-maker at a time when their calendar is full.
You may be able to reach your goals by simply taking a break and trying to contact them again later on. Make sure to leave yourself a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget to make the next contact attempt at the right time interval.
Know when it’s time to move on
You can only try to get past a gatekeeper so many times. Remember, you can always revisit this company in the future if you haven’t been able to manage a breakthrough yet. Your time and energy are best spent elsewhere anyway.
Purchase the right contact information
In some cases, you can get your prospect’s contact information through a B2B data provider like Cognism or Thomson Data. They may be able to provide direct email addresses or phone numbers, or at least get you a little closer to the decision-maker.
B2B lead lists can get a bad rap, and for good reason. Many of the lists out there are inaccurate, out-of-date, or just low-quality. However, as long as you do your research, you can get some amazing new leads from a reasonable investment.
Alternatively, you could hire a lead generation consultant, who can not only help you build your own lead list but can also help you decipher high-quality versus low-quality lead lists.
How to keep your momentum after breaking through
Getting past a gatekeeper can be challenging enough. But your job isn’t over once you do. You still need to convince a decision-maker to buy from you.
Here are four tips to help you achieve that.
Remember decision-makers are busy
Decision-makers only have gatekeepers because they don’t have enough time to field every incoming sales inquiry independently. That time pressure doesn’t go away once you secure a meeting.
That’s why it’s crucial to get to the point quickly and establish your value without delay. Otherwise, the decision-maker will lose interest in what you have to say before you even get the chance to make your pitch.
Understand their workplace struggles
Many B2B salespeople focus on the value of their product within the larger context of the company. That’s a great strategy. But it’s worth remembering that you’re selling to a living, breathing person instead of a cold, efficient business.
The pitch that convinces a decision-maker to buy from you may not always be about what will help the company the most. It could be about what helps them the most with their job.
It’s important to dedicate some time during your pitch to discuss how your product or solution will help the decision-maker specifically. If you can convince the buyer that your company can make their life easier, that will go a long way toward getting them to buy your product.
Look for common ground
A big part of closing a deal with a decision-maker is forming a relationship with them. And strong relationships are built on common ground.
If you can find something to relate to a decision-maker, that gives you something to talk about outside of your business. This can help you connect with a decision-maker, which may get them more interested in doing business with you.
There are many different areas where common ground might exist between you and a decision-maker, including:
- Whether you both have kids
- The colleges you went to
- The companies you’ve worked for in the past
- The interests you have outside of work
Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’
When you interact with a decision-maker, you’re selling them on more than just your company and its products: You’re selling them on you.
A decision-maker won’t buy from you if they don’t believe you’re being honest with them. That’s why it’s always important to be willing to say, “I don’t know,” when you genuinely don’t have an answer to one of their questions.
But don’t end it there. Tell them that you’ll find out, and then make a point of following up with them in a timely manner as soon as you do.
Many salespeople worry that this will make them seem unprepared or unknowledgeable. But it helps the decision-maker see that you’re going to give it to them straight instead of stretching the truth or side-stepping a tricky question.
Creating that impression will make them more likely to do business with you.
Tools for breaking through gatekeepers
There are many strategies you can use to break through individual gatekeepers and reach decision-makers. But if you want to build a strategy that will be consistently successful, you may need to invest in the right type of technology.
With that in mind, here are four types of technology that could help you get past gatekeepers more efficiently:
Website visitor tracking software
Website visitor tracking software gives you a ton of information about how people interact with your site and its various pages. Generally, if you’re reaching out to a B2B prospect, it’s because they’ve shown some interest in your company – which is often visiting your website.
With website visitor tracking software, you can see exactly how B2B clients have interacted with your website in the past. You can use that information the next time you talk with a gatekeeper at the organization.
A CRM is a customer relationship management tool. These help you keep track of your relationships with different leads and customers. If you’re attempting to break through multiple gatekeepers at once, it can be tough to keep track of each interaction you’ve had.
Investing in a solid CRM should fix this problem. It’ll give you an easy way to go back and reference previous conversations so you can prepare more effectively.
Business analytics tools
Nowadays, there are many business analytics tools that can give you greater insights into your customers. These can be helpful if you’re trying to figure out the right way to approach a gatekeeper.
For example, maybe no one from the organization you’re reaching out to has interacted with your company. That can make it tough to determine how you should approach them.
But if you use predictive analytics, you could learn what’s worked for you previously. That way, it’s much likelier you begin your relationship with the new prospect on the right note.
A/B testing platform
There are also many online platforms that simplify the process of A/B testing. These can be useful because they’ll make it easier for you to compare the effectiveness of different approaches.
With the right A/B testing platform, you can get in-depth data showing you which approaches work best for each type of gatekeeper. Then you can use that information to fine-tune your approaches in the future.
LeadLander accesses the intel you need to overcome gatekeepers in business
Research is a vital part of getting around gatekeepers in business and completing your B2B sales process. One of the best ways to research is to see how your prospects interact with your website.
For example, if you know that a B2B prospect keeps returning to a specific page, then you’ll have a much better understanding of which aspects of your product or service interest them the most. Use that information to personalize your pitch and make more of an impression on a gatekeeper.
That’s why LeadLander can be so valuable. It provides a wealth of information about how prospects interact with your website to help you get more out of the time you put into each of your sales cycles.
We’re currently offering a free 14-day trial of LeadLander to experience the difference we offer for yourself.