If you are in sales you know it isn’t easy to get to the decision maker in today’s business environment. The number one reason…gatekeepers! A gatekeeper is a person or technology placed in your path to make it difficult for you to establish contact with someone who’s in a position of authority or responsibility.
The three most common types of gatekeepers are the receptionist, voicemail and the administrative or executive assistant. The first and the third types might sound like one and the same. Each serves a specific function unique from the other, whether it’s prioritizing incoming phone calls (the receptionist) or guarding a particular manager’s or executive’s time (the administrative or executive assistant). Knowing how to deliver your message to suit each is important in leveraging that gatekeeper and making a connection with the decision maker.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So the idea here is to treat this person with respect and take good notes so the next time you call them you can reference something from your previous call.
We teach a simple formula to get to the decision maker that involves three major steps:
- Start by sending a direct-marketing letter, e-mail, or video e-mail as an introduction, with the intent of generating some curiosity or interest. End that letter or e-mail with a call to action in which they can contact you, or say that you will contact them in a certain period of time not to exceed ten business days.
- Then call within that specified time period mentioned in the initial letter. If you get voicemail, leave a message to create curiosity. Don’t ask them to call you back, because most of the time they won’t do it anyway. It is better to say that you will give them a call back on a certain day and at a certain time.
- Get to a live person. Call them at the designated time. One of two things will happen: You’ll either get that person, in which case you should engage them, or you’ll get voicemail or the receptionist. If you get the voicemail, then try to zero out (hit “O,” “*” or “#”on the keypad) to get to a receptionist or secretary, and say the following:
“I’m wondering if you can help me.” (It’s in most people’s nature to try and help when asked.) When they respond positively, say, “I sent John Smith a letter ten days ago, but I’m sure he gets a lot of correspondence. I was wondering if I could send you a copy of that letter, and then if you think it’s of interest, could you schedule a time for John to talk with me?”
More often than not, they will say, “If I can,” or “Sure, whatever I can do.” That’s especially true if you get through to the receptionist or the executive assistant. I think it’s in their DNA to want to help people. Always remember to smile while you’re asking (they can “hear” you smile over the phone). Ask if they would prefer that you fax or e-mail the original letter to them.
In case you are skeptical…this approach actually works! I once sold a $300,000 contract in less than fourteen days by using this approach with a global company that met me for the first time when I landed in Dublin, Ireland, to facilitate the first of eight workshops.