Getting Around Gatekeepers: The Key to Unlocking the Mystery

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By: Jeff Hoffman, Founder & CEO of MJ Hoffman & Associates


There are two types of gatekeepers. There are gatekeepers who are hired to be gatekeepers, like an Executive Assistant (EA). There are also those who “volunteer” to be gatekeepers by forcing you to go through them. The first type of gatekeepers are necessary in larger companies, and the second type of gatekeeper can be more problematic.

Gatekeepers By Design – Executive Assistants

EA – consider what the role of an EA is for your C-Level executives. Most salespeople think that an EA has two jobs:

  • Make sure that execs who deal with the important things.

  • They help schedule a C-Level execs job.

However, that’s only about 5% of an EA’s job during the week. So what do they do with the rest of their job?

  • Researching for sales calls, future talks, other work.

  • Act as a proxy for the executive that they work for.

  • Work with colleagues, outside individuals, etc. as an extension of the executive.

This means that EA’s have a huge role within a company, and they work closely with the execs we want to communicate to. We hurt our ability to sell with EA’s in several ways:

  • We try to get around this person by acting like we have trust, when we don’t.

  • We don’t trust that the EA is valid proxy for their executive, and that they can meet with you as well.

If you sell effectively to an EA, then they will let that information pass through to the executive that they support.

So, what should we be doing when we try to get in touch with the EA? If you don’t know someone at a company, be honest with the EA that you speak to and ask them the question: who is the best person to talk to? And when you follow-up, make sure that you show respect to your gatekeepers and they’ll be more like to chat with you.

Volunteer Gatekeepers

The second kind of gatekeeper, which is more precarious, are the gatekeepers who “volunteer” for the job. When you’re selling B2B, sales have to be conspicuous by design and many people need to be involved in a sale in order to be successful (contrast this with B2C, which can be private).

Given the public nature of B2B sales, it is important to go “wide” early as opposed to trying to hit a beachhead.

So, when you get an inbound lead, try to aim higher within the organization first. Don’t call the inbound lead first – call someone 2 or 3 times higher in the organization and make reference to this call when you first chat with them. This will let your lead know that you’re already trying to communicate to multiple people within the organization and that you’re trying to gain maximum access to the organization.

Side Note – work with your marketing department to develop a resource that cannot be accessed in any public way.

Sometimes you need to break-up with gatekeepers. One good strategy is to offer some resource that cannot be accessed in any public way and give them a few days to respond. If you need to, follow-up with someone else in the organization and move on.

By going wide, you’ll minimize the negative impacts of gatekeepers.