September 15

Take me to your leader. Enlisting the help of gatekeepers to get in front of decision-makers


The odds of reaching a decision-maker on your first attempt can be greater than hitting the winning lottery numbers. Chances are you will either 1) end up in voice mail, or 2) speak to someone who will politely inform you that the decision-maker is unavailable but will take a message for them – or put you directly into their voice mail.  If your knee jerk reaction is to opt for going directly to voice mail, slow down. You may be missing a prime opportunity to improve your odds of getting in front of them by rushing past the gatekeeper.

Don’t shoot the Gatekeeper!

Although it may seem like the gatekeeper’s primary job is to keep you out, they can be your ally. If­ you learn how to enlist their help. It’s important to recognize that the gatekeeper plays an important role in an organization by helping the executive focus on priorities and not get bogged down with distractions. And that is not always a fun job. Imagine how many times a day they have to listen to someone try to see or speak with their boss. Most messages are destined to end up in the “non-essential” pile on your prospect’s desk. If you want to see the decision-maker, you need to have a better strategy.

5 keys for working with gatekeepers

  1. Set yourself apart: Screening calls is probably not the gatekeeper’s only responsibility. Your first order of business is to pull their attention away from their other duties and give them a good reason to listen to you. Differentiate yourself by showing authentic interest in them – not just as a means to an end.This is a great place to incorporate some improv skills, read more here.
  2. Show value: The gatekeeper’s job is to filter out things or people that are not of direct interest or importance to the decision-maker. If what you offer is perceived as insignificant or not in alignment with strategic objectives, you are easy to dismiss. Think about how you can communicate your solution to the gatekeeper in a way that helps them understand why it’s of the utmost importance that your prospect connect with you. For ideas on creating urgency, check out some tips from the Wolf of Wall Street!
  3. Act as if: The ability to sound or look like a company insider can greatly affect how much weight the gatekeeper gives you and your message. Talk the talk, know the team and mention insights and challenges wherever possible in your conversation. If the gatekeeper thinks there is any chance that you may be someone the decision-maker wants to or needs to see, they will probably err on the side of making sure he or she gets your information. Get acting tips on how to “walk the walk” here.
  4. Know what you want: Without any instruction, your message or material is likely to be handed to the decision-maker with little if any explanation, i.e., “Some guy dropped this off” or “This woman left a message.” Decide what it is you want the gatekeeper to do or say and be very clear in your instructions to them. Break it down into a tier of desired outcomes. For example, #1: Securing an appointment. #2: Passing along specific information as well as a recommendation. #3: Providing an alternative way to contact the decision-maker. #4: Sharing an insight into the decision-maker’s availability or needs.
  5. Give them responsibility: By enlisting the gatekeeper’s help and soliciting their opinion or advice, you are involving them in the outcome. The ideal outcome for them is that you make them look good and/or smart for “finding” you and recognizing your potential value to the company. If a gatekeeper has helped you out in any way, be sure and keep them in the loop as you make progress. For example, “Thanks for your help and if you don’t mind, I’m going to let you know when I do get a hold of her” will give the gatekeeper a state in the results.


photo credit: Bourguiboeuf via photopin


cold calling scripts, decision-makers, gatekeeper, Improv, rapport, sales, sales skills, sales tips

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  1. This is a great and interesting read! One thing I’ve noticed though is that you can be as optimistic as possible but you’re still going to run into a brick wall. Failure and rejection are all a part of sales and being able to take it on the chin is a sign of maturity, changing your behavior to get a different result is professionalism. We discuss this is more detail here:

    1. Good point! Failure is always a possibility when trying new things. Hey, if it were easy, everybody would do it, right? Some good points in your article. I also like to take an actor’s perspective and remember not take it all too personally. If you’re getting feedback about your “role” or actions you’re taking (from a manager or your results) it simply means you need to adjust. If you have to lick your wounds a bit and have a bowl of ice cream, that’s fine too 🙂

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