October 22, 2021

Gatekeeper - Anatomy of a Target Business

Erica Mackay

They say it’s not what you know but who you know.

And this can also be true in the world of business (though, of course, it always helps to have a bit of both!).

If you’re looking to successfully sell your product or service to another organisation, the likelihood is that you may come across a people barrier.

We are, of course, talking about a gatekeeper. 

Whose role fundamentally involves screening out all those pesky cold callers and junk salespeople who aren’t worth the time of a decision-maker.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily apply to you!

From PAs to Junior Execs, this is the individual who’ll have the final say in terms of patching you through to the promised land.

It can be easy to think of gatekeepers in the sense of ‘us vs them’.

But it doesn’t have to be as black and white as that.

The best thing you can do is try and get to know them!

After all, they are people too.

Small niceties, like addressing the gatekeeper by name (and remembering it!) and making them feel valued, can make you stand out amongst a sea of indifferent cold callers.

Now, we’re not advising you to spend half an hour discussing that cliff-hanger of a TV episode; but a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ could make all the difference.

Ultimately, for the most part, gatekeepers don’t tend to be directly involved in a purchasing decision – so don’t treat a conversation with them like a pitch.

Here are some other tips for how to get from A to B:

  • Show off your research and ask for the decision-maker by name
  • Ask for the gatekeeper’s advice to get a better picture of the inner workings of the company in question, for example, who would be the best person to get in touch with to further a sale
  • If all else fails, it may be best to simply go around – sometimes the best way to reach a decision-maker is through a more direct route. Perhaps they happen to have their contact details readily available online or maybe someone from your network could refer you

Perhaps the best advice that can be offered on top of this… is persistence.

You’d be surprised by just how many organisations give up after failing to reach, let alone get past, the gatekeeper on the first go.

Once you get your opportunity, remember to keep cool, calm and collected.

It’s ok to let your passion for your product come across. Afterall, you wouldn’t be reaching out if you didn’t believe that what you are selling has the potential to improve things for your target business. 

But don’t be too pushy or come on too strong, but rather, be polite, informative and remember to listen!

Whilst there’s no one right way to get past the gatekeeper, you’re far more likely to get somewhere with someone – as is the case in any social situation – by observing simple niceties.

When you know you’ve got a fantastic product or service that would be a perfect fit for a particular organisation, it can be tempting to feel embittered by the gatekeeper stopping that match from happening.

However, when it comes down to it, they’re just doing their job. And if they are thorough in their approach for filtering who gets to the decision maker, then they are doing it well.

If you can demonstrate an air of professionalism and empathy, however, you’ll be well on your way to getting past the people barrier and making first contact with your decision-maker.