A gatekeeper is anyone used as a front line of defense against solicitors who will waste a decision maker’s time. They are the person that can give you access to the contact you need to partner with or that can deny you access.
I’ve heard about a million ways to get past the gatekeeper and they all are horrifically wrong! All of them basically say to get in good with the gatekeeper and if they really like you, they will grant you access to the main man. You have to work exceedingly hard to butter up the gatekeeper, telling her or him how nice they are, sending them introductory and thank you notes, getting to know about their family, and even sending them gifts.
This is the biggest waste of energy in the prospecting world. After all the buttering up you perform, they may or may not grant you access to the right people. I’ve seen many gatekeepers continue to deny access because they like the attention they get from the person trying to gain access. Many times the gatekeeper has no real authority or real “pull” when they suggest someone. The big boss simply disregards their recommendation. Now when that happens, you have wasted all that time and energy for nothing.
I’ve actually seen where trying to butter up the gatekeeper actually offends the decision maker. “Why are they kissing up to them? I’m the one who can help this guy.” The decision maker will actually look at that person as a small fish trying to swim his way to the ocean. True decision makers want someone better than that. When they think of getting a new vendor, they don’t think, “I need a really good salesperson.” They think, “I need a really good business partner. I need someone I can add to my management staff.”
That’s the mentality you need to approach a gatekeeper with, “Hi. I’m here to see Mr. Big Wig. I’m important and he’s going to want to see me.” You are better than buttering up to the gatekeeper. Do they have some insights about the organization you may need? It’s possible. Is it always correct? No it’s usually not. Does that mean you shouldn’t be polite or respectful, plowing through them as if you are a bulldozer? Absolutely not, it just means you are better than that. You don’t have the time or energy to invest in a person who may or may not let you talk to the right person, and if they do give you access then you have to start the buttering up all over again. How exhausting. This is called bottom up selling and it’s a time waster. Buttering up the gatekeeper doesn’t allow you to slip through the gate. It only causes what you want to slip through your fingers.
As a future member of their management team (as you should be mentally telling yourself), you should use the top down approach. Find the highest ranking official of the organization and start with them. If you’re going to butter anyone up, it needs to be them. You should make them your ally. You should make them your friend. Usually they aren’t the person who will buy from you, but the people directly under them will. Now you can get referred in by them. Whose referral means more, a decision maker’s boss or a decision maker’s gatekeeper? This is called top down selling and it works.
Stop playing small and play at the world class level.