The gatekeeper says no!
‘I’m sorry,’ the executive secretary grimaces, ‘But I’m afraid he can’t see you / talk to you right now.’ The look on her face, or tone in her voice, says he won’t see you ever – if she has anything to say about the matter. It’s unfortunate – not to mention heartily disappointing – but the gatekeeper has said no.
But you know that if you could just get to talk to the decision maker or get into their office for a meeting, if you could simply pitch your product or service, you could add a whole lot of value to their business. So just what, exactly, do you do when the only path to a company’s decision-maker is blocked? You’re armed with a name, but no direct telephone number and no email address. Now that’s quite the challenge…
The Worst Approach
It’s unlikely to work, but so long as you have a name, you can create the illusion of previous contact. This doesn’t mean you flat-out lie about knowing the boss, but you simply imply that you’ve held previous discussions with ‘Dave’, or ‘Mary’ or whoever the decision-maker may be.
There are, however, multiple downsides to this tactic. Sooner or later, you risk being rumbled – and honesty should be the hallmark of a good SME salesperson – and some decision-makers may even be annoyed that you’ve essentially lied your way into their office on a pretence.
The Direct Approach
If you have the name, then you have an in. Specifically, you have the company’s address, which means you can target the decision-maker with a letter or mail-out. This should look as official as possible, rather than slapping your company’s name on the envelope. Be honest and firm with this approach – your letter or mail-out shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all junk mail fodder destined for the wastepaper basket; it should be tailored, persuasive and highly focused on the needs of the decision-maker and how you can fulfil them.
The Social Approach
These days, everyone’s on some sort of social media platform. LinkedIn is, of course, the platform designed for those in business. The social approach requires networking to achieve your goal – in this case, getting acquainted with the decision-maker. This has the added bonus of getting to know others in particular industries in which you thrive, or those already working at the company, and thus make further contacts. Such platforms can also be used as endorsements – or used to cast yourself as an expert or authority in the field – that will impress those who need impressing, like bosses with receptionists who like to say no.
The Partnership Approach
When socially networking, we advised reaching out to those already employed at the company you’re wishing to contact. This approach takes that to the next level – networking with those affiliated with the company. This might include other suppliers of products and services, who can help you get a foot in the door through either a mutually beneficial partnership or a recommendation of your services. Such an approach, of course, takes time to build relationships with the right people, but can certainly be a boon once you’re through the door.
Being seen by those you need to see can sometimes take time, but if you’ve got the patience to cultivate a genuine professional relationship, rather than barging past the executive secretary, you’ll reap the benefits in many ways. These might include repeat business, further recommendation from the company, and the satisfaction that comes from a professional association that helps both you and the client.
The Value Based Approach
The gatekeeper’s job is to ensure only those with sufficient credibility; relevance and importance get through to their up-line managers. When a gatekeeper stops you going any further, then take the feedback on the chin. You haven’t yet demonstrated enough credibility, relevance or value to them. That gatekeeper is your decision maker because they are deciding not to let you through. Work on your proposition and go back to the gatekeeper and sell an enhanced proposition – not your company, not your products or services - simply the value to the decision maker of talking to you…
If you want to improve your access to decision makers – ask me how