Tips & Best Practices for Family Entertainment Centers
5 Ways to Get Past the Gatekeeper
A good salesperson selling corporate and team building events knows the importance of presenting their product to the decision-maker of a company. It’s the decision-maker who will have the final say that leads to closing the sale. If the decision-maker is in an executive role, there is most likely an administrative assistant or executive assistant who is screening calls, visitors, and information before passing some of it on to their executive.
Administrative professionals in that role are nicknamed Gatekeepers. So, here you are, ready to sell your corporate and team building product and have an executive with a Gatekeeper. Your goal is to close the sale as soon as possible by speaking directly with the executive. Sounds like a challenge, yes, but it is not impossible if you know how to approach the Gatekeeper. Here are 5 ways to get past the Gatekeeper:
1. Understand the Gatekeeper’s role.
A Gatekeeper has an important role in the organization and serves many functions. The Gatekeeper is strongly connected to everything and constantly has their fingers on the pulse of the company. They handle complex projects from start to finish and the executive’s goals are the Gatekeeper’s goals. A key function of the Gatekeeper is to shield the executive from incoming information that can be handled by either the Gatekeeper or other team members. The Gatekeeper is highly trained in time management, which includes managing their own time and as well their executive’s time, and in using good and quick judgment to determine whether the information is worth passing on.
2. Conduct research about the prospect.
Research the company before you speak with the Gatekeeper. This way, you will have information and know details you can use in your conversation to connect with the Gatekeeper and start a meaningful conversation. Look for things such as how many years they have been in business, how many locations they have, or if they’ve won industry awards.
3. The meaningful conversation with the Gatekeeper.
If you want to have a meaningful conversation with the company’s executive, you need to have a meaningful conversation with the Gatekeeper first. Now that you’ve researched the company background, start your conversation with the Gatekeeper about the company’s great accomplishments. For example, say things like, “Emily, your company has been in the architect business for 19 years and won the best-architect-in-the-USA award two consecutive years. Congratulations! What a great accomplishment!” Opening the conversation this way plows the path to connecting with the Gatekeeper and you are well on your way to having that meaningful conversation. Each Gatekeeper is proud to hear about their company’s great achievements. Avoid cheesy-sounding opening comments such as, “Emily – that’s a wonderful name!” or cheap tricks to directly get through to the executive such as, “Emily, is Beth in? She knows me. I need to speak with her,” or “Emily, Beth and I met at a recent networking event. Is she available?” If you try to start your conversation that way, you’ve lost the opportunity to sell to this company. You cannot trick the Gatekeeper!
4. Be concise.
Time management is extremely important to the Gatekeeper and every minute counts. Once you have started your conversation with the Gatekeeper, give as much information as needed to present your product while keeping it short and comprehensive. State the purpose of your call clearly and in just a few words. The Gatekeeper wants to spend only minimal time to determine whether your offering is of benefit to the company. Make the first 10 seconds count. That is the time it usually takes for the Gatekeeper to determine if they want to continue to listen to your offer. If you get too wordy, the Gatekeeper will cut you off and you could either lose the meaningful conversation or worse, lose the possibility of achieving any sales with them in the future. It may sound harsh, but the Gatekeeper assumes you will be just as long-winded and wordy with their executive as you are with the Gatekeeper, and they will not allow that to happen. The Gatekeeper will do everything in their power to prevent their executive from spending time on something or someone they have determined as “unnecessary” or, bluntly spoken, “wasting time.”
5. Convince the Gatekeeper.
Point out the benefits and impact the event you are offering will have on the company. Be concise as you continue your conversation. “Emily, I have something to offer that will grow the productivity of your team. You and your team are working so hard all year long – how nice would it be to treat everyone for a fun team building event at our center? We have a boardroom in which you could hold your annual planning meeting and afterward you can enjoy great food and a few games of bowling. You could work and play, all at the same time!” That will catch the Gatekeeper’s attention, especially the word “productivity” used in the first sentence. The Gatekeeper always looks for new ways to help with team building and creating an environment that nurtures productivity. If you can convince the Gatekeeper their company needs this event, you are halfway to closing the sale. Why? Because if you convince the Gatekeeper, the Gatekeeper will convince the executive.
Even though you do all five things right, the Gatekeeper may still not let you speak directly with the executive. However, the Gatekeeper may speak with the executive on your behalf and recommend they invest in the presented team building activity at your center and then communicate the decision to you. Leave your business card and check back with the Gatekeeper a few days later if you haven’t heard back. Be sure and wait a few days before you follow up. Executives are extremely busy and often, the Gatekeeper waits for the right moment to approach the executive with the topic. This can take a few days. Be patient and continue to follow up with the Gatekeeper without appearing pushy.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to speak with the executive or decision-maker on your first sale to the company. Instead of going “past” the Gatekeeper, you are going “through” the Gatekeeper on your first sale with them. Rest assured, if the first team building event in your location is a success and a great experience for this company, they will be back for more. When it is time to sell to them again, you may be able to get “past” the Gatekeeper and speak directly with the executive.