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Sally G and the Keys to the Kingdom

Sales Excellence LogoSally G and the “Keys to the Kingdom”

Her name is Sally G.  Ms. Sally G to you, and you better get to know her on a first name basis.  Believe it or not, she holds the “Keys to your Kingdom.”   Her full name is Sally Gate-Keeper.  Now you may or not be familiar with a woman who has a hyphenated last name, but it is a sure indicator she isn’t going to be sweet talked.  And a special word of caution, don’t call her “Honey”, or “Hun”, or “Dear”, or “Sweetheart”, that’ll get you nowhere, fast.

You need to be professional and respect her for who she is.  She is; “The Gatekeeper”. Get to know her and HOW to work with her.  You might think I am just trying to be humorous, but trust me I am no comedian.  I have come across Ms. Sally G. hundreds of times in my selling career and she can make you or break (and also brake) you.  Learn HOW to work effectively with her because she truly does hold the “Keys to the Kingdom.”  You must always remember and never take this for granted, gate-keepers can easily say “NO”, but they can never say “YES”.  Unless you figure out how to interact with her and engage this person, your chances of trying to get in to see the decision maker just decreased.

The “Head Honcho”, that’s the main decision maker, the person you want to talk to, has entrusted her to screen out all the unwanted calls, including yours.  If owners and buyers saw every salesperson who wanted to see them, they would have little time for anything else.  Ms. Sally G has a key role; keep the boss from wasting time.

The good news; it is also her responsibility in the screening process to let those people through who can benefit the boss and the company.  Sometimes it may even pay to give her part of the presentation to convince her of the benefits; more on that later.  Regardless, you need to be professional, courteous, polite, and considerate.  It is easy to get frustrated when you come across the really aggressive gatekeepers, especially the ones you can’t get past.  It’s easy to tell them by their demeanor. They eat salespeople for lunch, but you can learn how to make them work for you.

In the sales process there is no ADO – Automatic Door Opener, so you must learn the techniques necessary to earn the right to get an appointment.  If you are not seen as someone who can add value, you don’t deserve to get an appointment anyway!

There are two approaches to what I call, “Gatekeeper Dynamics”:

You can work with/through the gatekeeper
You can work around the gatekeeper

You really need to be knowledgeable and comfortable using both approaches. You need to master both because you will find those GateKeepers who are helpful and those who take their role to the limit.

You may feel that the gatekeeper has no power because she is just answering the phone, but the ironic thing is, she does have power, and it’s over you.  You need to understand that.  At some point in time, you will run across a difficult gatekeeper and you will have to deal with her.  You have to be prepared.  The good ones will ask, “Can I tell Mr. Smith what your call is about?”

If she has been around awhile she will recognize yours is not a familiar voice.  A likely thought she has is the same thought you have when you are at home having dinner and the phone rings and it is a strange voice and that little voice immediately goes off in your head,Telemarketer, and your resistance immediately goes up.

Well that’s what happens to Ms. Sally G. when the phone rings and her focus is on getting a rush task done for Mr. HH (Head Honcho) and she hears a strange voice.  Her radar system automatically goes off and she immediately puts up that stealth defense system for incoming telemarketing calls.  You could become a casualty of war.

What happens next is critical and what you tell her is what she is going to tell Mr. HH.  But, here is something you must understand; what you tell her is NOT going to get translated with the same meaning, enthusiasm, or emphasis and the end result will be a diluted message.  So preparation is key and you must be quick on your feet.

Working with/through Sally Gate-Keeper:

Different situations will apply here depending on whether you know, or don’t know, who the contact is.  If you don’t know you will obviously ask “who would be the person that would make (blank) type of decision?” or “who would you send information to regarding (XYZ)?”

If I do know who the contact person is then as soon as I get a live person on the phone I immediately ask to speak to that person acting as though I have known them for life.  Sometimes this does work and without having to jump through any hoops I get patched right through.  This probably happens 40% of the time.  The other 60% here is what happens.

Sally “G” is going to ask me, I can bet on it, and you can count on it, “Does Mr. HH know what your call is about?”  I make every attempt to work with Ms. Sally G. as I want her to be my ally.  She will get me in front of the decision maker if she likes me and what I can do for the company.  You need to get on a first name basis with her as quickly as possible.  I focus on doing four things in my interactions with Sally.

Obtain her/his name and position
Establish credibility
Build and develop a relationship
Ask for her/his help

As soon as I get that death defying question that makes every salesperson go, “Oh shoot what do I say now?”,  I immediately, and I reiterate immediately, say, “May I ask who I am speaking with?”

I want to do this for several reasons.  Remember the article on “leaving voice mails” to always control the conversation?  Well the same rules apply here.  First, I want the conversation in my control, NOT hers. If she asks me a question and I answer her question SHE has control and I don’t. So by asking her a question, it puts the control back in my court.

So I ask the question, “May I ask who I am speaking with?”, to regain control of the communication.  I ask that because I want and need to know who she is.  I want to begin to use her name ASAP.  Why?  Because the sweetest word in the English language is a person’s name and strategically I want to use it and remember it.  The odds are I will talk to her again.

This helps me move to immediately establish a rapport early on in the conversation.  The next time I speak with her, I can use her name as soon as I recognize her voice.  Because I remembered her name, credibility is established and the relationship strengthened.   You might think this is “not such a big deal!”, but in the long run it will pay dividends.  I will be one step closer to developing a rapport with Ms. Sally G and one step closer to Mr. HH.

So let’s assume I do know who the decision maker is, but I have never spoken to him and this is my first time trying to get through.  I approach this gatekeeper from a confidence level that conveys an impression I am someone of importance and that Mr. HH is expecting my call.  Sometimes this works and I am put right through. Sometimes it doesn’t and the gate remains closed and I have to take a step back.

Next, I always ask for help if I don’t know who the decision maker is.  That is a key word,“Help” and I use it to my advantage.  I don’t over play that card but I sure know where and when to play it.  People as a general rule love to help and if I can tap into that human motivation it works to my advantage.

The down side in this approach is if I have to rely on Sally to deliver my message to Mr. HH and he tells her that he is not interested at this time, you are DIW, Dead in the Water.

This is cold calling at its worst, all that work and you didn’t even get an audience. This is not meant to deter you from making cold calls, cold calling is essential but warm calling makes for a higher payoff.

Going around Sally Gate-Keeper:

When I have been unsuccessful using the front door approach, I use the back door.   Be careful, if you choose to work around Sally G., you risk alienating her.  The potential injured ego of a Sally G. could put a nail in your coffin.

I try not to use it, but if I have been stonewalled I will use every trick in the book.  It may not be the GateKeeper’s fault.  It may be that the Decision Maker is always busy and the Gatekeeper has tried to put you through but the dynamics of the boss’ schedule, or something else, keeps putting you off.  So here are a couple of ways you can go about getting through.

  1. If you don’t know who the Decision Maker is you can ask who you can send information to versus who you can speak with.  This approach takes all the pressure off if you have not mastered being comfortable using the phone. You can also use this as a fall back approach if you get stonewalled or the person is not in or cannot speak with you. This way you have the contacts name and can send an article of interest or begin to use one of the strategies from the Matrix of Opportunities.
  2. Ask to speak with one of the salespeople. Then ask the salesperson who the decision makers are.  Salespeople are sympathetic with other salespeople and understand their plight.  Perhaps you can create a networking opportunity that works for both of you or swap leads.  If it helps, tell old war stories about dealing with GateKeepers, that’ll get you mileage.  Make a connection; it’s in your best interest.  Maybe you can even get the salesperson to introduce you or recommend you giving you an internal contact. You can also use this opportunity to find out more about their business, more about the decision maker you’re trying to reach and more about the challenges of the company leaving you in a much better position because you now have insider information (so to speak) and also a leg up on your competitors.
  3. Call after or before business hours or during lunch.  I have used this successfully many times.  The Gatekeeper is not usually there and if the Decision Maker is in they will usually answer their own phone.  When you call after hours you gain some advantage.  In one case where an individual was always unavailable to talk to me when I would call, he recognized my name because of the consistent effort I put forth in trying to reach him and he apologized for not taking the time to speak with me and set an appointment right on the spot.  When you take the time to call late it shows the prospect you will go the extra mile and it can help you leverage your relationship.

You now have some insight into the philosophy and strategies of dealing with Sally G.  Work with her, treat her with respect, create an ally and she will help you accomplish your objective.  Most importantly, know her name and use it often.


Good Luck, and Go Forth and Sell!

Rick Tiemann

The Executive Group
80 E US Hwy 6
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Tel: 219.477.6378
Fax: 219.477.6379
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