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A consulting coaching client asked me this week, "What is the best way to get past a gatekeeper?" If you're not familiar with this term, this is the individual who has been tasked with preventing access to the Decision Maker. Typically this is a personal assistant or secretary. But it can also be the receptionist or other first line phone contact.
Here are some tips to consider as you interact with gatekeepers.
- Meet someone who can help you get to the Decision Maker (DM). They say you are two people away from knowing anyone. If you have targeted a company or DM, share your desire to meet with those you network with. You might be able to bypass the gatekeeper if they set up the meeting for you. If not, you now have a chance to name drop when you call ("John suggested I call").
- Build a relationship with them. Part of their job is to manage the Decision Maker's time. Most of them are reasonable people – if you treat them like the enemy rather than a partner, getting access to that Decision Maker will be a lot harder. You will stand out from most of the folks they meet by treating them as a valuable resource and a person. Get their name, use it, establish rapport and be friendly and appreciative of their help.
- Call at unusual times. Trying to reach a decision maker before 8:00 am, lunchtime or just after 5:00 pm may be a time the gatekeeper hasn't arrived or has left. Even if you get the DM's voicemail, you've bypassed the gatekeeper.
- Things you can say to increase your chances of reaching the DM: a. First names work better than formal names. b. Be respectful, casual, and confident. An example of this is:
Gatekeeper: Good morning; Decision Maker's office.
You: Good morning; I'm sorry, I didn't get your name. (If they don't offer it initially.)
Gatekeeper: This is Pat.
Recruiter: Hi Pat, good morning. This is Jennifer Leake calling for Barbara.
- Engage but don't sell. I know they often ask, "what's this about?" – but it's a waste of time (they are not the decision maker) and gives them ammunition to shoot you down. Answering this question, or what you might say on a voicemail is a topic for another time.
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