Engage the Gatekeeper


I’ve always wondered why some salespeople unintentionally, or intentionally choose to ignore or dismiss the receptionist, entry guard, administrative assistant, or whatever the current terminology is for those charged with monitoring the flow of traffic to those we want to meet. It’s just stupid.

On just a human level it’s rude. I can hear some of you saying they are dismissive, or rude to you. Get over it. Keep in mind they are the first obstacle you need to negotiate to get to your prospect. Treat them poorly and your job becomes increasing more difficult.

Cut them some slack. Everyone gets a bad day. Their spouse or child is ill, their car broke down on the way to work, and all kinds of things can ruin their day. Show some empathy. Just because they may be grumpy doesn’t mean you have to be grumpy in return.

Make it more than just business. If this is a regular visit for you inquire (cautiously) about their life outside work. Listen for little tidbits of information as clues. Is there a picture of child on their desk, a fishing boat, or something you can use to engage in a little conversation while you wait? It may seem awkward at first, but you’ll be remembered. Just be genuine. A phony is easily spotted.

Test the relationship. Occasionally ask about your contact. “How’s Mr. Baron today? Is he really busy, or is it just a normal day?” “Any word on a replacement for Carmen?” Again, engaging your gatekeeper can be beneficial to you and it makes both of you feel good.

Don’t give up. In many ways this just like making a sales call. A kind word, a complement, even just smile in your voice will eventually have a positive impact. It’s gratifying when that sourpuss smiles back greets you warmly.

What if the gatekeeper really is nasty? Here, you enter some treacherous waters. Be sure you are correct before going further, but this person is the first impression people will have of the company. Your contact, assuming you now have a strong relationship, needs to know the impression visitors are receiving. Your complaint may not be the first they’ve received. Let them know they have a problem.

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