GATEKEEPERS - The Sales Rep's Best Friend

The owners of our companies expect the sales people to be making cold calls that sound professional and direct. Here is an example of an introduction I hear all the time:

"Hello, my name is Eileen Kent and I'm looking for the person in charge of making your furniture decisions."

What do you think the person on the other end of the line is going to say?

Here are three canned answers I always hear, of course, after a big SIGH into the telephone:

"I'm sorry, but we don't have anyone who does that." "No one is interested in buying furniture here." "I'm not allowed to give out names and numbers of people who work here to just anyone."

What happened? I just ran into a "gatekeeper" -- a person at my client's location whose job it is to keep me out. (At least that's my first impression.) The "gatekeeper" can be the receptionist, a contracting officer or -- for dramatic purposes in the government -- it could be a security guard. You can't sell using this technique when selling to the government. If you look like a sales person, sound like a sales person, think like a sales person -- you'll never make it in the door.

So, you need a strategy to approach gatekeepers. When approaching someone at a reception desk, don't assume the person sitting there is the receptionist. Just as in business, the government is running lean, so the boss (or the Director), might be covering the phone. Follow my little philosophy to cover all bases.

Treat every person at the government as if you are meeting a General. That way, you'll never go wrong.

Walk up to the reception desk and say, "I was wondering if you could help me out." The Receptionist will naturally say, "What are you looking for?" "I'm not sure if you can help me, but maybe you can point me in the right direction. I was just down the hall at the IRS and I was talking to Suzie, their facility manager, about emergency furniture rental services. Do you have someone at your agency who handles facilities because I could sure help them in a sudden pinch."

The Receptionist: "Yes we do. In fact, it is Joe and he's right down the hall and to the left. Go ahead.....just go down there and introduce yourself." "Thank you very much. What's your name so I can tell Joe how helpful you have been."

The Receptionist: "Mary."

Walk down the hall and see Joe and tell him Mary sent you. One great lead from a receptionist!

Now let's work with the gatekeeper with the gun: the security guard.

"Hello"

The Guard: "May I help you?"

"I'm not sure."

The Guard: "What are you looking for?"

"Well, I've been trying to get a hold of Romeo all week and I haven't received a phone call back and I just wanted to stop in and see if he would possibly meet with me in person."

The Guard: "Do you KNOW Romeo?"

"No. I've just left three messages. I knew it was a long shot, but I was hoping to touch base with him while I was in the area."

The Guard: "Just a minute." (Guard makes a call to Romeo and leaves a message.)

The Guard: "He's not at his desk, but I can call him again in five minutes. In the meantime, let me see your ID please."

"Certainly."

The Guard: "Hey, you're from Chicago! My cousin lives on the south side!

Where do you live?" "Wrigleyville, near Wrigley Field."

The Guard: "Sorry about those Cubs."

"I know, I was at Clark and Addison when Bartman caught the ball out of Alou's glove last year. That night was the longest walk home I ever experienced."

The Guard: "That's terrible. Let me try to make that call again." (Calls and leaves a message) "Hey, looks like Romeo is not in."

"That's okay, you've been a real help. I would like to leave you my card -- just in case you see Romeo."

The Guard: "Sure, good luck!"

Two Minutes Later A cell phone ring comes from my purse and I answer.

The Guard: "Uh, Miss Eileen? Romeo is here in the lobby, we're holding him for you. Come back!"

After running back, Romeo meets me at the door with his card and promises for an appointment at 9 a.m. the following morning. "Sorry, Eileen I've been very busy, but come to a networking event with me tomorrow and I'll introduce you to everyone I know. At the event, Romeo is the keynote speaker discussing how to sell to the government and tells my little story of persistence. Romeo shares this advice:

1. Call
2. Leave A Message
3. Call
4. Leave Another Message
5. Stop In
6. Work the Gatekeepers IE: the Guards
7. Follow Up

It takes 6 - SIX touches or impressions or calls -- to get an appointment.

Keep calling and following up. Ask the gatekeepers for help. Gatekeepers are there to keep out the time wasters and the bad guys. You are not either of these people. You offer great products and services at a good price to the government. You are the good guy. Make the cold call or face-to-face. You can do it!

Let me know what happens and maybe we'll feature your story in an upcoming "On the Sales Firing Line."

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