If you’re new to sales, you may be asking; What is a Gatekeeper?
Gatekeeper is a word used to describe someone who controls access to something.
In sales, it’s used to describe a receptionist, switchboard operator, or personal secretary because they control access to your contact person.
A gatekeeper’s responsibility is to protect the time of the company’s employees by filtering sales calls.
When you dial the main switchboard number and ask to speak to your contact by their name or job title, you can expect to be interrogated by a gatekeeper.
It’s a little like getting through the border control officer to get into the United States.
I had the pleasure of dealing with gatekeepers during my first business-to-business sales role in an extremely competitive telecommunications industry.
My role was to book meetings for the regional business development managers, and my days consisted of hard-core cold-calling, so I became well acquainted with gatekeepers.
They blocked my cold calls and follow-up calls, screened my emails, and did everything else in their power to stop me from doing my job and reaching my contact.
It was a never-ending battle.
After making more than 8,000 cold calls during my first three months in that role, the gatekeepers started to get the better of me.
I was frustrated, negative and going into every cold call with my battle axe ready for the fight.
A short time after, I quit my job, declared bankruptcy, and walked away from the sales profession altogether.
Thankfully, I returned a few months later, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The gatekeepers were just as ruthless, but my experience helped me develop a tougher mental attitude.
However, it wasn’t until later in my career I realised some of the biggest mistakes I made when dealing with gatekeepers and started coming up with better strategies.
The 3 Types of Gatekeepers
In my experience, there are three types of gatekeepers:
Scarecrows are typically switchboard operators who are merely there to direct your call. They may ask you one or two questions, but this is only to announce your call or log you into their system.
You will typically find scarecrows inside larger organisations, and with the right mindset, they will cause you no problems.
Bouncers, frequently called receptionists, are semi-protective gatekeepers typically found in small- to medium-sized businesses. Their job role includes a variety of administrative tasks, including taking calls and messages for people.
Some bouncers are easy to bypass, while others can be hardcore. I often find it depends on how competitive their industry is and how well their day has gone.
Friday afternoons tend to be an easy ride, whereas Monday mornings can be a nightmare.
Parents I describe as the personal assistant or secretaries.
You’ll typically deal with parents if you are trying to reach senior decision-makers inside large organisations.
I would also describe the parents as the real gatekeepers and probably the only ones worth befriending. If you’re not on good terms with them, or if you don’t follow their procedures, you’re going to find it hard to reach your desired contact person.
A parent will often have a personal relationship with your contact person, so find out what calls your contact will take and what calls they won’t.
Some parents will also control your contact person’s diary and know where they are every minute of every day.
If you’re calling larger organisations, you will likely be dealing with scarecrows or parents, whereas if you are calling small- to medium-sized businesses, you will likely be spending most of your time dealing with bouncers.