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Learn How to Get the Gatekeeper on Your Side

Getting past the gatekeeper shouldn’t be so daunting.

Why is getting past the gatekeeper and finding qualified leads so challenging for salespeople? Because the process has gotten incredibly complicated, even though it can almost be a no-brainer.

At most companies, the sales process is a balancing act that doesn’t always work so well. It starts with inbound leads: responding to leads from marketing, answering website inquiries, and following up with podcast and webinar attendees. Then there’s outbound lead generation: identifying trigger events, determining relevant content to send in an email, creating messaging, preparing short videos, and networking on social media. Layered on top of these activities are a myriad of sales enablement and social selling tools—all of which are intended to help salespeople with effective prospecting and, in turn, generating qualified sales leads.

Simply put: There’s a lot coming at salespeople at once, and one thing standing in their way … or one person. The dreaded gatekeeper.

The Gatekeeper Is Not the Enemy

The goal is reaching the right person, which means getting past the gatekeeper. The #1 reason sales teams find their job so daunting is they believe circumventing the gatekeeper is the answer to their lead generation woes. They’ve become convinced that digital technology should solve all their business development challenges, but there’s still no button to push that will make gatekeepers grant them access to decision-makers. That requires conversations and real-world relationship-building—skills that many salespeople have let become rusty.

The decision-makers you want to reach aren’t playing hide-and-seek with your team. They are, however, unreachable to cold callers—thanks, in large part, to the assistants whose job is to protect their time. These dutiful gatekeepers are not only used to salespeople trying to get past them; they know every trick in the book.

One assistant told me many cold callers lie and tell him the CEO asked them to reach out. Most are cocky; others are downright rude; and some try to lay on the charm. A lot of them keep calling, hoping to eventually get the green light. But no matter how suave they think they are, he shuts them down without a second thought. There’s only one way to get past him, and that is to be an expected and welcome call.

Are You Always Successful at Getting Past the Gatekeeper?

I’ve been polling sales audiences for years about their top challenges, and the gatekeeper always comes up. So, I included the question “Do you always get past the gatekeeper?” in my Referral I.Q. Quiz (a 14-question “Yes/No” assessment that can be completed in a few minutes). Out of more than 400 respondents, 78.84 percent answered no.

Well, that’s embarrassing. After all the effort put into getting past the gatekeeper, salespeople flunk again and again. What does that say about your team’s prospecting prowess?

But here’s where things get a little confusing. I asked the same group, “Are you totally comfortable having an executive conversation with a real person?” This time, 85.53 percent said yes.

So, they know how to talk to executives, but not executive assistants? It seems counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t the former be easier than the latter?

This does, however, explain why prospecting is so challenging for most sales teams. According to CSO Insights, the #1 sales execution challenge is the ability to generate enough qualified leads, and the problem is only getting worse. In 2015, 43.6 percent of firms identified this sales execution challenge. In 2016, it was 53.3 percent.

It’s time we took a closer look at why your current sales activities are a waste of time and what to do about it. If most sellers aren’t getting past the gatekeeper with their current approaches, what other approaches haven’t you considered?

The Trick to Getting Past the Gatekeeper: Be a Welcome Call

There’s only one approach that will shift these numbers—a referral system. It’s much, much easier to get to decision-makers with a referral introduction. Prospects will always take meetings with B2B sales reps who’ve been referred by colleagues they know and trust. There’s no need for duplicitous gatekeeper tactics, because their bosses actually want to talk to these salespeople.

Research by IDC and LinkedIn proves this point. In a survey of business buyers, 76.2 percent said they prefer to work with vendors who have been recommended by someone they know, and 73 percent prefer to work with salespeople who’ve been referred. That explains why another study by Amplifinity found that leads generated from referrals convert 4X better than marketing leads.

I’ve spent more than two decades working with sales teams on referral prospecting, and I’ve seen what happens when they adopt a referral process. Sales reps:

  • Get every meeting at the level that counts with one call
  • Arrive with trust and credibility already earned
  • Shorten the sales process because prospecting time collapses
  • Beat out the competition because they get in early and build relationships
  • Save money (referrals don’t cost a thing)
  • Convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time (typically more than 70 percent)

Referral selling is your biggest competitive differentiation. No other marketing or sales approach comes close to the results you get with referrals. Yet, less than 5 percent of companies have committed to a referral strategy and implemented with precision.

Here’s the deal: Your current clients would be happy to refer you, but they probably won’t think to do so unless they’re asked. And your team won’t ask unless it’s part of your sales process. So, what are you waiting for? Give them a way to get past the gatekeeper for good.

Help your team understand how referrals guarantee a one-call meeting. Invite Joanne to speak at your next sales meeting or professional development event.

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