Gatekeepers can make or break the sale

Gatekeepers exercise the basest form of leadership-position authority.

Gatekeepers are a challenge to overcome in selling. Not an excuse why you shouldn’t. I’m referring here to askaris (security guards), receptionists and such other personnel who have the capacity to deter you from meeting the buyer as you must go through them. So what to do?

First, it helps to know that the default position of gatekeepers is that salespeople are a nuisance. Also, gatekeepers exercise the basest form of leadership-position authority. You follow what I say because I have this position-much like a father berating a child who questions an instruction, “Why?”, with, “Because I’m your father and I said so.” If you argue with this kind of authority you are unlikely to win; and even if you do, it’ll be momentary and you’ll have borne a grudge. And the grudge will manifest itself in later encounters which will only serve to delay or prevent you from accessing your buyers. It also helps to know that whereas dealing with gatekeepers , experts agree that acknowledging their position authority does you more good than harm.

For instance, an askari whom you respectfully greet, or, surprise one day with a hundred shillings, “for lunch”, or, give a branded T-shirt, or, talk to in a language he is comfortable with, or politely ask, “May I see Kageche?” is likely to do a double take. He is used to being ignored at worst and, at best, spoken at, not to. Salespeople abound that will tell you how an askari they showed respect helped them meet an elusive prospect. Several unsuccessful visits later they asked him: “Boss! Getting this fellow is proving very difficult. Even calling him is not working. What can I do?” And the askari reveals that, “This fellow usually comes in at 6.30am and leaves by 8.30am even before his secretary arrives.” Problem solved.

Sometimes, to the question, “Do you have an appointment?” the seller might find himself saying “Yes”, and yet he doesn’t. And for good measure adding, “He asked me to see him any time today.” This is a risk calculated at getting the buyer on ‘phone. And when he does come on phone from 7th floor and you are with the askari on ground floor, adding, after a quick introduction about an email you sent, “I have something to share with you and it’ll take less than ten minutes of your time. Let me come up and show you.” As with most gatekeeper challenges, even this one is borne of a buyer who does not respond to emails or ‘phone calls. Can it backfire? Of course it can and you rub him and possibly the askari the wrong way. Possibly. Possibly, impressed by the gravity of your persistence the prospect can also say, “Let me respond to the email. Please resend it.” Not the outcome you wanted but certainly better than blaming the gatekeeper.

What has worked for you? Let me know

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