February 5, 2010 by Ken Dooley
Posted in: communication, In this week's e-newsletter - Sales & Marketing, Latest News & Views - Sales & Marketing, sales management, Sales meeting ideas, training
The best sales techniques are useless if your people can’t get through to the decision maker. Today’s buyers are busier than ever, raising the importance of the gatekeepers who stand in the way of the prospect and the sale.
Here are two key strategies to getting past the gatekeeper and creating more opportunities to close sales:
1. Get the gatekeeper to work for you
When picking up the phone or heading to a prospect’s facility, try to keep these four things in mind:
- The gatekeeper has an important job and wants to be treated with respect. Taking a moment to warm up to gatekeepers can avoid dead end screening questions, such as “What is this in reference to?”
- The best salespeople understand the value of taking time to get to know gatekeepers — and their investment often pays off. The goal should be to stand out from the crowd and have the gatekeeper remember you in the end. Then, when you call again, the gatekeeper will begin to work for you, not against you.
- Salespeople need to inspire the gatekeeper to “recommend” them to the decision maker.
- In the event the gatekeeper will not “recommend” you, it may be time to consider calling back at a time you suspect the gatekeeper isn’t on duty. Doing this may potentially damage your ability to work with this gatekeeper in the future. But if the sale isn’t moving along, it’s a risk worth taking. These attempts are best made early in the day, at lunchtime or late in the afternoon.
Training tip: Ask team members to give examples of how they’ve broken through to the gatekeeper. What steps did they take when they couldn’t get past the gatekeeper?
2. Prepare responses to tough screening questions
Even the most effective salespeople encounter tough screening questions. The key is to have a stash of confident responses that’ll differentiate you from all the other companies that come calling.
Here are three examples of typical questions and the best ways to respond to them:
- Question: “What is this in reference to?” Answer: “Our service has been driving productivity gains for companies around the country. In fact, ___ has been using it for the last six months. I thought Mr. Smith would be interested in hearing about this exiting new breakthrough!”
- Question: “What is this in regards to?” Answer: “Donna, I was speaking to Mr. Phillips in your distribution center about a problem he was experiencing. We were able to improve the same type of situation at ___, and Mr. Phillips told me that Mr. Smith would want to know about this important advancement.”
- Question: “Is Mr. Smith expecting your call?” Answer: “It sounds like you work closely with Mr. Smith. We have recently discovered a method that is helping companies like yours recoup thousands of dollars in lost revenue. I can outline it for you, if you’d like. I’m going to send over the specs for Mr. Smith. Is his email address still ___?”
Your tone of voice when responding to questions will make or break your ability to get through to the true decision maker.
The key: treating the gatekeeper like a true professional in the field.
A common mistake: attempting to bully past the gatekeeper. Using a condescending or hesitant tone with the gatekeeper invites more screening questions, a hang up or a refusal to allow a meeting with the decision maker.
Training tip: Ask your team members how they control their tone. What responses do they have prepared to deal with tough screening questions?