Getting Through the Gatekeeper? When B2B Appointment Setting Don’t Try It Until…

“You have to get by the gatekeeper,” say many.
(But they are usually the ones banging their heads against the wall.)

Why this “truism” amounts to self-sabotage… and what to do instead.

It happened again.
I was presenting to a sales team that needs to meet with many more select decision-makers.

Great company and great sales team. Like many today they must learn new tricks, as previously dependable sources of new business just are not cutting it.

But the group, regardless of anything I said, was clinging to an idea that is totally wrong. Having this as a goal virtually guarantees that you will be less successful in high-level prospecting.

The belief?
That you have to convince the gatekeeper to connect you.

Tear up that memo and post this one.
Your goal should never be to “get through the gatekeeper.”
Your goal should always be to have the most conversations with your selected group of decision-makers.
Those are two totally different things.

Common sense tells us that in order to gain a commitment for time (by phone, face-to-face, or attendance at an event) from select top decision-makers, that we should do the things most likely to achieve that result.

The highest probability result that converts to an appointment is to have a conversation with your targeted decision-maker.

The highest probability actions & behaviors to having those conversations do not include “getting through the gatekeeper.” In fact, interacting with gatekeepers is a very low probability path to a conversation.

You should not choose low-probability actions until you have used up all your high-probability actions.

So why does having a gatekeeper fixation amount to self-destructive behavior? If you are not going to do that, what do you do?

Let’s take the second question first.

The highest probability path to a meeting is to get your decision-maker to pick up the phone. You do that by calling in a very efficient methodical manner and letting go at your point of diminishing returns. You call in a way that maximizes your “conversations with top decision-makers” per hour of call time invested.

That would be the “3 cycles of 3” I write about so often.

During these cycles of calls, if you interact with gatekeepers it is only for two purposes. 1) Get info as to the potential worth of the target. (Do they buy X? How much? How many employees? How many salespeople? Yada, yada.) 2. Get info that will increase the chance that you have a conversation with your target. Most of the time that will be by getting the direct dial or extension number.

That’s it. Notice trying to get the gatekeeper to connect you was not on the list. At this stage, if one of these reptiles offers to take a message, say “no.” If they ask “What is this regarding?” or some other invitation to a bang your head against the wall pain session, don’t answer. Dodge the question.

Only after you max out on your higher probability actions do you then drop-down to a lower probability action. In this case, engaging the gatekeeper.

Even here, we do not try to get the gatekeeper to connect us. That is a losing battle and if we try that, by our own actions we have knocked ourselves out of the race.

Before I tell you what TO DO. Lets pause and step back a bit to discuss why we very strategically do not try to get the gatekeeper to put us through.

Well, first, they are long fanged vicious creatures trained and determined to repel all who seek to get by. If you think that you are different, your offering so superior or your personality so irresistible that you can pacify these beasts, you are deluding yourself. This is virtually always a dead end – so don’t go thereso long as you have better options.

Second, they can’t sell you effectively. It’s hard enough when you get your targeted decision-makers to pick up the phone to sell yourself. Even if the gatekeep does pass on a message (highly unlikely anyway,) that message is guaranteed to be inadequate to sell you. So why even try?

At this point, after you have completed your 3 cycles of 3 process (your highest probability path to a conversation) and confirmed that this is a high-worth target, you now can use the “Hail Mary.”

Fire breathing gatekeeper: Mega Industries, how can I help you?

You: Ms. Big please.

Fire breathing gatekeeper: What is this regarding? Is she expecting your call? Let me take a message.

You: How about this? We do an awful lot of this. Work with companies like A, B and C. Produced results like specific example A and specific example B. I have what we do and the results produced for other companies on a one-page fax (or you could use Email but I prefer fax.) I’d like to meet with Ms. Big. Why don’t I send that to you to share with her? I’ll call you back in 2 days and you can tell me whether Ms. Big wishes to meet or there is some other next step. That way, I won’t keep bugging you.

Fire breathing gatekeeper: OK.

Did we purposely run into a brick wall again by asking the gatekeeper to put us through? No.
Did we ask the gatekeeper to sell us when they are ill equipped to do so? No.

You keep control of the process.
You avoid all the low-probability dead end behaviors.
You enabled the gatekeeper to sell your next step by delivery of your carefully crafted credibility and benefit-laden curiosity arousing fax (or Email).

You call back and get a yes or no. You will either book it or move on. Next.

Now there is much more nuance and detail to this. Covered in detail in the Setting Sales Appointments Club.

But back to the group I worked with recently.
After the presentation I had a chance to observe/listen in for quite awhile. Virtually all of the conversations they did have with decision-makers did not involve a gatekeeper putting them through.
All of the requests to gatekeepers to connect them to their target were dead-ends.
So why keep doing it?

Do what works.
Not what you hope will work.
Not what you feel comfortable with and want to work.
Most importantly, don’t do what most others say you should do. You are guaranteed to fail.

When I was smiling and dialing and personally set more than 2,000 high-level sales appointments I struggled to stay aligned with what worked. Not what I felt comfortable with, not what everyone else was doing. Those things didn’t work.

The wheel has been invented when it comes to appointment setting. Just do what those who get a lot of meetings with select decision-makers do and stop clinging to myths and low-probability self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors.

Keep smiling and dialing,
Scott Channell
Copyright 2011-2012 scott channell