Sales Buying Roles: Gatekeepers

RepVue Editorial Team
RepVue Editorial TeamDec 21, 2023

Understanding the sales buying roles is crucial for salespeople to effectively navigate the sales process and close deals. One key role in the sales process is the gatekeeper, who acts as an initial intermediary between a salesperson and the decision-maker or a key influencer within an organization.

Gatekeepers are responsible for screening who gets to connect with the decision-makers they work for. They may field calls for executives, be the first point-of-contact at a company’s physical office, or fulfill any other responsibilities to protect decision-makers’ time and capacity. Getting past the gatekeeper in sales is a common challenge, but building a relationship with them and providing them with valuable information can turn them into an ally for the salesperson.

Identifying and understanding the  gatekeepers in the sales process is crucial for sales success. By knowing who the gatekeeper is, salespeople can tailor their approach to best communicate with them and build a relationship. This can ultimately lead to a smoother sales process and a higher likelihood of closing a deal.

The Role of the Gatekeeper

A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to decision-makers within an organization. They act as an initial point of contact and filter out irrelevant information, ensuring that only important information reaches the decision-makers. Gatekeepers can be administrative assistants, receptionists, or any person who has the authority to screen incoming calls and emails.

Roles and Responsibilities

The gatekeeper’s primary responsibility is to protect the decision-makers’ time so they can focus on their core responsibilities. They may be responsible for screening sales calls and emails, scheduling appointments, and managing the decision-makers’ calendar. The gatekeeper may also be responsible for managing the decision-makers’ travel arrangements and expenses.

Influence in the Buying Process

The gatekeeper plays an important, and often overlooked role in the buying process. They have the power to either grant or deny access to the decision-makers. A salesperson who fails to build rapport with the gatekeeper may find it challenging to get past them and reach the decision-makers. By contrast, making an ally of the gatekeeper may increase the chances of closing a deal successfully.

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Engaging with the Gatekeeper

It’s essential for salespeople to know how to effectively engage with gatekeepers in order to increase their chances of success. 

Effective Communication Strategies

One of the most important aspects of engaging with gatekeepers is effective communication. Salespeople must be able to clearly articulate the value of their product or service and why it’s relevant to the decision-maker. Some effective communication strategies include:

  • Being respectful: Salespeople should be respectful of the gatekeeper’s time and position. They should avoid being pushy or aggressive and instead focus on building a positive relationship. This is probably the most important factor, and it has nothing to do with the specific solution that you’re trying to sell. If you engage with the gatekeeper directly, in a non-patronizing way, and treat them as a person who is worthy of your time and attention — as opposed to an obstacle in your way — you will be much more likely to be successful.
  • Tailoring the message: Salespeople should tailor their message to the specific needs and interests of the decision-maker. This can be done by doing research on the company and the decision-maker prior to the call.
  • Being concise: Gatekeepers are often busy and don’t have time for lengthy sales pitches. Therefore, salespeople should be able to clearly and concisely communicate the value of their product or service in a short amount of time.

Building Relationships

Building a positive relationship with the gatekeeper can be an effective way to increase the chances of connecting with the decision-maker. Some strategies for building relationships include:

  • Being personable: Salespeople should make an effort to be friendly and personable with the gatekeeper. This can be done by expressing genuine interest and kindness.
  • Providing value: Salespeople can build a positive relationship with the gatekeeper by providing them with valuable information or resources. For example, they could share industry insights or offer to send them a whitepaper on a relevant topic.
  • Following up: Salespeople should follow up with the gatekeeper after the initial call to thank them for their time and see if there are any additional questions or concerns they can address.

By using these effective communication strategies and building positive relationships with gatekeepers, salespeople can increase their chances of connecting with decision-makers and ultimately closing more deals.

Overcoming Gatekeeper Challenges

In some cases, gatekeepers can prove to be a significant obstacle to a salesperson. Here are some suggestions for overcoming challenges from gatekeepers. 

Identifying Obstacles

Before attempting to overcome gatekeeper challenges, sales professionals must first identify the specific obstacles they will be likely to face. 

Salespeople sometimes find that a  gatekeeper is reluctant to forward the salesperson’s message to the decision-maker. In such cases, salespeople must build a relationship with the gatekeeper and gain their trust. This can be achieved by showing genuine interest in the gatekeeper’s role and responsibilities, seeking their opinion and advice, and treating them with respect and integrity.

Another consideration is to involve the gatekeeper in the solution discussion so they have some context as to why your offering has the potential to bring significant value to the decision-maker and the organization in general. They’re more likely to work to help you if they feel like you’re bringing real value to the organization and their boss.

Tactical Approaches

To overcome gatekeeper challenges, sales professionals can use a variety of tactical approaches. 

One of the most effective approaches is to use referrals. Referrals from existing customers or business partners can help salespeople bypass gatekeepers and gain direct access to decision-makers.

Another approach is to use social media and other online resources to research the organization and the decision-makers. This can help salespeople identify the key decision-makers and their areas of interest, which can be used to tailor their message and increase the chances of getting past the gatekeeper to the decision-maker.

Finally, sales professionals can use persistence and creativity to overcome gatekeeper challenges. This can include using humor, sending personalized gifts, or finding other ways to stand out from the crowd and get noticed.

Gatekeeper challenges can be a significant challenge for a sales professional. However, by identifying the obstacles and using tactical approaches, salespeople can overcome these challenges and reach their target audience.

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