Pushing Your Way (Nicely!) Past Gatekeepers

Call on the president.

Get to the influencers.

Sell to decision makers.

You’ve heard the message before and surely recognize its significance: If you want to get your business out of the commodity game, and into delivering higher margin, value-added solutions, you must find the people with the problems that need solving. Your sales people have to get past the gatekeepers and on to the people who can most benefit from your products or services.

But are your sales people truly successful at calling on decision makers?

And once they reach them, does your sales team know what to do?

All too often the answer to these questions is “no.” Many sales professionals (especially less experienced ones) are hesitant to call on decision makers. Fear or inexperience causes them to avoid approaching decision makers, and instead spend their time with gatekeepers—who ironically are the people that are often hardest to sell!

Which Door Should You Use?

An experienced sales trainer can certainly teach you many techniques for opening doors with decision makers. Before you reach for the doorknob, however, get prepared.

Target the right people. The first and most important step in reaching decision makers is knowing who you want to talk to. Often sales reps are pushed to call on the president, or some other “C” person (i.e., CEO, COO, CFO, etc.), but does this person really care about the solutions you offer?

Ideally, you should be targeting the highest-level person who will directly benefit from the value you can offer. The “right” person will vary greatly depending on the size of the company you are targeting.
• Target a large employer and you may have to deal with the C-suite, department heads and/or managers.
• Target small companies and the president should be on your list.

Once you’ve identified who you want to target (by name!), create a strategy for getting in the door. Here are three ideas:

The Front Door

Use a targeted, direct-marketing approach to capture the attention of the decision makers, including:
• direct mail
• telemarketing
• email marketing

…or a combination of these in your efforts. Ideally, your direct marketing should be highly tailored to each individual-with a message that matches the needs, wants and interests of the decision maker:
• If you’re selling to a manager, show how you can help save time, save money, or simplify his job.
• If you’re selling to a small business owner, show how you can increase profits.

The Side Door

Network, network, network. If you have established relationships in the company you’re targeting, start by asking these people for their assistance in providing background information about the decision maker you’re trying to reach. Better yet, ask for an introduction.

If you do not have established relationships within the company, find people outside the organization who do. This is where LinkedIn, professional associations, networking groups and community service groups become valuable. You might start with local chamber of commerce meetings. See who can help you meet someone inside the company you have targeted, and then once you’re inside, find someone who can help you get to the decision maker.

The Back Door

If you can’t get directly to the decision maker, and you can’t network your way there, consider partnering with someone who is already there. You might be able to strike up an alliance with another vendor who is working with the target company, or network with professional advisors who might see value in recommending your products or services.

Now what? – Learn How to Say “Hello”!

Congratulations! You’ve made it past the gatekeeper and have a meeting scheduled with the decision maker.

What’s the most important thing you should say?


Okay, this is a trick question. There is no one right answer, and that’s the point. The right thing to say will depend on the company and the decision maker you’re calling on. At BARQAR, when we talk to sales people, we encourage them to plan for sales calls using their “three minute MBA.”

What’s a three minute MBA?

The three minute MBA is our “secret formula” for unlocking the key to your prospect’s business. Would you like to know the formula? Here it is:

Revenue – Expense = Profit

Well, maybe this formula isn’t so secret. And perhaps it is a little basic. Regardless, it’s fundamental to sales success!

Customize R-E=P

The key to using this formula is to apply it correctly to the person you’re calling on. For example, if you’re calling on a small business owner, what does he care about most? Making more money. So if you can show how your products or services will increase profits, you’re much more likely to advance the sale.

And if you’re calling on a manager, what’s his top priority? It could be any number of things – from controlling costs and simplifying processes to increasing quality, speed, service quality or efficiency. Whatever his priorities are, you must be able to demonstrate how your products or services can help him achieve his business goals.

Successful conversations with decision makers begin with the decision maker’s business. You must understand the rational and emotional benefits that you are capable of delivering. As you ask questions to discover the decision maker’s challenges and opportunities, position your services by demonstrating how you will deliver the benefits the decision maker needs to overcome his challenges and realize his opportunities.

Keeping the Door Open

How often do you get a one call close? So what do your sales people do once the first call ends? Most sales people do an excellent job of concluding each call with an action step that advances the sale. They plan their next steps, gather needed information, and schedule follow-up. But most ignore one very valuable (and very easy) step – asking for permission to keep in-touch.

If your sales cycle is lengthy (i.e., it lasts more than a couple of weeks), you want to ensure that you keep your company top-of-mind until the sale is made. How often have you heard someone say, “Sorry, we just used XYZ company.

To minimize competitors’ opportunities for stealing business from under you, continue to regularly nurture prospects (and existing clients too) in between sales calls. Nurturing can be done via mail, email, phone, and/or social media. The goal is to have a plan to keep in-touch in a way that:
• adds value
• educates
• gently reminds people what you can do
• positions your organization as an authority, expert and valuable resource
• helps to strengthen your professional relationship

Tired of playing the commodity game?

Start selling solutions.

Help your sales people to get to the people with the problems to solve-the decision makers.
1. Do your homework first
– identify the right decision makers
– discover their MBA (ideally, before making any approach)
– know the value you can deliver (quantifiable if possible)
2. Plan to get in the door
– grab the decision maker’s attention – find a creative way to get the door open
– network
– partner
3. Keep the door open
– educate – teach decision makers how you can help
– add value- position yourself as an expert not a sales person
– build credibility- prove the value of the solution you can provide
– nurture relationships – stay top-of-mind between calls, until a decision is made

Change the game with BARQAR.

Need help opening doors or reaching key decision makers? BARQAR offers a full complement of digital and inbound marketing solutions to help you connect with the right people. Contact us to learn more about:
• Website development
• Social media & blogging services
• SEO solutions
• Comprehensive reputation management services

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