Problem: Sara was becoming increasingly frustrated in her efforts to reach the decision makers when she was prospecting. Time after time access was blocked by the gatekeepers and information gatherers. It often seemed like there was a conspiracy to keep her from speaking to the top-level people. She had tried various tactics, but nothing was working. Now her sales were suffering.
Analysis: Gatekeepers typically feel that an important part of their job is to insulate their boss from unwanted intrusions. Only important people are permitted to have access and salespeople are not considered important. As for the information gatherers, they feel they’ve been assigned an important job. It has two parts. First, they need to get as much information as possible from various vendors so the company can evaluate their options. Second, they’re supposed to keep those pesky salespeople away. These gatekeepers feel they’ve been entrusted with an important job plus they want to protect their turf, so some ego is involved here as well.
But the bottom line is that it all gets back to the negative attitude prospects have about salespeople and that can be summed up in just a few words. Salespeople are mainly concerned with selling something and typically bring little value to the situation. The prospect is thinking, “Let’s just get them to come in and answer our questions and then we’ll decide who has the best options.”
Solution: Obviously a different approach is needed. Here’s one that works. Ask a question they can’t answer. That’s right. Throw them a curve ball so they have to go elsewhere to get information. For example, ask the techie a non-technical question, such as, “What type of return on investment would the company need to justify this purchase?” Or ask an administrative person a technical question like, “Can you help me understand exactly how this software will interface with your existing system?”
The questions must be real and you need to have several that the person can’t answer so that he/she says, “Well, I’m not sure, Ms. Smith has that information.” You could then say, “Well, without this information, I’m afraid that I can’t be as responsive as I’d like to your requests. I’m concerned that I might give you information that might be inaccurate, and that would make you look bad. Does it make any sense for you to introduce me to Ms. Smith so that I can get this information first hand? Then I can be sure that I get the right information to you.”
If you’re having a tough time getting to the right person, try this tactic. Remember, the person asking the questions is the person who is in control.