You will encounter gatekeepers.
Even people with top-notch marketing and business development strategies designed to target their ideal clients occasionally find themselves stuck in a gatekeeper cycle.
It happens to the best of us… and it’s not always your fault.
Maybe you misread the situation and didn’t realize you were dealing with a gatekeeper until it was too late.
Maybe you met the gatekeeper because of how well your company is doing. You’ve effectively marketed your business and potential client is interested in what you have to offer. So they seek you out and send an RFP through procurement because that’s their process. Now, you’re dealing with their gatekeeper.
You didn’t try to build a relationship with this person (you know better!), but you’re in a gatekeeper cycle nonetheless.
Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for the lower margins, low-value, and impairment on future sales that come with a gatekeeper relationship.
But how do you get out of it?
It takes intentionality and creativity, but you can move past the gatekeeper. Here’s how:
Getting Past the Gatekeeper Before You Get Stuck
The quicker you can reach a decision maker, the easier it is to do so. Before you get stuck in a compromised relationship, use an effective qualification process and look for a pivot point.
This will move you away from the gatekeeper towards the decision maker so you can build a better business relationship from the beginning.
Use An Effective Qualification Process
A true gatekeeper will never meet your qualification process IF you’ve crafted your process well.
Develop a qualification process that ensures you’re speaking to the decision maker. If you can’t reach them right away, you’ll need to decide if the opportunity is worth going around the gatekeeper.
Find the Pivot Point
When you first make contact with the gatekeeper, there’s often a pivot point that surfaces.
This is a brief moment of opportunity to move from the gatekeeper into relationship with the decision maker. If you make that move quickly and succeed, you have no gatekeeper issue.
Unfortunately, we often engage with the gatekeeper, establish them as the point of contact, and try to move through the process through them… until we find we can’t get past them. We then realize we’ve missed our best opportunity for reaching the decision maker and feel stuck.
Getting Past the Gatekeeper After You’re Stuck
If you missed your pivot point, didn’t qualify the buyer well, or just decided to endure the gatekeeper because the deal is worth it, you still have a chance at moving past the gatekeeper.
At this point, I recommend using soft techniques. These approaches open the opportunity to speak to the decision maker while preserving your relationship with the gatekeeper in case you still need to work together.
Plus, these techniques help you expand a one-to-one relationship into a network between your companies.
Ask Other Experts To Join the Conversation
To move beyond the expertise of the gatekeeper, you need to move beyond your own expertise at the same time. If you’re an expert, the gatekeeper will assume they are too. You’ve established them as a peer.
In these situations, my favorite way to expand expertise is to say, “We need to talk about this element of the project. Here’s who I want to bring into that conversation from my company. Who needs to be in that conversation from your company?”
With this technique, you create expertise beyond your own so they’re allowed to create expertise beyond theirs.
Think about this in bow-tie terms. You’re trying to take the relationship from a single point of connection to a network of connections. You want to turn the bow-tie into a diamond by bringing more people into the relationship.
Who else can you bring into the conversation? If you’re willing to expand the conversation, hopefully they will reciprocate.
Ask Your Boss To Get Involved
If they’re not willing to bring another person to the table, it’s time to escalate past the gatekeeper. At this point, how do you move beyond them? As a salesperson, you don’t.
Instead, ask your boss to speak with their boss. This is the work-around for moving past the gatekeeper when they’re holding firm to their position. The details of completing the deal may still come back to you and the gatekeeper, so don’t poison the relationship.
But if you get your bosses to talk to each other, this gatekeeper relationship may turn into a more valuable situation.
When you see a gatekeeper, try to move past them ASAP. The key is always to bring more people to the table. Then, you can start working on the right deal instead of the packaged, commoditized, gatekeeper deal you find yourself stuck with now.