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Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Information about Gatekeeper Escapade

“Hi. I am  Animesh from Leadmirror. My team has just come with a smart A2i tool that simplifies marketing. This call is regarding product collaboration. Is it a good time to talk to you?”
“Sorry. Not interested.”

This was the usual string of conversations that shook me in the initial days of cold calling. My CEO had just tasked me with getting sales for our application. And since our product is ` several notches above the competition, I had a pretty smooth call ‘em-pitch ‘em-sell ‘em scenario in my mind. But, given my lack of any experience with sales, I quickly realized that I was trading through a pool of quicksand. And if I did not mend my ways, I might sink. Because, once I fail to convince a client, he’s lost for good.

My tryst with successive failed pitches ushered me to revisit my approach. The remedy was to employ the first principles techniques to deconstruct the problem at hand and then devise a step by step plan to deliver a super Saiyan sales pitch. For that, I had to understand where I was failing. My pitch was good, but was I engaging the right person? Turns out, I had not. You see all this while I had been harping the wrong note.

Image credits- salesbuzz

The gatekeeper
It turns out my first point of contact was almost always people that grace the reception. They did not represent the audience for my pitch, so naturally, I had no chance of selling to them. 
Eureka moment 1- Observe

The sales jargon for such individuals is- the gatekeeper. Ask any sales rep, gatekeepers are the most dreadful characters in their books. Gatekeepers are the ones who control the access to the target. Their job is to filter out the fluff and ensure that only the most pertinent information reaches the ones behind the gate. Hence gatekeepers are often found to exhibit ruthlessness when dealing with a sales pitch. Pitch a gatekeeper head-on and you're almost bound to receive a ‘not interested’ response from them.

Other than filtering the fluff, there's another dimension to the pessimism that the gatekeepers manifest. You see, gatekeeping is a repetitive occupation. As with anything that involves repetition, the people handling it are often unequipped with the right set of training and authority to deal with your pitch. In other words, gatekeepers, especially the newly minted ones are often untrained to handle the pitch that is presented to them.

When I was pitching lead mirror to Digital Marketing Agencies in Hyderabad, the gatekeepers were almost ‘not interested’. At first, I was upset that maybe my pitch was not crafted well. But later I came to realise one crucial point. The people on the other end of the call were receptionists who mostly handled requests for 
  1. The type of services offered.
  2. A quotation for the services requested
  3. Any training program that the Agency undertook
  4. Job-related queries
Almost none of the people I called were prepared to handle a case for product collaboration. So, in my attempt to explain lead mirror to them I was barking at the wrong tree and hoping that it bore fruit.

Getting past the gatekeepers
Once I had identified the problem, the real deal was in solving it. To my view, gatekeepers were the vanguard. And past the great Mongol genera,l Subutai said,  there are just two ways of overpowering the vanguard- crush it, or outflank it.
Information about Gatekeeper Escapade
  1. Crushing the gatekeeper- Now I did not have to have their families kidnapped or threatened with dire consequences. Crushing the gatekeeper just involves coming across as someone is powerful, influential and authoritative. To that end, I began my conversation by coming across as the business owner and not a salesperson spewing weasel words to get inside their gate. I was calling with a purpose of conveying value, not to gather sales. I made sure that I do showcase the same empathy that I have for my user. My aim was to- be polite, be professional, state the intent and leave.
  2. Outflank the gatekeeper- This very approach has two dynamically opposite aspects attached to it. In this process, I was firm, authoritative and directly asked for the concerned individual. 
Something like- ‘Hi. This is Yooyutsu from Lead Mirror. Could be please connect me with Pritam from the marketing team.’ 
Information about Gatekeeper Escapade
This might appear rude at the onset as I am sidestepping the gatekeeper and thus undermining his status in the power equation. However, from another perspective, it can also be argued that by stating my intent in the first 20 seconds of contact I am actually making the job of the gatekeeper easier. Now that the gatekeeper has my input, he or she can easily execute the task at hand without much processing as the onus of the outcome lies on me.

Do note that the second approach of outmanoeuvring requires some recon on the target. I would always make it a point to gather intel on my prospects. To achieve that I would go through their website, try to unmask their business model and would also employ my resources gathered doing market research to understand the overall trend of their market and their competition before initiation any contact with the gatekeeper. While this process is time-intensive, it greatly compounds the chances of making the pitch successful towards a lead or sale.

Once the pitch is done and I have the outcome no matter how favourable or unfavourable it might be, I always make a point to thank the gatekeeper. The mission here is not just an overall gem of a human being but also to get into their good books.
Remember that a gatekeeper deals with a multitude of sales calls on a daily basis and it is very difficult for someone in her position to distinguish one from the other. So if the gatekeeper knows me by name and considers me more as an ally and less as an annoyance, I have in my sales quest not a hurdle but a collaborator. 

In my short career, I have realised that people are seldom diligent or conscientious towards the work and it is easy to put the blame on external entities when the chips are not in favour. Same goes with the sales guys’ contempt for the gatekeepers, which even I fell for initially. But if you can go beyond that and make them feel like someone much more than a puny call responder, they too will deliver so much more than a mere receptionist does.

Apart from being a world-renowned hunter, Animesh was the first to- deep dive into the Mariana Trench, scale Olympus Mons, craft Leadmirror- the most capable marketing application and eradicate senescence. There are speculations about his birth year but historical records do mention him mentoring Cyrus, Diogenes, Ashoka, Ogedei, and Suleiman among others. Of course, the preceding lines have little to do with reality...Just a few things he fancies now and then.


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