For years I have worked with sales professionals who strive to get around the Gatekeeper - that person at your prospective customer's company who guards their executive from unnecessary time with all sorts of things but most notably from salespeople.
Reps who try to avoid the dreaded gatekeepers of the business world say that you should "Call early or call late". I agree - do call early and late in an attempt to reach an executive buyer AND ALSO - don't shy away from building relationships with executive assistants and administrative assistants.
There are at least THREE reasons why it pays off to work with an EA or AA:
- EAs (Executive Assistants) and AAs (Administrative Assistants) are easy to reach. You do not have to do much tracking down to find them and you don't have to leave dozens of messages or spend time to strategize on how to get to them. In the world of calling buyers, it is an easy connection with a high payoff - assuming you have something of value to share.
- The EA or AA usually controls their boss' calendar. They know more about what's on it than the crazy busy executive himself or herself. Doesn't it make sense to win over the person who can get you on their boss' schedule?
- You get great practice talking with EAs and AAs using your best executive level conversation skills. Rather than only talking to execs, create many more high-level conversations sharing with their assistant why you think it is a good use of their boss' time to talk with you - the WIIFM factor. We all agree that when an assistant understands there is something of great value, they can actually become your ally and make it happen.
Yes - you could have an internal champion because of the relationship you build up with the EA.
In addition, you can learn:
- What your executive is focused on
- When the best time to reach them is
- What they like, dislike, or would want to hear
If an EA or AA really likes you, they will champion you to not only getting the appointment but even strategies toward closing the opportunity. I've seen or heard about this happening dozens of times in dozens of opportunities.
Just be sure you do not:
- Demean or diminish the role or value of the EA / AA.
- Call them a secretary - now that dates you! Secretaries have gone the way of the stewardess. Don't say it anymore if you do!
- Have a negative image of what a Gatekeeper is and instead align with them
My long time colleague Keith Rosen has some great tips in the video here that I encourage you to watch. It's a few short minutes and discusses how humor, for example, can be one way to win over an assistant and get that executive appointment locked down.
So do you work to dodge the EAs and AAs of the world, or do you find ways to team up with them to help their bosses? We say,
Don't Ditch the Gatekeeper - Align with him or her. Do this, and watch the results.
Lori Richardson is recognized on Forbes as one of the "Top 30 Social Sales Influencers" worldwide. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside sales teams in mid-sized companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the "Sales Ideas In A Minute" newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.