Turning Gatekeepers Into Allies

Sooner or later, every sales professional, job seeker, freelancer, entrepreneur, and employee needs to navigate the gatekeepers of life. They won’t help you unless they like you.

A “gatekeeper” is anyone who restricts entry to people you want to speak to, or who place obstacles in front of you.  Gatekeepers affect your ability to get to the right person in a variety of situations, such as:

  • A hiring manager during a job search;
  • A buyer or decision maker during a sale; or
  • Someone authorized approve a decision you need to have made.

Gatekeepers are found in any number of positions in an organization: HR support staff, administrative assistants to managers or executives, aides to a politician or elected official, or even individuals in management roles who are tasked with “managing” the flow of people wanting to speak with their boss.   Recognize that gatekeepers are expected to perform their job by restricting access to certain decision makers and following specific protocol for handling people who want to see or speak to the decision maker. 

You never know the level of influence a gatekeeper may have with the person you are trying to reach:

  • In a job search, a gatekeeper might routinely provide his or her impressions of candidates in order to get a sense of how candidates might interact with staff members.
  • In a selling situation, a gatekeeper might complain to his or her boss about a salesperson’s heavy-handed or rude approach.
  • An assistant might advise his or her supervisor that your request lacks merit or significance enough to warrant speaking directly to the supervisor.

In any event, it is never a good idea to create a negative impression with someone connected with the person you are trying to reach!

We recommend several effective practices for managing your relationships with gatekeepers:

  1. Never make an enemy of a gatekeeper. Doing so will have the same outcome as if you had made an enemy of the person the gatekeeper is protecting.
  2. Always treat gatekeepers with the utmost respect and courtesy. Stand out among the people with whom they interact by doing this and you will build an advocate.  Remember that they are doing their job and are likely getting a degree of “attitude” from many who want to speak with their boss.  When you treat them well, they take a positive interest in you.
  3. Ask the gatekeeper’s opinion. Most gatekeepers are well trained to respond to requests for help, and you may be surprised how helpful they can be if you’ve treated them well.
  4. Get to know others in the decision chain through networking and research on social networks like LinkedIn. Reach out to those contacts and see if they can become an advocate for you.
  5. Use the five magic words to which gatekeepers the world over are trained to respond: “Will you please help me?”
  6. Once you’ve successfully connected with the right person, make sure you speak positively of your experience with the gatekeeper. Kind words have a habit of getting back to gatekeepers, and when they do, you’ll have a friend the next time you call or visit.
  7. Should you get hired, make a sale, or begin some other kind of business association, continue to develop your relationship with the gatekeeper. They can often give you an insider’s perspective, advice, or insights you’d never get anywhere else.

Bottom line. Whenever you turn a gatekeeper into an ally, you build not only your network but your reputation.  Both will pay massive dividends sooner or later.

This article is based on principles taught in Boyer Management Group’s acclaimed Business-to-Business Sales Essentials sales development programs found at B2B and B2C Sales Essentials

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team’s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People™. This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team’s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials™ (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster™

I help leaders and aspiring leaders improve their performance and acumen, and sales and marketing professionals to become more productive and effective. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. We develop sales teams with our highly regarded B2B Sales Essentials™ and B2C Sales Essentials™ tailored sales curriculum. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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