As a manager, you know your salespeople will always have trouble getting to C-levels and other influential executives. So you've got to help them with ideas, your example and a push.
The first rule of gatekeepers is “Always assume your reps will be blocked,” and with this in mind have discussions with each before upcoming sales calls and pursuits. It should go something like this.
"Who’s your prospect?
"Who will you be meeting or calling on today? "
"What will you be prepared to say when this person resists introducing you to others?
"Is your focus to move up and out? How will you do it?"
This set of questions has many benefits.
It reminds the sales person that his or her contact is not the final stop. Salespeople tend to stick with their main contacts for many reasons which we'll discuss in future articles.
It will signal your sales person that you expect him or her to keep moving up and out to those with more authority and influence.
It gets the sales person conscious of the fact that s/he is probably going to be blocked. If s/he hasn’t considered this possibility, your asking will certainly get him/her to consider it.
It encourages the sales person to prepare what he or she can do to avoid or handle the block if and when it happens.
Salespeople usually don't think about being blocked and usually feel comfortable going along with their main contacts. Therefore, as sales manager, you must coach them that no matter who their contact is - high level or in between - and no matter where they are in the sales cycle, they will be blocked, and they must be prepared to avoid or handle it. This applies to B2B sales, institutional sales, selling to doctors and other professionals, and even high price B2C items.
So let's get you as a manager prepared. Suppose you're reviewing prospects and sales opportunities with one of your salespeople.
What will you say?
What will you listen for?
Then, what suggestions will you give if your sales person argues there will not be a block, or when s/he fumbles on what to do if there is one?
See, it's important for you to be just as prepared as it is for your salespeople to be prepared. Take a moment and think about this. Write down your ideas. As you’ll see later, they will become very handy.
For example I was talking with a manager today and telling him about this article. He said, "That's all well and good Sam, but what should we do about voicemail?"
Well, if you think about it, voicemail is a block. So I asked him, "Before you make a phone call, do you think about what you're going to say, or do, if you get voicemail? What if you encounter an admin and she is resistant to put you through to her boss? What have you prepared to say?"
His comment, "Well Sam, I've been doing this for a long time and I figure out something to say in the moment,"
So I asked him, "Give me a few examples of what you would do knowing you were going to be blocked by the voicemail or an admin." He then quickly rattled off three or four things he would do.
So I told him, “Write these ideas down and keep them close by. Review them before you make your next call. Better yet, go over these with your salespeople so that they get prepared for the blocks they are sure to get via voicemails, admins or their contacts.”
Now let's apply this to you. You make sales calls either with your salespeople or for your own accounts. You know intuitively you'll frequently get blocked by your contact or an admin or the voicemail. Make a list of the things you might say and do in those situations. Again, preparation is the key. Having a list ready to look at is an easy way to get prepared. It’s an easy way to become more successful. And it's an easy way to coach your salespeople.
Salespeople tend to charge ahead until they get stopped. Then they try to figure out what to do on the spot. Some can pull it off and some can't. However even the best will be more successful if they stop and put their gatekeeper game plan together before they encounter the gatekeeper. The only way this will happen is if you help and encourage them get prepared. I guarantee they won't do it by themselves.
So share your ideas with them. Role-play with them. Follow-up with them after a call to see what success they had getting past the gatekeeper. Ask them what worked, and what they would consider doing differently in the future. Record the ones that worked to share with your other sales people.
This is one step along the way to becoming a great coach and sales manager. Once your people see you're serious and persistent they will start preparing their blocker strategies before they encounter the blockers. And, you know if they can prevent the block and can handle gatekeepers, they will be far more successful closing sales.
However, it starts with you, the manager. Practice what you’ll say to each of your sales people when you reviews prospects and forecasts. Write down some ideas to give them and keep adding ideas to it. If they see you’re prepared, they will get serious about getting themselves prepared.
And now I invite you to learn more.
Bonus Tip: FREE E-Book “Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers”. Just click this C-Level Relationship Selling Link Sam Manfer makes it easy for any sales person to be effective and feel comfortable connecting with and relationship selling C-Level leaders.
Sam Manfer is an expert sales person, entertaining key note speaker and author of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$, a book that gets C-Level and other influential decision-makers to meet with you and return voicemails. Sam makes it easy for any sales person to generate tons of quality leads, and become a 70% closer. Sign-Up for Sam’s FREE Advanced Sales Training Tips Ezine. sammanfer.com