Identifying the B2B Gatekeeper | How to work with them

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How much revenue is your sales team losing from blocked calls and emails? If the gatekeeper slams the door shut, your pitch will never reach its destination.

But what if you could turn these repeated rejections into ringing endorsements? Gatekeepers are the key that unlocks deals, but only when you know how to turn them.

This article pulls back the curtain on the psychology of gatekeepers. You will learn proven steps to thaw gatekeeper resistance and develop allies who will go to bat for you. Discover how small gestures and subtle word choices make big differences. Building bridges with gatekeepers will become one of your most valuable competitive advantages.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Receptionists, administrative assistants, office managers, and executive assistants are common gatekeeper roles that control access to decision makers.
  • Gatekeepers serve as a buffer, screening inquiries to verify value before granting access to executives. Their main role is filtering irrelevant interruptions.
  • Gatekeepers directly influence what information reaches decision makers and whether you get meetings booked. Their endorsement provides a huge advantage.
  • Attempting to force your way past gatekeepers destroys credibility and trust. You’ll simply get blocked even more.
  • Research them ahead of time. Provide valuable info to them. Thank them for their help. Follow up consistently but not aggressively. Stay patient.
  • Common objections are the executive is too busy, it’s not a good time, or please just email materials instead of calling.
  • Accept their response respectfully. Ask when may be better to connect. Follow up with new information tied to executive interests. Stay persistent yet positive.
  • Building credibility takes time and consistent nurturing. It’s an ongoing investment, not a one-off interaction. Patience is required.
  • They’ll proactively schedule meetings, provide insider intel, endorse you to decision makers, and help move deals along.
  • Top sales pros make gatekeepers a top priority. The effort pays back exponentially in terms of new opportunities and closed deals.

What is a gatekeeper in B2B?

A gatekeeper in B2B is a person or role responsible for controlling access to decision-makers or key stakeholders within a company. They manage the flow of information, often acting as a filter to ensure only relevant communications reach higher-ups. Gatekeepers can be assistants, receptionists, or department heads.

In my 10 years working in B2B sales, I’ve interacted with my fair share of gatekeepers. These invaluable contacts are the first line of defense for executives – screening incoming sales inquiries, filtering calendars, and determining what information makes it to the decision makers.

Based on my experience, the gatekeeper serves as a buffer, protecting an executive’s time and filtering out any irrelevant or unnecessary interruptions. They want to verify I have something of value to offer before putting me through to the real VIP.

Some common gatekeeper titles I’ve encountered are receptionists, administrative assistants, office managers, and executive assistants. Though responsibilities vary, their core purpose is managing access. No one gets through without the gatekeeper’s approval.

For example, when I was selling a media platform to a Fortune 500 company, even getting 10 minutes of a CMO’s time required buttering up their executive assistant first. Laura controlled all external meetings. I learned coming off as overly pushy or salesy would cause her to block my calls immediately. But by providing valuable industry insights and building a relationship over time, she became an advocate who would fit me into packed calendars.

The gatekeeper and executive have a trusting relationship – so earning the gatekeeper’s endorsement is key. While it takes patience and effort, I’ve found turning gatekeepers into allies well worth the investment. With their backing, I’ve been able to open doors that would have otherwise stayed firmly shut.

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How to Build Relationships with Gatekeepers

In my experience, the gatekeeper is one of the most critical roles in the entire sales process. They hold the keys to the accounts we want access to most – controlling whether our calls and emails make it to the decision makers.

I learned this lesson early on when I was struggling to get our SaaS demo in front of a Director of Media at a large media network. His administrative assistant fielded all my cold outreach attempts, politely declining each time. I realized I couldn’t get to the decision-maker without her stamp of approval.

After reevaluating my approach, I started sending the gatekeeper occasional industry articles her boss would find valuable. I also thanked her for her time and followed up consistently but not too aggressively. Over a several weeks, I turned a roadblock into an ally. She eventually connected me directly with the Director for a demo.

Building meaningful relationships with gatekeepers provides a major competitive advantage in sales. They will go the extra mile only for contacts they know and trust. Since gatekeepers can directly influence whether you get meetings booked or emails forwarded along, having them in your corner is truly game-changing.

The time invested getting to know gatekeepers always pays off exponentially. In fact, I’ve seen up to a 30% increase in qualified demos after focusing more on gatekeeper relationships vs trying to force my way to decision-makers. They are without question one of the most important levers driving sales success.

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Strategies for Working with Gatekeepers

Over my years in B2B sales, I’ve refined my approach to build strong relationships with gatekeepers. Here are some key strategies that have worked well:

First, I always research the company and gatekeeper before ever reaching out. Understanding their role, responsibilities, and personality helps me tailor my outreach appropriately.

With our SaaS platform, I’ll send new gatekeeper contacts occasional industry articles or tips relevant to their executive’s role. This shows I’m not just pitching them but providing value.

I also make a point to thank gatekeepers for any time or help given, even if it’s just transferring me to voicemail. And I loop back with them on any outcome from booked meetings.

While persistence pays off, I never harass or try to trick gatekeepers. Building trust requires patience and playing the long game. Being pushy destroys credibility.

For example, when I wanted access to the VP of Sales at a retail company, I nurtured the relationship with his executive assistant for over 2 months before she connected us.

I offered to provide an overview document tailored to their sales challenges before ever pitching our platform. Giving gatekeepers valuable content to pass along helps influence the decision-makers they protect.

The gatekeeper relationship is an investment – not a one-off interaction. Taking the time to cultivate these essential contacts generates huge dividends down the road in terms of warm introductions, insider insights, and advocate endorsements. Their help opening doors is invaluable to sales success.

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How to Overcome Common Gatekeeper Objections

In my cold outreach, I’ve encountered all kinds of resistance from gatekeepers. Their job is to weed out unworthy sales inquiries, so objections are inevitable. Here are some of the most common I’ve faced and how I work to overcome them:

One of the biggest obstacles is “The executive is too busy to meet right now.” I never challenge or question how packed their calendar is. Instead, I’ll ask if there might be a better time in the future to connect or a specific date I should follow up. This shows respect for their time.

With DeckLinks, I’ve found sending new information or industry developments related to the executive’s role sometimes prompts the gatekeeper to reopen the door after initially saying it’s not a good time.

When told “Please just email your materials,” I will still send a video PDF overview but call again when I see the decision-maker engages with my sales collateral. This persistent but friendly approach has gotten some hard-line gatekeepers to eventually take my call and pass me along.

The key with objections is maintaining a positive, helpful tone. I never argue or try to force my way past a gatekeeper’s boundaries. Building credibility with them is about consistency and value over time, not any single interaction.

With particularly protective gatekeepers, it may take 5+ touchpoints before getting to an executive. So I look at it as an ongoing nurturing process, not throwing in the towel at the first “no.” Their job is to be cautious, so patience and empathy is key.

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Custom branding
Showcase your brand.
Video narrations
Easily video-narrate sales presentations or proposals when needed (otherwise video is optional). Redo slide if you made a mistake. Use built-in teleprompter to record longer videos.

Data rooms
Attach any supporting files and links. Make it easy for your prospects and clients to find the right information quickly.

Company profiles
Create company profiles with custom banners and info-packages tailored to different industries.
Contact details
Show your contact info easily accessible by your prospects and clients.
Custom CTAs
Add custom CTAs to drive prospects or clients to your calendar, sign up form, etc.
Engagement analytics
See how prospects and clients interact with your PDFs.

Feedback and Reactions
Collect feedback from prospects and clients. Feedback and reactions are not publicly visible.
Share PDFs
Share any existing PDF presentations and documents.
Live links
Share with a single link. Update files even after sharing your link. Get notified when your PDF is viewed. Turn off access anytime.

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Importance of Gatekeepers in B2B Sales

Through hard-won experience across my sales career, I’ve seen firsthand the immense value of cultivating strong gatekeeper relationships. While it’s easy to get frustrated by their protective stance, gatekeepers are simply doing their job. Taking the time to build rapport and trust will transform them into invaluable allies.

As discussed, gatekeepers directly control access to those high-value accounts and decision makers every salesperson aims for. When gatekeepers go from roadblocks to advocates, they will proactively schedule meetings, provide insider intel, and endorse you to move deals along.

Don’t underestimate or overlook these contacts. Any seasoned sales pro knows gatekeepers make all the difference in creating new opportunities. The effort invested in nurturing these relationships pays back tenfold in terms of warm introductions, expanded networks, and closed deals.

Next time you’re tempted to get pushy with a gatekeeper, remember they hold the keys to your success. With the right approach of helpfulness, patience, and persistence, you can turn even the toughest gatekeepers into partners guiding you straight to the top. Prioritize getting gatekeepers in your corner, and you’ll be amazed at the doors that open.

About the Author

Our content team of sales, lead generation, and marketing experts provides industry-leading thought leadership on B2B sales and marketing, lead nurturing, and sales enablement strategies. With decades of combined C-suite and VP-level experience, we deliver actionable B2B sales and marketing content that gives B2B companies a competitive advantage. Our proven insights on lead management, conversion rate and sales optimization, sales productivity, and tech stack empower companies to increase revenue growth and ROI.

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