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How To Get Past The Gate Keeper!

Aug 5, 2008
Getting in front of the right person is crucial to the success of any construction related business. The beginning and end of marketing for construction is found in "building the right relationships".

So here is the scenario we have all encountered:
You are facing an impenetrable fortress. There are guards on the main entrance and you cannot get through without a secret password which is changed on a regular basis. The person you want to see is on the other side of the reinforced wall and is rarely seen in public!

What does this remind you of? Yes, right! It's that BIG PERSON who makes the decisions about who gets on the tender list who is sitting at a big desk behind the wall. How do you get through? Perhaps the question to ask before you even reach the wall is: "Who do I call?" "Who is the decision maker?" "How do I find out the right person to speak to?"

It goes without saying that even trying to penetrate this wall is crazy without adequate research and preparation. Checking out the company website may reveal all, often giving a list of directors and management personnel along with their job titles. You may even get an email address or a direct phone line number, although that would be unlikely in the larger corporations. In a larger organization it may not be immediately apparent who is the decision maker dealing with your construction sector.

So where do you start?

I have found that once you start to dig, you can uncover the identity of the person you need to speak to even if it takes a few phone calls. This is where keeping notes on all your calls is essential. You can easily build a company profile and structure chart and it's often the first person you speak to i.e., the person on reception who will help you.

There are a few obvious things to understand before progressing to your final objective:

1. Large companies and corporations are made up of smaller, autonomous units with their own staff structure and management responsibilities and once you have established the key pecking order in one, it will be easier to uncover the next.

2. The 'gate keeper', the person who answers the phone, has been briefed to screen all calls coming in and may not mean to sound aggressive and unresponsive.

3. Unless you have something specific to say, don't bother to call.

4. Don't be disheartened if you get a negative reaction on the phone. If you work with telesales often, you will need to have a thick skin in order to cope on occasions. Remember, don't take it personally, unless you've gone out of your way to be discourteous, in which case, you deserve it!

If you are having difficulty tracking down the right person to speak to about a particular project, here are a few approaches that have worked for me:

1. As soon as the phone answers, say, "Hi! I have a question about doing business with your company. Can I ask you?" A surprised receptionist almost always agrees. Then say, "I want to send a short letter that introduces my company. Would that be okay?" The receptionist generally says this will be OK. You now
have two 'yes' answers! Finally say, "If I explain what we do, would you tell me who to address the letter to?" The response is almost always positive and you will get the persons name you need to contact.

2. If you are having difficulty finding out the right person to contact, often the Human Resources Department of major companies will help you out.

3. Another avenue would be to look at the Company's Annual Report which you find on a Google search on the internet. You will find key people listed and by contacting one of them, can usually find the right person.

4. A good way to build your database of important contacts would be through the trade press. Get names of people being interviewed in feature articles and check out who is writing about whom.

5. If you run high quality seminars on subjects of
interest to the professionals you would like to work with, 'Continuous Professional Development' events, this is a great way of meeting people and providing them with a service. Kudos for your company and great networking for all involved.

6. If you get to speak to a lower mortal in the organization, mention their name when calling the Big Guns! "I've just been speaking to Chris in your HR department and he said I should talk to you about..."

7. Sometimes talking to the Finance Director of a company and offering to save the company money, can get you a direct link with the top person.

Most importantly, don't give up! If you are polite, but persistent, you can normally reach the right person! It is hard work and a little discouraging at times, but once you have cracked it, it's worth it!
About the Author
Steve Flashman is a Marketing Consultant with a unique edge! He is a public speaker published author, recording artist, media broadcaster and communications expert.
Marketing For Construction
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