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Gatekeepers Are No Trouble Anymore

Oct 9, 2007
Administrative assistants, or "gatekeepers," have gotten quite good at blocking access to the executives they serve. I don't know if they go to a school to learn how, but I just learned that they CAN earn an award for doing it well.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle, in recognition of Administrative Professionals Day, awarded the title of "Best Phone Screener" to Taryn Barker of Accenture. Taryn supports Craig Ramsey, the Managing Director of Accenture's Atlanta office. Anyone who wants to get to Craig Ramsey has to go through Taryn Barker first.

The Road to Results

Great phone screeners like Taryn frustrate salespeople, who can't get access to decision makers to present their offering and get the sale. But if salespeople are frustrated, it's their own fault. Their ill-prepared and untimely phone calls have wasted the time of so many executives, they all have a gate keeper now. Instead of regarding gatekeepers as obstacles that salespeople must bully past or sneak around, salespeople will get better results by considering them an asset instead of an adversary.

Taryn's job is to prioritize requests for the boss's time. Make it easy for the gatekeeper to do their job and you can make it easy on yourself to get the access you need. Use this three-step approach to improve your success with gate keepers.

Three Steps Through The Door

First, invite the gatekeeper to give you direction. Ask them for their opinion regarding the relevance to the executive of your request. Tell them you expect them to make a decision that will best serve their boss.

Next, ask the gate keeper to confirm your understanding of what the executive's big, current issues are, based on the research you've already done (you did research the executive, didn't you?). If the reason for your call is related to issues that are both urgent and important to the executive, your probability of gaining access is high.

Third, give the gatekeeper a reason to let you in. Share your well-defined and measurable value proposition with the gate keeper. Make this statement easy to understand and repeat, because they'll need to use it to explain to the executive why they granted you access.

Inspect Your Respect

When you use this three-step approach to make it easy for gatekeepers to do their job, everyone can win. As Craig Ramsey remarked about Taryn in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, "She is a gatekeeper. She protects my schedule, but she also knows when to swing that gate wide open because she has good judgment about what is important." Make sure your request demonstrates good judgment, and you're in.

It's really pretty simple: do your homework, then be up-front, honest, and respectful. When you make it clear to the gatekeeper how setting the appointment for you will help the executive, working with gatekeepers will be no trouble at all. Then the next person to get an award will be you. You'll be awarded the opportunity you were seeking.

Copyright 2007 Paul Johnson
About the Author
Paul Johnson works with selling organizations to convert sales trouble into double and triple digit performance breakthroughs. Visit http://ConsultativeSelling.com for a simple definition of Consultative Selling and more sales insights.
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