Can You Get past the Gatekeeper?

A Guest Article Posted by Garrett Hollander

You think gatekeepers live in a vacuum? All of the techniques you’ve used to bypass the gatekeeper in the past… they rarely work anymore.

I recently called on a CEO I met through a mutual acquaintance at Dreamforce and his gatekeeper, Maria, answered the phone. “What’s the purpose of your call?” she asked. I mentioned that the CEO and I had met at a conference and the name of the mutual friend who had introduced us.

She put me on hold… and then came back and said the CEO was unavailable. I left Maria with my contact details and figured I’d been blocked and that the CEO would scarcely remember my name, much less remember me from the message that Maria MIGHT place on his desk. Find out what happened at the end of the article.

I walked down the hall and talked to one of our own gatekeepers about how people get through to our CEO. What do they say? What did the ones that crashed and burned do wrong?

She cited some real-world experience for me. Apparently, cold callers have a habit of lying. She recounted that many claim they had already spoken to the CEO, which simply isn’t true. Some are arrogant and pushy, some are out-and-out offensive in their attempt to supersede her. Most callers, though, try to lay on the schmooze in a vain attempt at getting through to the CEO. Some call relentlessly, which has the opposite effect.

The overall impression I got in talking to our own gatekeeper is that she can detect a sham almost immediately. You’re not going to get away with pretending that you and the CEO are frat buddies.

So what happened with Maria? Maria’s boss called me back within the hour. He was interested to reconnect as we had some mutual interests. It was surprising. After he and I were through speaking, I thought about Maria and other admins that work tirelessly to protect their bosses from salesy people that might disrupt their day.

The moral of the story?

The keys to gaining access from the gatekeeper are these:

  1. Be honest. Even if you are calling cold, just be honest about why you are calling. Anything less starts the relationship on a bad foot. Adopt the mindset that gatekeepers are not your opponent; they’re important people in their organizations that empower executives to do their jobs. The secret to getting past them isn’t deceiving them.
  2. Get a referral if possible, or mention a specific connection. If you have had a connection with your target, mention it. Any common ground helps. The most effective connection is a referral from someone you both know. Perhaps you can speak to a member of the CEO’s staff and get a referral up the chain. Or you might look the target up on LinkedIn and see that you have mutual connections from whom you can ask a referral.

There really is no gimmick… and there’s no substitution for honesty and familiarity in the relationship-building process.

About Jeffrey Berson

40 years in and around the industry has made Insurance a part of my DNA. I have had the pleasure of working with and for some of the greatest minds in our industry. My "Bersonal" View is an attempt to capture some of the best ideas, the best concepts and the best practices in a way that can lead to success for others. It will certainly be my point of view, so please...don't take it "Bersonal".
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1 Response to Can You Get past the Gatekeeper?

  1. Roni Roslyn Berson, CLU, ChFC says:

    Great article as always, Jeff. Good advice!

    Love, Mom

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