Ask James Caan – Issue 121
Before I answer this week’s question, I’d just like to take the opportunity to wish the team at webrecuit good luck at tonight’s MARA awards ceremony.
webrecruit has been nominated for three prestigious awards: best social media strategy, best candidate experience and recruitment innovator. It marks an exciting opportunity for us to be recognised for something that we have striven to bring to the recruitment industry since webrecruit was established in 2001.
Now back to this week’s column, and I’m answering a question that I’m sure many of you can relate to if you’re involved in the sales or telemarketing industry – getting past the gatekeeper.
Take Cindy, for example. Working as an Account Manager for an IT solutions company, she is tasked with generating new business for the company.
Yet, when it comes to picking up the phone, she’s regularly faced with difficulties trying to get past a receptionist to speak to the decision maker. For Cindy, it’s reaching the Finance or IT Manager within a company.
‘I sometimes gain an e-mail address and I have amended my intro e-mail several times to get the best possible interest’.
‘I have had many years experience in sales and customer service roles, always doing very well, however this seems to be a very difficult thing to sell. Can you give me any advice?’
Cindy, for me, making a sales call involves detailed preparation and an enthusiasm for the product or service being sold. But even the most talented sales person can fail if he or she does not get past the gatekeeper.
Gatekeepers, such as receptionists and personal assistants, guard the decision makers of their business, and their time. As such, they are automatically assumed to be an impossible obstacle. But this is not the case, and there are many things you can do to increase your chances of connecting with decision makers.
When selling solutions, such as IT products, you need to ask yourself ‘Am I attempting to sell my products and services or am I trying to solve the customer’s problems?’
Today, if you want to improve your sales approach, you need to get into the mindset of what you can solve.
With this in mind, make a list of all the problems or potential problems you believe you can solve for your customer if they use your products. Keep this list at the forefront of your mind as you make the sales call and you will automatically start strengthening your approach.
When you speak to the receptionist or any other contact, you want to appear senior and knowledgeable. Research the company and get to know the prospect’s business before you make the call.
It goes without saying, but make sure you treat each gatekeeper with the courtesy and respect that you would when addressing the CEO. By building a relationship and rapport with them, you will help them want to help you. And the more respect you pay, the more likely they are to make you a higher priority.
Remember, whilst it will be their job to restrict interruptions to the decision maker’s daily routine, they do know a great deal of important information.
Use this to your advantage and check your facts. Ensure the person you want to speak to is the decision maker. Ask about their current pain points – what’s their biggest frustration? Is it best to leave a message with the receptionist or would the decision maker prefer a voicemail?
Start to build up a picture of them, as well as the decision maker and business to help hone your pitch. Where would your services see the most value added?
Buying today can be a risky business, but if you want to get past gatekeepers and persuade decision makers, the most persuasive way of transferring your ideas is through non-intrusive and open questions.
That way, you can gain unique insights to help structure your relationship and ultimately guide you to the decision maker.