The Gatekeeper Effect in Sales

There used to be a point in time when many products were sold at a door-to-door model. The salesmen knocked a lot of doors during the day, had a practiced and perfected pitch at the door and brought in new customers. That pitch to the gatekeeper at the door can make or break the sale. The gatekeeper effect in sales is a key area that needs to be mastered by every salesman.

Cut to the 21st century, everything has changed – advertising, products, marketing and sales yet there are gatekeepers who do their jobs perfectly – saving their bosses’ time.

In simple terms, “Gatekeeper” is an individual whose job is to prevent people from getting access to the decision maker. It may be the personal secretary or the receptionist or a personal assistant. If you are an ad, they are an ad-blocker.

Talk about Secretaries and not including Donna would be a grave mistake.

One piece of advice before you start reading further.

Never underestimate the power of the gatekeeper

It is important to first understand that they are humans too and are doing their job. Understanding this at a subconscious level will make sure the psychological barrier is removed. Let us look a few tips which will help you go past the gatekeepers and reach the decision maker.

1. Show you are an expert : 

The gatekeepers are great in understanding the body language. When you sound calm, informative, respectful and communicate clearly after articulating your thoughts, you will be seen as a senior or an expert in your domain. You will have their attention and they will be happy to get you some time with the decision maker.

2. Never bypass :

If you are planning to bypass the gatekeeper, please don’t. You might as well start back to the door as a move like that will be a very bad first impression and it’s pretty hard to go back to normal.

3. Build a relationship :

It is important to build a relationship with the gatekeeper as you will be meeting him / her every time you need to meet with the decision maker. Get to know their first name and address using the same during your calls or meetings. As mentioned earlier, it is important to understand it is just their job and you can be friends with them too. Get to know them, send a thank you card when the deal goes through (even otherwise), smile and build a relationship like you do with your leads.

The little things that you do will make a big difference and they will be your ally and help you whenever they can. This is important not just with gatekeepers but also with everyone at your clients’ place. For e.g When you are expecting a payment and if you have a good relationship with the finance team, your payments will be processed quickly. This is a totally normal human behavior to do something better for the people we like.

4. Don’t sell to the gatekeeper

It is not recommended to get too technical about your product / service as they hear many pitches and sales scripts from desperate salesmen everyday. Instead of selling your product / service, sell yourself and you may well be on your way to meet the decision maker.

5. Seek support from them

Ask and you will receive

If you require additional information about the decision maker that will make things easier and faster, the gatekeeper is the best person to ask. By picking their brains, you are showing your respect for their knowledge and they will definitely add value.

To sum it up – be confident, be yourself and build a relationship with the gatekeeper and good luck with the decision maker. If you have an interesting experience with a gatekeeper, please share it in comments.

May the odds be always in your favor.




08 comments on “The Gatekeeper Effect in Sales

  • Ceph Khan , Direct link to comment

    Excellent article man.

    I especially like the point where you speak about articulating your speech in a calm and orderly fashion.

    People definitely perceive you as an authority when you speak that way.

  • Ganesh Ramalingam , Direct link to comment

    Well written and nicely articulated. I call them as enablers! As you rightly mentioned to understanding their role will psyhcologically remove the barrier, my approach is always treating them as enablers or faciltators. This though has helped me in getting easy appointments every time I call a company. Most secretaries are good friends now.

    • Sundaresan Sekar , Direct link to comment

      Thanks for your feedback Ganesh. They are facilitators and having a good relationship with them really helps. Good luck.

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