I spent the first 12 years of my career being the "gatekeeper" for CEO`s and presidents of mid sized firms. The biggest part of my job was to manage the time of a very busy executive. I was regularly contacted by sales people who insisted on speaking to the president. It is rare that the president or CEO is the person you wish to speak with. I was always more helpful to those people who approached me as a person, explained their service or product and asked who they should speak with.
The executive assistant to the president of a company is a wealth of knowledge. They know the ins and outs of almost any department in the company. Just another perspective from the other side...
What you`ve written about in your post is exactly the reason why I wrote my book, "Testosterone-Free Marketing." You see, part of this is the fact that yes, indeed you need a strategy to get past the gatekeeper - but the other part of the equation in this whole scenario is how you`re feeling about the whole thing and the fact that you don`t see yourself as a sales person. I mentor women five days a week who are in their own businesses and suddenly find themselves in the situation where they have to sell and they have come across as more strong than they`re naturally comfortable with. And quite honestly it makes them really uncomfortable - just like it`s making you feel.
Millions of women out there in the US were raised being told that to try to sell or persuade is not nice or ladylike. And that message may even be on a subconscious level. But it means that we`re more likely to back down and it also means that we`re less likely to get what we want in our businesses.
It may appear to some people that we`re not as dedicated or serious about our businesses - but it`s not true. It just means that we were raised with a certain code of behavior that makes selling and getting past the gatekeeper very uncomfortable - so much so that sometimes it even creates stress for us.
We have awesome relationship building skills and wonderful abilities to "read" people and situations but some women lack when it comes to leading and directing a conversation - and that`s the first thing you really have to be willing to do to sell anything - including getting past the gatekeeper.
All the best,
Denise Michaels, Author, "Testosterone-Free Marketing"
Visit me online at http://www.MentoringwithDenise.com
I was a gatekeeper for too many years to count before starting my Virtual Assistance practice... and would like to offer the some suggestions that worked with me:
Treat the person as a person. As CraigL and Kindra both said... it is the job of the EA to protect their boss, help them manage their time and weed out the time-busters. Bribing them, smoozing them and otherwise patronizing them is the fastest way to be shut down.
Short story: I was talking with a very pushy, but disarming, salesperson who wanted access to my boss, the CEO. After the second call, I received a dozen roses and a large box of chocolate with some hokey note about how grateful he was to "Dave`s girl" for passing on the information and how he hoped I would get him a meeting. The most offensive part of this was his lack of respect for me as a professional EA. My boss was going to take the meeting based on the information I collected and presented, but the attempt at bribing me to do so was so "good ole boy" that even the CEO told him how offended he was.
So, talk to the gatekeeper as you would the exec your trying to get to. Even if you`re eventually turned away, they will have the information to pass on to the person who you really need to see, and you will have more success because senior execs do rely on their EAs to use their own judgment for most everything. And, Kindra is right when she says the EA is the most knowledgeable person in the company.
I used to work in a large warehousing operation. The warehouse manager handled all the purchasing of replacement stock and received daily visits from vendor reps. One day, a new sales rep walked in with a box of donuts. He was also very rude to the warehouse employee at the front desk.
Unbeknownst to the rep, the warehouse manager was standing nearby. He had been working in the back part of the warehouse and was on his way back to his office. He walked over to the sales rep and asked if he could be of assistance. The sales rep, assuming he was talking to yet another underling, was again quite rude. It was at this point that our manager introduced himself to the sales rep.
The sales rep appeared noticeably upset, but still offered the donuts to our manager. Our manager then took the donuts, gave them to our receptionist and escorted the salesman out the front door. He then suggested the salesman rethink his approach on his way to his next customer.
I’ve always remember this when I have to call on companies. First, I call the business and ask for the receptionist assistance in learning who I need to talk to. I then leave a message asking if this person can spear time to discuss my product line. If I have to make a cold call, I asked the receptionist if it would be a problem to leave my business card and catalog for the buyer. I then call a few days latter to set up a meeting.
I have had the most success with just being upfront and honest. I believe in my products and that comes across in my calls. Try coming across this way: People love a good story, ask that person for their help, make their day, ask them what it takes to get in the door. BE SINCERE
Hi-----, my name is Rob and I was hoping you could help me gather some information I am needing, I know you are busy but do you have a moment? Thanks I appreciate it. I have this ----- and it seems to fit nicely with what you do. I am sure it could be of benefit, who would I need to speak with............. you have been such a huge help, thanks again and have a wonderfull day.
Then call back after hours and leave that Gatekeeper a message thanking them again.
But those sweet volunteer ladies are the people who have the name of the person you need to speak to, the buyer. I`m surprised you weren`t given the name when you asked for it but maybe you just got their one cranky volunteer. Call back another day, another time & I bet you`ll get a volunteer who will provide the name, give the buyer`s extension number, etc. etc.
My advice is to always jot down the name & any info you gather from the receptionist. It may be a bunch of calls until you finally reach the person you need to speak with & it`s going to go much faster if you get the receptionist in your corner.