When you make a sales call, your first contact point probably can’t sign off on the pitch. Instead, you will meet employees who answer calls for decision-makers―these are gatekeepers.
Gatekeepers are not your enemy. They are valuable contacts who possess information, influence, and contacts that can open doors for you. A gatekeeper is close to a decision-maker. Gatekeepers know the prospect’s pain points, how decisions are made, and what solutions a company has tried.
Getting Past the Gatekeeper in Sales
It’s certainly possible to sidestep the gatekeeper in sales. And you do want to get past them.
Most importantly, do not pitch a gatekeeper. The moment you are identified as sales, the chances of talking to a decision-maker crash. Assistants are trained not to transfer a salesperson to executives, so identify yourself but keep it brief.
How to Quickly Bypass a Gatekeeper
By simply asking to speak with a decision-maker, sometimes you can get exactly where you need to be. Do some research or consult your network to have an idea of who the decision-maker is in a company before trying this one:
“Hello, I’m [your name] from [your company]. Can you please connect me with [decision maker’s name] please?”
Be polite. Don’t brush someone off. Instead, respect the gatekeeper who has the information you need and perhaps even influence. Also, be realistic. A busy CEO probably won’t take your call, but another decision-maker might.
Another angle is just asking for what you need:
“Hey there, this is [your name] with [your company], and I need some assistance.”
The gatekeeper will offer help, and you ask for the person who handles the area related to selling your product. Ask to be transferred directly, and if not, now know who to contact next.
How to Find Decision Makers in a Company
Most gatekeepers will ask for more information about why you are calling. That is normal, but remember, don’t pitch yet. Be open about what you are selling, where you are from, and who you are―just keep it short!
You want to avoid being interrogated by a gatekeeper. Don’t hide who you are, but ask your own questions and constantly harvest information. Examples of questions are where the gatekeeper stands in the decision-making process, pain points, or other solutions the company has tried.
Mapping An Organization for Sales
As you gather more information, it becomes clear that the sales decision-making process within an organization can be complex. Sales aren’t just about pitching CEOs. Research conducted by Gartner clearly shows that closing a deal is not only about selling to one decision-maker.
So how do you do this effectively? As you establish more contact points, you build a map. Create a flow chart of who reports to whom, who are decision-makers, and who has influence in favor or against your sale.
Understanding how all these relationships play out can be pretty complex. But like using a decision flowchart, you can create a visual representation. A lot of flowchart software solutions are available online, but whiteboards and sticky notes will work great too.
To build a map, add the people in an organization, their roles, and priorities. Create a hierarchy and draw lines to establish relationships. With this map, the pathway will be clear and easily understood by you and your whole team.
Roles Within the B2B SaaS Sales Decision-Making Process
When mapping an organization, your top priority is to identify decision-makers. But sometimes, it’s not as simple as just asking. You will have to investigate.
As part of your SaaS B2B sale cycle, you establish multiple connections, you need to qualify people in the organization to understand their role. This doesn’t mean asking everyone, “are you the decision-maker?” Most of them aren’t, many want to be, and you should make everyone you talk to feel valued. Be interested in their pain points, day-to-day struggles, and how the business works.
People who feel valued will share information about decision-makers. People also can become invested in decisions that affect their day-to-day life. Instead of only focusing on decision-makers, look for and learn to utilize all players in an organization.
You want to pitch to this person. It may be the CEO, or perhaps someone else who deals with SaaS solutions like the one you offer. Make sure that you’re prepared to present your solution in the best way possible, because you may not have a second chance.
The buyer of your product will have relationships with influencers. An influencer is someone who has the power to influence a decision-maker. These might be people using your product or perhaps assigned to research your offer to weigh the benefits and costs.
An influencer isn’t a decision-maker but is someone in contact with who you need to sign off. You need to qualify them to see how much influence they have in decision-making processes. Ask questions like:
“How does the decision-making process work?”
“Who else would be affected by [product’s impact]?”
“What is your role in the decision-making process? Can you make recommendations?”
You should give influencers the pitch, and if they are excited about your product, you can even provide them with more information to help your case.
Campions are influencers far more invested in your product. They are your allies and will fight for your cause. They might use your product daily and understand the benefits. The sooner you can identify a champion, the better.
If you have a champion, give them information to relay to decision-makers or other influencers. The more resources you can provide a champion, the better. Give them anything they need―if they don’t have time to write a memo, do it for them. Make it easy for them to spread the word.
Not all of your contact points will be allies. Blockers will stop the process from moving forward. Unfortunately, these people don’t reply to emails and calls or might even intentionally prevent you from making a sale.
Blockers are inevitable, but they are only a single person in an organization. Understanding if you are dealing with a blocker needs to be done quickly. If you are dealing with a blocker, you need to get creative. Some ideas are:
- Find a new contact – if your blocker is your only contact, use Linkedin to locate others, try different phone numbers for the company, or even show up at the office.
- Get Information – your blocker might even provide you with a new contact, pain points, or insights into how decisions are made.
- Don’t try to convert – just get what you can from the interactions and move on.
Another pitfall is the self-proclaimed decision-maker. These are people who will make you think they have the authority to push something through when they don’t.
Like any contact, a self-proclaimed decision-maker should be treated respectfully. They may have influence and might be able to give you insights into their organization.
Be sure to verify people’s roles by looking beyond their own words and checking with other people within the company as well, particularly if someone’s influence doesn’t seem to be moving sales forward.
Takeaway: Gatekeepers and Decision Makers
You might be able to get past gatekeepers to decision-makers smoothly. But always be ready for a longer journey.
Prepare to map out an organization. Find out who can close the deal with you. Be diligent in qualifying everyone you meet to determine their influence within an organization and whether they are on your side!
And remember, as you navigate the many personalities and perspectives in a company, every contact point (even a blocker!) gives you insight into how a company works. Be polite, ask questions, make people feel valued, and when the moment comes to close your deal, you will find yourself with all the allies you need.