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    20 Replies Latest reply on Nov 5, 2008 5:02 AM by SpartanWarior

    courting gatekeepers

    promoqueen Newbie
      I'm a late bloomer, so time is of the essence! After years of entrepreneurial, promotions and event planning careers, I'm now pulling it all together to embark on a new career in promotional advertising. Yes, it's pens, mugs and t-shirts -- but much more! I'm not approaching this as just a purveyer of product, but more as customized promotional ad campaigns that provide business solutions. But getting established with follow through orders has been far more difficult than I anticipated. A friend in the business for over twenty years, said when he started all that he had to do was show up with a catalog and write up the deal. Now there is internet competition. I try to tell people that the advantage of using someone local is that they get ME! My ideas. My experience. My recommendations. My navigating the research, ordering and customer service landmines! My trial and error experience with qualifying only the best and more reliable vendors. But I find the mindset of gatekeepers is often price and price alone. They often appear to make a game out of piece pricing my hard-fought for ideas over the internet. I feel if ever I could be heard out by the actual decision makers, my contribution would be valued. But the lower level employee seems to be enemy number one. How can I educate that person, gain their respect and trust, and have my full program presented to the decision maker? I have thought about presenting incentive programs for the gatekeepers. Even an email newsletter, educating wanna-be decision makers to think "like the big boys." Anyone have any good ideas how to engage the gatekeepers in the process of getting through to the decision makers?
        • Re: courting gatekeepers
          LUCKIEST Guide

          First of all, welcome to this website. I ama SCORE Counselor and SCORE helps people in business FREE.
          SCORE suggests you develop a Business and Marketing Plan.
          Where are you located?? You talk about using someone local. This website loves the word FREE.
          I used it for SCORE. You have to use it in your Marketing. FREE Sells. FREE courts the gatekeepers.
          However do not give away the business. There is a fine line. Do you have a business name??
          When you market "think outside the box". 2 quick examples. Talk to your local newspaper and get
          a story about you and what you are doing to help (SOMETHING) in town. Help the library, the firehouse,
          the local ball team. You get the idea. Story with FREE advertising.
          Another Sponser the local boys or girls team. Free uniforms with your company name running all
          over town. This is just the start. Stay tuned

            • Re: courting gatekeepers
              promoqueen Newbie
              Thank you for your ideas!

              I'm here in Richmond -- Rennie's Advertising Ideas. I'm not the owner -- but this is a certified woman-owned business with a 50-year history in Richmond, owned by Alice Clark. I like the idea of "FREE" incentives to motivate sales. With promotional products, we have thousands of resources of products which may be branded with logos, slogans and any message my customers want -- and I may use the same resources to promote myself. I had an idea for helping new small businesses get a start with promoting their businesses and came up with the slogan, "I'm Campaigning for YOUR Success!!" I'm working on that and on how I might get information into the hands of the start-up business owner.

              I have also thought of providing Free product samples/giveaways at Administrative Asst. and HR associations monthly local meetings, along with a some type of coupon as incentive, or maybe a FREE GIFT. I will think about how "FREE" comes to play. perhaps, "FREE AD CAMPAIGN"? Which is what makes us different -- we don't just sell stuff -- we put a whole plan together and match an idea to a product. Trying to think of an incentive for using my services, rather than just playing the price wars game with people. I don't have time to play that game and my ideas are too time consuming to be given away and price matched away after I've spent time and effort trying problem solving for someone. I don't think the gatekeepers appreciate the level of thought and the problem solving process that goes into coming up with a plan and a product that promotes their event message. But my challenge is to motivate them to give me a chance, so my ideas may get to the visionaries and creative teams of the company or organizations. There I believe I will be received and appreciated. I hope I don't sound too harsh on the gatekeepers. I respect them, I just am looking for tools to motivate them.
            • Re: courting gatekeepers
              LUCKIEST Guide
              h3. 6 Steps to Small Business Success

              1. Start Smart
              2. Plan Ahead
              3. Set up Systems
              4. Seek out Sales
              5. Aim for Growth
              6. Leverage Opportunities



              1. Start Smart.
              Identify a niche. Don't compete to be the lowest cost provider. Look
              for what makes your product or service unique and adds a special value
              for the client and charge for that value. Every business has many
              facets. Start with what you know and like; start a business that has
              meaning to you. Keep in mind that we don't know what the future holds,
              many of the jobs and businesses of tomorrow don't exist today. You can
              create your own success.


              Now is the time to dream. To start smart, you should like the idea of
              the business. The way to earn a good income and build wealth is by
              serving clients well, making their life better in some way-it's more
              than filling a need in the marketplace. To succeed you want to test the
              idea to make sure your potential clients like the idea too. Test your

              2. Plan Ahead.
              People often ask me why bother with a business plan? Look at the
              lottery as an example. You may get lucky and get the winning ticket,
              but the odds are against you when you rely on random chance. I'm a risk
              taker...but not that much, minimize the risk of going into business and
              maximize your potential for success. Take the time to write a plan of
              how you get from point A to point B. A plan gives you a clear future
              focus and increases your chances of success.


              The first rule of a start-up is put some of your own money in the
              business. As the owner you must be willing to capitalize the business.
              The second rule is put as little of your own money as possible in the
              business. Prepare your plan and look for funding for your business from
              multiple sources, which can include a business loan or business line of


              Don't go it alone. Plan ahead now to build your team. Your team may
              include a CPA and an attorney that you work with as needed. Add a
              mentor from your industry and get a SCORE mentor to help you plan for
              success. No one has all the answers. You get more ideas and information
              by building a success, support team that can help you plan ahead.

              3. Set up Systems.
              The most basic system every business should have is a good financial
              system. Ask yourself how am I going to generate enough income to
              support myself and my family. Begin here. Put together a personal
              budget, so you know what it costs you to live. Now, you can move on to
              the business budget and sales planning, so you can see how many sales
              you need to break even and make a profit. The start-up expense plan,
              operating budget and your accounting software are vital to your



              4. Seek out Sales.
              The daunting question is how do you go about seeking out your first
              sale. Recognize that since you don't have a big ad budget to be seen by
              everyone, you need to target a niche and get connected in your market
              community, be it local, regional or national. You need other people
              selling for you-not employees-goodwill referrals. Get out and talk to
              as many people as you can. Join organizations that would have clients
              for your product or service. Become a visible part of your market, and
              then ask for the sale. You begin the sales process with people that you
              know. Yes, it's okay to start with friends and family as your first
              customers, and then broaden from there.



              5. Aim for Growth.
              The basic tenant of creating a company is that you own the company. You
              are not just creating a job for yourself. It's less risk and less
              investment to get a job. Building a business is creating a company that
              is more than the job itself. Think about the future. How large do you
              want the company to be in terms of sales, net profit and employees?
              Your answer to each of these questions will influence how you grow.
              There are varying costs and profits associated with growth. It's
              important to make a deliberate choice early about how you want to grow
              your company.


              6. Leverage Opportunities.
              Good luck. Good fortune. Good timing. All play a part in business. As a
              business owner, be very clear about your core focus for the business
              and how it serves clients. Your core business is what pays the bills.
              Then, as an entrepreneur you are about opportunity. When you see a
              potential opportunity or stroke of luck measure it against your core
              business focus. Good fortune is great, when it matches your vision for
              the business. Always consider if a good opportunity is the right fit
              for your business. If something looks great, but it's not in sync with
              your long-term plan and budget, think carefully before committing your
              company's resources.

              • Re: courting gatekeepers
                CEO Space Scout

                Welcome to the forum.

                I would suggest you join the Chamber of Commerce and therefore you are talking to the owners already.

                And there was a book that was a great training for this type of sales. Market Outragously. It is about
                making yourself stand out.

                I've made it a habit in all my business career that I always talk to and deal with the top person.

                Good Luck.

                • Re: courting gatekeepers
                  MDF2008 Wayfarer

                  <s<br />Keep it simple:
                  Your goal is to get in front of the owner / decision maker and sell / close them.
                  *ABC: Ask for the order / their business. *

                  Find out the owners name first and then call them direct.
                  *Make sure you have done your homework about there business. *
                  *Do not waste your time with the not sell them. *

                  Keep it simple and to the point:you will win the owner over with your talent & ideas.

                  *All the Best, MDF2008 *


                  • Re: courting gatekeepers
                    Ed O'Gee Adventurer
                    Welcome to the community.

                    CEOSpace makes a good point, whether it is the chamber of commerce, networking groups, professional organizations, leads groups, etc. The biggest thing is for you to go to places where the decision makers are.

                    However as someone who has been in sales and sales training the last 17 years, do not discount the gatekeeper. While it can be annoying to spend time convincing the person who can't put their signature on the contract, getting the gatekeeper as an advocate can often times make the sale to the decision maker easier.

                    A few techniques we train young sales reps on when dealing with gatekeepers:

                    1. Find non sales commonalities - don't always go for the kill with the gatekeeper. Their job is just that, to keep you away from the busy business owner. Find a way to relate to the gatekeeper without jumping right into the sale. You have to present a sense of trust before they will really listen to your message and ultimately allow you to get to the real decision maker. This can be done a number of ways - if you can afford it, bring lunch or a small trinket to the gatekeeper before you present your product line. Establish this as a way of introducing yourself and your business.
                    2. What's in it for the gatekeeper? - Present your solution on how the gatekeeper can help his or her company by using your product. Find a way to sell based on the impact the gatekeeper can have on the business. The gatekeeper most times really wants to impress the decision maker. Which is why their is usually such a strong focus on price. Don't sell the gatekeeper on the benefits of your goods to the company, sell the gatekeeper on how well your products will help them do their jobs. If the gatekeeper feels the impact on their personal responsibilities, again they are more open to your message.
                    3. Keep the decision maker involved in the process - most times sales persons want to get to the decision maker and leave the gatekeeper behind. Huge mistake. You want to keep the gatekeeper engaged and involved. Just like you said in the post, they are want to be decision makers and because of that in order to get them to introduce you to the decision makers you have to make them feel like decision makers. Keep the conversation about how they can aid the company, talk about the how the decision they make can affect the company etc.

                    The biggest thing is to know when to court a gatekeeper. Sometimes it is not worth it for a relatively small deal, but for larger deals, when it is really worth it, take your time and court the gatekeeper.

                      • Re: courting gatekeepers
                        CEO Space Scout
                        I agree with what Ed is saying.

                        It becomes a matter of judgement.

                        And although I always have spent more time to get to the owner, I would also be as friendly with all
                        other staff including the gate keeper.

                        You want to have them "on your side" if you get what I mean.

                        The other thing that I think is a matter of judgement is how often to contact. I know as a busy business owner, many times I purchased something because the person was there. However, showing up and being too pushy, I would've never done business with those people.

                        When all is said and done, I think it is still a numbers game. Talk to enough people over enough time
                        and you will be more likely to make sales. More importantly, build relationships for future sales.

                        Good Luck
                        • Re: courting gatekeepers
                          promoqueen Newbie
                          Great thoughts. Thanks, Ed. I am looking for creative incentive gifts or incentive programs that may motivate gatekeepers. I think I could build something from your thought that their job is to keep me away from decision makers. Somehow give them the credit for the ideas that will make them look good. Something that the could use at job review time. Don't know what yet, but thinking...
                        • Re: courting gatekeepers
                          MDF2008 Wayfarer

                          +*Yes, common sense says be friendly to the gatekeepers but do n
                          Yes, the gatekeeper can champion your cause but from a time management view;

                          the bottom line is to meet the buyer not the gatekeeper in a reasonable time

                          +frame so you can sell/close. Sell from the top down;this will get you the best results. +

                          The owner will appreciate the fact you are not wasting their time and the fact you have great

                          +ideas / products to increase thier business goals;objectives and ROI. +

                          +Win them over with your talent and ideas. +

                          +Do your homework first;know thier business. +

                          All the Best. MDF2008


                          • Re: courting gatekeepers
                            Lighthouse24 Ranger

                            Some decision makers hire gatekeepers to make sure that NOBODY gets in until the decision maker summons them in. (MDF2008 seems to have mainly dealt with this type.) In my experience, they are not good customers with whom to build sustainable business relationships. The reason is because if you want their business, you have to leverage and maintain an undisputed competitive advantage like lowest cost, fastest turnaround, exclusive provider, etc. -- and you have to win their business all over again on that same competitive basis every single time.

                            Most decision makers hire gatekeepers to make sure that the RIGHT people get in at the RIGHT time. (Ed seems to have dealt with more of these, and may be one himself.) Attempting to go around the gatekeeper in these instances is disrespectful to the gatekeeper and to the decision maker. It doesn't matter how great your ideas are, how talented you are, or how much you know about the decision maker's company -- if you are trying to pitch something to a decision maker at any moment other than when he/she wants to listen, it's the very definition of wasting that person's time.

                            A good gatekeeper gets paid to know what the decision maker is dealing with from minute-to-minute, and gets rewarded for bringing anything to the decision maker's attention that helps produce a more effective or efficient result for the organization.

                            My advice is to think of every gatekeeper as your "agent" -- someone in each company who is doing the groundwork to "promote" your business inside that organization, and who will get you an "audition" with the boss when the time is right. Don't think of them as people who keep you OUT -- because they're actually the people who can get you IN if you take them time to build a relationship with them.

                            A decision maker isn't going to buy imprinted mugs or kick off a new promotion all by himself -- there will be meetings and conversations, and the gatekeeper will have several opportunities to shine by having information and answers when the decision maker needs them (which you will have been providing for months while building the relationship). When the executive is ready to move forward, the gatekeeper will schedule you first. When you pitch, you'll only have to sell on one level (convincing the decision maker to buy from you instead of someone else), and you'll only have to sell one time to be assured of all future business if you perform satisfactorily.

                            If you go around the gatekeeper and approach the decision maker directly as some have recommended, you'll have to sell on three levels (convincing them to listen to you in the first place, convincing them that they need what you're selling, and then convincing them to buy it from you). Plus, if a good gatekeeper feels that you "trespassed" and made her look bad, she WILL become the person who keeps you out in the future.

                            A little different perspective, but I hope it helps. Best wishes.
                              • Re: courting gatekeepers
                                promoqueen Newbie
                                Yes, I'm looking for ideas that will make gatekeepers my allies. I'd like to come up with something that promotes them. Hey, I'm in the promotions business -- i should be able to do that!
                                • Re: courting gatekeepers
                                  Ed O'Gee Adventurer

                                  Me, a gatekeeper???? My business is O'Gee and Parker, I teach sales reps about how to deal with gatekeepers. I am the decision maker in all things for my business and don't keep gatekeepers around because as someone with almost two decades worth of sales experience, I tend to give salesmen the benefit of the doubt.

                                  Now, this whole notion of finding the fastest way around the gatekeeper - biggest mistake you can make. When selling to any organization, the biggest thing is to have advocates. Think about it, the easiest sales for most sales professionals is a warm lead. Treat your relationship with a gatekeeper like he or she could be the warm lead into the decision maker.

                                  No, I would never advocate wasting ones time, selling to someone who can't sign a contract but what you are selling to the gatekeeper is not your product or service but you are selling yourself. The gatekeeper is most often an admin or some other very trusted employee. Selling to the guy with the magic pen is a lot easier when his admin makes it a priority to get you on his calendar, when his trusted employee says yes boss I know their products are 10% more expense but this O'Gee guy, we can trust him and his business.

                                  Don't discount the gatekeeper.
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