We had a great discussion today during a morning pep rally about how we engage with “gatekeepers” in the sales process. To be clear, there are two types of gatekeepers: those who call you to get information about your association membership program. And, those who answer the phone when you’re calling to reach the decision maker. I have a few thoughts on these folks.
First, what is the job of the gatekeeper? In the first scenario, the gatekeeper is typically someone calling you, on behalf of someone else, for information about association membership. My advice to not send them the info unless the decision maker is willing to have a conversation. Here’s why: If you send the membership collateral out to someone who’s not making the decision – the process is now out of your hands.
Without that conversation, you have no context about what’s valuable to the prospect nor their #1 reason for seeking out your organization. The info you send may not be relevant to their needs. We ultimately put these folks in the pipeline and hope they’ll talk to us again. Unfortunately, in this situation, we’ve lost complete control of the sales process. And what happens? These people hardly ever close.
Here’s another approach:
When a gatekeeper calls and says, “Hey, I’d like information on your association…” Reply, “I’d love to help you out. Here’s my experience. I need five minutes with the person you’re going to give this to. Because we have so much information, I don’t want to overwhelm them – I’d like to send over specifically what might matter to them.” If they are not willing to set up that five-minute conversation, don’t send them the stuff.
The “information” is the only leverage you have. Ask for that five-minute conversation. Bottom line? If they say, “No,” then don’t send the information blindly. You’ll lose control, and you won’t get the deal.
Then there is the gatekeeper who answers when you call an organization. Here’s how the gatekeeper typically responds: “They’re not available right now. Can I send you to voicemail?”
And what do 90% of us say? “Oh, yeah, that’s okay,” with the hope our voicemail will be so compelling they return our call. Hell no. They’re not going to call you back. We all know that. In fact, if you look at the statistics, the percentage of people retrieving their voicemail is going down. How many times have you tried to leave a voicemail these days and the mailbox is full?
So, before they send you to voicemail say, “Hey, do you work on their schedule? Perfect. I only need five minutes to discuss with them how we’re handling this regulatory issue – would love their feedback on this one topic very quickly.”
The gatekeeper’s job is to schedule meetings often and efficiently. If you propose a “quick five-minute conversation about an important topic,” you’re much more likely to get the dialogue you need to open up the membership conversation. Don’t take the bait and allow yourself to be sent to the black hole of voicemail. Hope these strategies prove helpful – give me a shout if you want to chat about other association sales tactics – firstname.lastname@example.org.