As a manager, you know your salespeople will always have trouble getting to C-levels and other influential executives. So you’ve got to help them with ideas, your example and a push.
The first rule of gatekeepers is “Always assume they will be blocked,” and with this in mind have discussions with your salespeople before upcoming sales calls and pursuits that go something like this.
“Who’s your prospect?
Who’s will you be meeting or calling?
What will you be prepared to say when this person resists introducing you to others on your way up and out?”
This set of questions has many benefits.
- It reminds the sales person that his or her contact is not the final stop. Salespeople tend to stick with their main contacts for many reasons which will discuss in future articles.
- It will signal your sales person that you expect him or her to keep moving up and out to those with more authority and influence.
- It gets the sales person conscious of the fact that they’re probably going to be blocked. Now, if she or he hasn’t considered the idea of being blocked this will certainly get him to realize it’s a distinct possibility.
- It forces the sales person to prepare what he or she can do to avoid or handle the block if and when it happens.
Salespeople usually don’t think about being blocked and usually feel comfortable going along with their main contacts. Therefore, you must coach them that no matter who their contact is – high level or in between, and no matter where they are in the sales cycle – they will be blocked and they must be prepared to avoid or handle it. This applies to B2B sales, selling to doctors and other professionals, and even selling capital goods to consumers.
So let’s get you as a manager prepared. Suppose you’re reviewing prospects and sales opportunities with one of your salespeople.
What will you say?
What will you listen for?
Then, what suggestions will you give if your sales person argues that there will not be a block, or when he fumbles on what to do if there is one?
See, it’s important for you to be just as prepared as it is for your salespeople to be prepared. Take a moment and think about this. Write down your ideas. As you’ll see later, they will become very handy.
For example I was talking with a manager today and telling him about this article. He said, “That’s all well and good man, but what should we do about voicemail?”
Well, if you think about it, voicemail is a block. So I asked him, “Before you make a phone call, do you think about what you’re going to say, or do, if you get a voicemail? What if you encounter an admin and she is resistant to put you through to her boss?”
“Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I figure out something to say in the moment,” he said.
So I asked him, “Give me a few examples of what you would do knowing you were going to be blocked by the voicemail or an admin.” He then quickly rattled off three or four things he would do.
So I told him, “Write these ideas down and keep them close by. Review them before you make your next call. Better yet, go over these with your salespeople so that they get prepared for the blocks they are sure to get via voicemails, admins or their contacts.”
Now let’s apply this to you. You make sales calls either with your salespeople or for your own accounts. You know intuitively you’ll frequently get blocked by your contact or an admin or the voicemail. Make a list of the things you might say and do in those situations. Again, preparation is the key. Having a list ready to look at is an easy way to get prepared. It’s an easy way to become more successful. And it’s an easy way to coach your salespeople.
Salespeople tend to charge ahead until they get stopped. Then they try to figure out what to do on the spot. Some can pull it off and some can’t. However even the best will be served if they stop and put their gatekeeper game plan together before they encounter the gatekeeper. The only way this will happen is if you help them get prepared. I guarantee they won’t do it by themselves.
So share your ideas with them. Role-play with them. Follow-up with them after a call to see what success they had getting past the gatekeeper. Ask them what worked, and what they would consider doing differently in the future.
This is one step along the way to becoming a great coach and manager. Once your people see you’re serious and persistent they will start preparing their blocker strategies before they encounter the blockers. And, you know if they can prevent the block and can handle gatekeepers, they will be far more successful closing sales.
However, it starts with you, the manager. Practice what you’ll say to each of your sales people when you reviews prospects and forecasts. Write down some ideas to give them and keep adding ideas to it. If they see you’re prepared, they will get serious about getting themselves prepared.
Keep visiting our special series on C-Level Sales Management.