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Home & Small Business Owners - Getting Past the Gatekeepers

Want to Pitch Your Product to the Owner/President of the Company But Can't Get Your Foot in the Door?

The first step in getting in to see the powers that be to understand that speaking to anyone with a title other than 'owner' or 'president', is not a guarantee to entry. Your best bet is to find out who the gatekeeper is.

What is a gatekeeper? A gatekeeper often has the top persons ear at any time for any reason. A gatekeeper's voice is the one the boss will listen to because a certain amount of trust has been built, often from years of service and working together. This is the person who 'watches the bosses back'. Gatekeepers have any number of titles, secretary/executive secretary, assistant, administrative assistant and sometimes office manager. The most important thing to remember is that the gatekeeper may have the power to get you a meeting or prevent you from ever getting into the door just by responding to four small words uttered by the busy executive, "What do you think?"

Armed with this understanding, you must now identify the gatekeeper at the XYZ Corp. If the company is large and you know the name of the person you want to talk to you can just ask the telephone operator who is the assistant to that person. Most times you will be given a full name. Ask to be connected to that person. Be honest, tell them who you are and why you want to speak with owner/president. If you are told that the executive is not available, ask if you can send your information to gatekeepers attention. Then send your proposal, resume, brochure, etc. and address the letter introducing yourself to owner/president. Enclose a short separate note to gatekeeper thanking him/her for their time, include your business card. The envelope should be addressed to owner/president but to the attention of gatekeeper.

Gate-crashing Rules to Follow:

BE PERSISTENT. Make sure you stay in touch with owner/president through the gatekeeper. When you call the office, make your telephone calls a bit more personal by asking about the gatekeepers day, etc. before leaving a message. Never ask if owner/president received your last message. You may be met with a deceptively friendly response or a frosty "Owner/president always gets messages." Either way you are most likely now relegated to the bottom of the gatekeepers favorite people list.

ASK FOR OWNER/PRESIDENT'S E-MAIL ADDRESS. Ask if owner/president has an e-mail address. State that you would like to send her your company's URL so she can see your company catalog. Be sure to ask gatekeeper to advise the executive to expect the e-mail. Otherwise, it may be trashed as SPAM. In e-mail make some mention to executive that you spoke with Mr/Ms. Gatekeepeeper so it is understood that there has been some prior communication with the XYZ Company. Copy the Gatekeeper.

TAKE CHANCES. Call and say that you are going to be in the area on such and such a date. Ask if the boss has 10 or 15 minutes to spare for you.

ADD GATEKEEPER TO YOUR COMPANY MAILING LIST. This gives you a real reason to call to be sure that gatekeeper received your latest promotion material. Ask what is thought about the changes or updates.

SEND COMPANY NEW YEAR'S CALENDAR OR DATE BOOK. Whether you have made contact with owner/president or not, sending a calendar to the gatekeeper with a note that says "I am hopeful that I will get the chance to meet you and owner/present this coming year. We have some terrific new products which will save your company time and money."

If you do choose to try and bypass the gatekeeper you may try the following tactics:

*Call early in the morning or late in the afternoon, owner/president may answer the telephone.

*Bluff your way by briskly saying 'How are you today? Is owner/president around? This is Ms. Vendor. Sometimes this works because gatekeeper will assume that you know owner/president.

*f you are stopped at the gate, "May I ask the reference of the call? Or "What this is in regard to?" Your response could be "This is regarding a professional matter, I'm sure owner/president will want to speak with me." The alternative is "It is complicated to explain, it's best that I speak with owner/president." The alternative can and may work for you but it is not whole heartedly recommended. It implies that gatekeeper is a dolt and can't take a complicated message. Even if you do gain entry you will forever be banned to the bottom of the message pile.

Finally, it will do you well to remember that a gatekeeper who appears overprotective or nosy most likely has been asked to screen all calls with the utmost scrutiny by person you are trying to get in to see.

*Lagniappe: Make sure your brochure is attractive and full of real information. The point of a brochure is to get the reader's attention and to make a sale. But you also want the recipient to read it and keep it. Whether you make the sale this time or not you want the brochure to remain with the receiver. Who knows, if they did not buy this time they may the next time if the need for your product arises. The longer your brochure is kept in the office the better your chances are for a sale.

*a little something extra (~.~)

Hone your skills for work and family and you hone them for living life to the fullest

(c)Vanette Ryanes

OD - Bus. Forms

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