By Craig Harrison,
Does it sometimes seem as though decision-makers
are residing in a gated community? Learn how to bypass gatekeepers
(GK)—those peoples who “guard” the decision-makers and often run
interference for them. You want to get in front of decision-makers (DM).
Traditionally a secretary, administrative
assistant, or switchboard operator blocked entry. Now there are
electronic nemeses as well: voice mailboxes and blind e-mail addresses.
Yet gatekeepers can be your adversaries or allies, depending on your
approach. Your challenge: to be regarded as important enough to be
allowed into their inner sanctum.
Here are my rules of thumb for “Passing Gate” and
receiving consideration by decision-makers:
1. Turn GateKeepers into allies: treat them with
respect, humor and compassion. Their job is tough, too. They get it from
both ends. They are people with their own personalities, not faceless
obstacles to be overcome at all costs.
2. Help decision-makers look good in their
manager's eyes. Can you solve his/her problem? Let the GK know. They
will "carry your torch" for you. presenting you as his/her solution to
the DM’s problem.
3. Recognize GKs and other intermediaries as vital
to your information-gathering mission. Learn more about the DM, his/her
department, recent trends, internal machinations within company, from
the GK. Be nice to all.
4. Calling before/after GK’s shift will get you
through directly. Many DMs work long hours and feel less pressured
5. Gather information with every call you make.
Ask appropriate questions and gather information about the decision
maker, his or her schedule, what else is happening in the company at the
time. Be attuned to insights into the psychological make-up of the
person you are calling for. Ask when the best (and worst) time to call
is? How do you pronounce your DM's name? Does he or she prefer an
informal name: "T" for Hortence or Condy for Condelezza.
6. Utilize multiple forms of communication to make
contact. Use calls, postcards, faxes and e-mails. Ask GKs and DMs about
their preferred ways of communicating.
7. The phrase “returning his/her call” upgrades
your call’s importance in GK’s eyes. Use it to indicate past history.
8. When leaving repeated voice mail messages, list
a different benefit you provide during each message, as a way to both
qualify and distinguish yourself.
9. Keep your messages succinct: be short and
10. Stay upbeat—even if it’s the 10th unreturned
message you’re leaving.
11. Be creative/funny/distinguishable so as to get
12. Humor works. Self-effacing humor and humor in
solidarity with the gatekeeper help open doors.
13. When all else fails, have your Gatekeeper call
1. Call and claim you're family, or claim to be
calling from the police, IRS, or FBI.
2. Become surly, rude, or sarcastic. It's a
turn-off and suggests immaturity and a lack of flexibility.
3. Avoiding filling up your recipient's voice
mailbox with long and detailed messages. It's inconsiderate and shows
bad judgment on your part. Use your short elevator speech instead.
4. Don't make the Decision Maker wrong for not
being there to answer you in person, or for not having responded yet.
Believe it or not, you're not the center of their universe!
5. Avoid using clichés and following scripts. Show
some personality and spunk such that you'll stand apart from the crowd
when you call and be memorable when they decide who to call back.
Treat others like the valued individuals they are
and remain confident you're someone whose call decision-makers will be
glad they took. The only Gates you may not master on your first
As a self-employed speaker, trainer and consultant
on communication and customer service topics, Craig Harrison is
simultaneously a decision maker, gatekeeper, and caller on a daily
Craig is standing by to take your calls and
e-mails: (510) 547-0664, or via Excellence @ craigspeaks.com. Visit him