ISO owners and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) typically begin each new year full of optimism and enthusiasm. They'll obtain leads and tear into them, but then sometimes get discouraged by a major roadblock: gatekeepers.
Now, a minority of the people who screen calls and visits for business owners will resist you no matter what you do. However, a greater number know that to help their employers, they need to spot potential opportunities and facilitate promising connections. The trick is to make a good enough initial impression so that gatekeepers will be open to hearing what benefits you will bring to the table.
In Good Selling!SM: The Basics, Paul H. Green offered do's and don’t's to help ISOs and MLSs do just that. He pointed out that it is critical to treat gatekeepers with the same professionalism and friendly manner you would have when speaking with your most valued prospects.
In "Gatekeepers are people too," The Green Sheet, Dec. 23, 2013, issue 13:12:02, Dale S. Laszig emphasized this point, as well, when she wrote, "One of the many rewards of selling merchant services is the ability to meet and interact with numerous people. Of the many people with whom we engage not everyone has the ability to sign a contract, but each person is an integral part of every client's business and deserves our attention and respect."
During phone calls respect will be conveyed by such factors as your tone of voice, pacing and your responses to what gatekeepers have to say. These also apply during in-person visits, where body language will also play an important role.
Green also advised not to open by asking the individual how he or she is doing after your initial exchange of greetings, because this blares that you are a salesperson. Instead, with a manner that conveys confidence, not aggression, identify yourself professionally. Give your name and company name, state the purpose of your call, and briefly highlight a few benefits of your service.
From there engage the gatekeeper; make the individual feel important. "If we employ a modicum of empathy toward them, it can differentiate us from other less sympathetic sales people who employ a variety of ruses to get to the boss," Laszig wrote.
One way to engage gatekeepers is to ask permission to question them on a few points. Research each organization beforehand, so that your questions are appropriate and likely to lead to new insights. And think on your feet when you respond. Don't just offer canned responses.
After you have established rapport and feel that both you and the screener have gained insights into how your companies could work together, ask for an appointment with a decision maker. In-person appointments are terrific, but phone appointments can work, as well. If the best you can do with a particular gatekeeper is to receive an invitation to email further information, don't lose heart. The person may genuinely be interested in reading the information you send, and your follow-up call could end up being highly productive.
If you forget about stereotypes and remember each gatekeeper is a unique individual just doing his or her job, this alone may lead to valuable connections and new business rather than barriers and rejection.
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