Now you must confront the Keeper of the Gate, cross the moat of indifference, and find the Minister of Risk so you can offer to review the current strategies for insuring the safety of the kingdom.
The moat is overflowing with the corpses of producer-knights who failed to understand the secrets of the gatekeeper’s heart. But that is not your fate because you’ve discovered a scroll, warning of the 7 fatal mistakes that brought them to their watery death.
You will not fail as they have. You know how to turn the gatekeeper from an adversary to an ally – to make her an advocate, a champion of your cause who’ll help your mission succeed. You vow to avoid these errors like the plague.
1) Not being considerate
The Gatekeeper’s job is often frustrating and tiresome. Screening callers, fielding questions and directing people to the right departments is monotonous, emotional labor. You must understand this and empathize.
She’s on a mission, too, just like you are. Thank her in advance for her assistance. Ask her name, and let her know she’s appreciated. Instead of contributing to the day’s annoyances, use your emotional intelligence to ease her tensions and bring a smile to her face.
2) Not respecting the Gatekeeper’s time
Hour after hour the phone continues to ring, and the gatekeeper does her best to direct callers to the correct ministers. She takes messages, looks up department heads, and tries to answer every call promptly.
You must be alert when your call is answered. Know what you’re going to say and say it succinctly. Rambling, long-winded introductions only make the gatekeeper’s job more difficult.
If you hear phones ringing in the background, you can offer to hold while she answers them. She’ll appreciate your consideration.
3) Being pushy, aggressive and too persistent
Don’t confuse aggression with assertiveness. The latter communicates your needs, but aggression pushes people out of the way and doesn’t respect boundaries. Being aggressive evokes conflict. Being assertive helps people understand what it is you want.
4) Being vague or devious about the purpose of your call
Vigilant gatekeepers are continually deciding which visitors to admit and who to turn away. Explaining your intentions simply and clearly, in a way that communicates the value to her company, will help you gain her trust and assistance.
“I’m calling about the insurance,” says little about the reason for your call or whom you need to speak with. Is this about a claim, a work comp issue, a renewal, a benefit enrollment, or what? The gatekeeper’s puzzlement may land you in the moat of indifference.
Some clever producer-knights may think it’s OK to mislead the gatekeeper in order to gain entry to the castle. Tricking the GK into believing that you have ongoing business there, or that you’ve dealt with a particular minister before, might sometimes work. But it often backfires. And when the boss tells the gatekeeper to never let your calls through again, the possibilities of ever working with that company may be ended for good.
5) Not acknowledging the Gatekeeper’s role and importance
If you relate to the gatekeeper as a barrier instead of a bridge, she’ll probably act like one.
You wouldn’t tell a gatekeeper, “I don’t care about you. All I care about is getting to the right person,” but your tone and attitude may be saying exactly that. Respect the uniform. Show the gatekeeper you want to help her do her job by being friendly and forthcoming with the information she requests.
6) Not listening carefully
Like most people, producer-knights sometimes let preconceived notions distort what they’re actually hearing. If the gatekeeper tells you, “My boss feels more comfortable working with a smaller agency,” listen actively and show her you’ve understood. Don’t start pitching your great services and extensive markets. She’s sharing something valuable about her boss’s buying concerns. Acknowledge what you’ve heard and address that concern directly.
7) Not doing what you said you would do
“Can you email me some information about your program that I can show to my boss Paul?”
If you agree and then don’t follow through, it’s possible the gatekeeper won’t remember. But it’s also possible she’ll decide you’re not reliable and snub you the next time you call. If you don’t want that to happen, prove yourself by doing what you said you would.
Trust is the backbone of sales. Even in small matters like sending an email or calling back at the time someone requests, it’s too easy to turn a bond into a breach by not following through as promised.
And so, producer-knights, take heed. Don’t drown in the moat of indifference. Appreciate the people guarding the gates. Give them your respect and make them your allies and advocates.