ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

THE PRODUCER/GATEKEEPER RELATIONSHIP Part III of our PRODUCER'S ROLE series

Every agent and producer among us is interested in forming a relationship with our prospects. Few of us consider how important the Gatekeeper is in that process.

If you have the ability to contact and get to know a prospect decision-maker at civic, social or cultural events, you have gained an advantage and should certainly pursue networking as a means of establishing relationships. But most of us lack the time and/or talent to successfully network for prospects. So we rest our hopes on our marketing programs, on our personal visits and our notoriety to provide an entry into forming a relationship with our prospects.

If you are a business owner with a staff you probably have someone else opening mail for you and even pre-reading e-mail to separate the important from the rest. What happens to unsolicited mail from a prospective vendor?

The same thing will likely happen to the mail/email that you send, as well. If you count on your marketing pieces to create the opportunity for sales for you – I have a bridge to sell you as an investment between NY and New Jersey....

Marketing pieces, regardless of their content, is only an excuse to introduce yourself to prospects. You are the only person who can establish a relationship between you and your potential clients. And you have to get through the gatekeepers first.

I have a gatekeeper. Her name is Lilly. She has the most pleasant personality you have ever experienced. Call her and introduce yourself! You will most likely agree with me and with her legion of “fans”.

But Lilly is also a ruthless gatekeeper who will rarely let anyone I don’t know get through to me on the phone unless she is convinced that I will want or need to speak to that person. She also screens my emails and mail to make sure I don’t have the opportunity to waste time (which I’m prone to do). Sometimes I wonder who works for whom?

Many of you also have a “Lilly” of sorts, yourself. They protect you like Lilly protects me – and like our prospects’ gatekeepers protect them. So don’t be upset when you send something or try to visit a prospect unannounced and are turned away by a gatekeeper whose role is to allow their boss to maximize his/her efficiency and performance by avoiding whatever may be a waste of time. The prospect likely doesn’t know you and the gatekeeper doesn’t know you either.

Those of you who are already familiar with the Asset Protection Model of Relationship Selling know that marketing material sent to a prospect is simply a tool by which you can visit the prospect to get to know him. Materials sent should valuable information within our marketing material, not just brochures and advertising, so your reason for visiting when you ‘happen to be in the neighborhood’ is to make sure the prospect has received the material you sent. Of course, in most cases, that material went directly to the shredder. But that doesn’t matter. You have the reason to visit and you have (of course) another copy of the material with you when you appear in their office.

Now you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded “gatekeeper”. How you approach and react to the gatekeeper will determine when, how and if you will be granted the opportunity to create a relationship with the decision-maker.

Happily most gatekeepers are not ogres. They are simply trying to insulate their employer from unwanted contact with salespeople. (S)he doesn’t know how valuable you can be to the employer – just that you are not expected.

There are a number of methods to utilize to approach a gatekeeper – too many to cover in an article of this type. But the key is to remember that your goal is not to sell insurance or even to meet the decision-maker. Your goal should be to get to know the gatekeeper and to establish a rapport, a friendship and a relationship with the gatekeeper that will eventually ease you into forming a relationship with the employer.

If you understand your goal, you will never be short-tempered or demanding with a gatekeeper. You will treat your visit with light humor, suggesting that you were in the area and wanted to make sure whether or not the decision-maker received the important information that you sent a few days earlier. When the gatekeeper tells you that the decision-maker is not available, “engage” the gatekeeper and get to know him/her while asking the gatekeeper to relay your information to the decision-maker giving the gatekeeper a copy of whatever information you sent prior to your visit in a sealed envelope with the decision-maker’s name handwritten on the front of the envelope.

Please consider designing your marketing plan (a five+ step approach) to include information important to the type of business that you’re facing. It will be so much more effective if there is something substantial and valuable in the envelope than a simple introduction, brochure and greeting.

Stay with the gatekeeper for as long as (s)he is willing to speak to you and gather “intelligence” about the gatekeeper and about the Company. Share what you already have learned in your research on the Company and be pleasant about getting to know that person because you will be visiting more often until you breach the gate, hopefully with the help of your new friend, to meet the decision-maker. Every gatekeeper you meet is a sensitive human being who will treat you better if you are friendly and outgoing to them, as well.

If you need help in the application of the Asset Protection Model, Marketing Plan creation and/or training in how to approach gatekeepers, don’t hesitate to call us at 800 779 2430.