Friday, July 15, 2011

Gatekeeper! (How to be the Key Master)

Me: Good morning, how are you?
Gatekeeper: Good, how may I help you?
Me: I am here to see John Smith please.
Gatekeeper: Was he expecting you?
Me: I left him a voicemail letting him know I would be stopping in.  My name is Lori Wessels with The Hope Group on behalf of Parker Hannifin, if he has a couple minutes please?Gatekeeper: Sorry, it’s company policy, you need an appointment.  Would you like to leave something for him?
Me: Thank you, if you could give him this I will give him a call to follow up next week, thank you.

This topic was bound to come up sooner than later.  The “Gatekeeper”; who they are, what they do, and how they make my job a little more challenging.  That isn’t fair to say 100 percent of the time, if used properly, the gatekeeper can provide you with valuable information that you can utilize in eventually getting past them. 

Over the last couple of weeks while making sales calls on behalf of The Hope Group I have done my fair share of “drop-ins” aka cold calls. Many times scenarios like the one above ensue.  What I have had to learn to adapt to is how I can use what this person has to offer to get as much information as I can. 

It should go without saying that being polite and putting on a smile must be your starting point.  Be honest, I can’t pretend I have an appointment if I don’t, but by giving them the information I do have such as the person’s name, their department/title, letting them know I left a voicemail gives the illusion that the relationship is more established than it actually is. If the person is unavailable (unwilling) to meet with me, I ask follow-up questions, listen to the cues given (if any) by the gatekeeper.

Me: You know I have had a hard time getting a hold of him; is there a time of day that he is typically at his desk?
Gatekeeper: He only works until 3:00.
By gathering this information and asking these types of questions not only are you able to strengthen your relationship with the gatekeeper, who ultimately can help you get in the door, but you are increasing your chances of getting the person you are looking for on the phone.  It allows for better call preparation.  If I know he only works until 3:00, I can assume that any time after lunch is probably pretty busy for him; morning might be a better time to try and reach him. 
Information pertaining to the person you are trying to reach isn’t the only thing the gatekeeper has to offer.  They have a wealth of information about what the company does as well.  If I don’t know much about what a potential customer does, I can ask them about the business in general to get a better idea of what they do. I may find out that they know the name Parker Hannifin, and from what they know they do order some fittings, tubing, hose, valves etc...  In addition as I tell them more about what I do, there have been instances where I discover I should be trying to meet with a whole different person/department than what I originally thought. 
It is universally true that sales people dread the gatekeeper.  However, they will always exist and it is how you learn to adapt and utilize the person that is in front of you that will ultimately help you to get in front of the person that can help turn a target account into a customer. 

Lori Wessels
Parker Hannifin
Product Support Specialist


Monday, July 11, 2011

Independence - My Interpretation

In the spirit of the 4th of July and celebrating our nations independence I thought about how that word applies directly to the direction my career has taken.  Outside sales requires a heavy reliance on the support system around you, but just as much it is about learning how to hone your independence.  I am quickly learning how much of my week is dependent on me.  How I choose to take that freedom and turn it into something that equals success is part of my new daily challenge.
The freedom of this career is a big part of what drew me to it. I like that I am going to get out of each day, week, or month, what I put into it.  In order to make each day as productive as possible I started looking at my personal life to see how I would most effectively mix my professional life into it.  Knowing that I am not a great morning person I realized that by scheduling the majority of meetings in the morning gave me more motivation to get my day going and start with a high energy level that would carry me through the day.  On days when I have more meetings in the morning, and do follow-up work in the late afternoon, I feel as if I accomplish more than when the schedule is vice versa.  This isn’t always realistic based on potential customer schedules, but having that self awareness is helpful on the “off” days as well to keep focused and on track. The worst thing I could do is feel like I am taking advantage of the freedom entrusted to me. 
I have been given independence in how I spend time creating my schedule, what calls I prioritize, and how I take it upon myself to continue to improve my product and industry knowledge.  To be successful in all of these aspects there needs to be a certain degree of self motivation, of fight, to want it and to give 100 percent for every opportunity.  If I don’t want to go on meeting; if I don’t want to make the phone call, there is nobody looking over my shoulder to make sure I do. However, that is one of the greatest revelations I have had since starting this, is that I want to do it, everyday.  The sense of freedom, trust, respect, and support that I feel from Parker and The Hope Group is what gives me the ability to be independent and (fingers crossed) successful at the same time. 

Lori Wessels
Parker Hannifin
Product Support Specialist