Yes, I realize that stopping in unannounced at your facility while I am in the area can be seen as an unwelcome disruption.

Yet the tone and inflection in your first question, “Are you a salesperson?” has given you away. The Gatekeeper shields go up and the stage is set.

Immediately, anyone I ask for is: 1.) in a meeting 2.) dealing with an emergency 3.) offsite 4.) unwilling to meet without an appointment 5.) on a deadline 6.) hiding from the world. Any of these may be legit…or bogus.

Really, it’s OK. No need to be heavy-handed. I realize I am an interruption. I realize the history of pushy, slimy, overbearing, and rude salespeople has created hurdles I need to overcome with said Gatekeeper.

Yet, shortly after saying Hello, I’ve been lumped into the dreaded “You’re a Salesperson, and you must be stopped” category. Were we kids it would be much like being told I have ‘Cooties’….eew (For Millennials unaware of Cooties, how about “much like being told I am a Zombie.”)

Tick Tock. The Gatekeeper is waiting for my reply. Often annoyed. Yes, even though we are 14 seconds into our exchange–quite annoyed.

How to react? What to reply? Do I protest the profiling? Attempt to sweet-talk my way through this? (another slimy salesperson trait) Deny that I sell?

Generally, I re-frame the exchange in an attempt to help the Gatekeeper recover from his/her initial ‘digging in of the heels.’

Something like “I had asked if your Maintenance Director might have 5 minutes because I help facilities like yours with compliance issues, and that is often very important to them and to your operations. I provide door hardware and security solutions that help your facility remain in compliance with state and federal codes, ADA requirements, HIPAA guidelines, and a host of other risk-based issues. What is the first name of the Maintenance Director? Mike? I thought I might be a future resource to Mike on these compliance issues and wanted to introduce myself.”

Of course that example is one from a healthcare setting. There is no script, per se. Scripts are for that grouping of pushy, slimy, overbearing salespeople who like to only hear themselves speak–and often speak robotically. Tailoring your exchange to a presented situation has no room for scripts.

How do I fare with said Gatekeeper? In 9 of 10 situations, they soften. I may or may not get a face-to-face with the intended contact as a result of the softening. Yet I have turned a challenging exchange into a positive one. Info I now share with the Gatekeeper–facts, business card, resource materials–NOW have a better chance of reaching Mike from a co-worker/Gatekeeper who may even be one step closer to being my advocate.

Net Net. Gatekeepers, like all of us, have biases. Be professional enough to recognize it, and genuine–and talented–enough to help them see you (and your offering) in a new light.

(Side note: While not about the merits of cold-calling. That entire topic is a hot one. I’ll merely leave it at “Cold Calling has its place” in a comprehensive business development process.)
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