The askari doesn’t let me in. How do I avoid the nurse? The secretary prevents me from reaching the buyer. All these are lamentations many sellers have of gatekeepers.
Gatekeepers are attendants who control entry to buildings or offices. They are a reality in selling; wishing them away is futile. And wanting your employer to get rid of them for you is unsustainable. He may do it and you bypass the askari at the hospital gate but not the nurse at the clinic in it.
To grow your sales muscle, take handling gatekeepers in your stride. Here are some ways how.
Spin their world.
Show them respect. The default setting of most gatekeepers is “unanidharau” (you belittle me). Therefore, it catches the askari off guard when, upon dismissing you with, “Hakuna parking hapa” you say, “Ukinifukuza sina kwa kuenda. Niko kwako.” (I’ve come to your home. If you send me away I’ve nowhere else to go.) Instantly, his adamant stance about lack of parking shifts to a mellowed, “utakaa sana?” (will you stay long?)
Also, it is not entirely true that gatekeepers are a barrier to selling. In fact, many times they can facilitate the sale. For instance, the progressive medical representative keeps the nurse in his good books (via marketing give-aways or a lunch) because she will determine whether he sees the doctor or not. Further, if the doctor is not warm to medical representatives (as most doctors aren’t) the nurse can shed vital information on which drugs the doctor prefers to prescribe and why.
If you have tried emailing, calling and showing up unannounced and still haven’t met the big-time prospect, don’t be surprised when the askari (moved by your show of respect and determination) reveals that Mr. Prospect sees people from 6:30am and leaves at 8am?
The receptionist at the busy office you are trying to penetrate may look cold towards you but do not be intimidated by this. A cold shoulder is the default setting of most people towards sellers anyway.
To thaw the look, one seller deliberately showed up one day near lunch time expecting her to say, “Si ununue lunch, leo?” which she did. At which point he gave her Sh200, saying, “Of course. You deserve it (lunch) for the good job you do.” Future visits were met with the door wide open.
Sometimes, you may stumble upon a gatekeeper passing around a card for a harambee he has. If he sees you at the premises often enough he might even tell you about it. Either way, contribute. It is not a cost, it’s an investment. The return from which is a flood of insider information and unfettered access to your chosen market.
A businessman I know befriended the personal assistant to some big shot he had unsuccessfully tried to meet. All he wanted was his travel itinerary which he got. On the big-shot’s next flight, guess who was seated right next to him for three hours?