Getting your foot in the door with a prospective client can be a trying endeavor, especially when faced with an irritated or difficult gatekeeper.
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Financial advisors deal with these individuals on a daily basis. Love them or not, theyoften play a crucial role in your business. Methods of pleasing or appeasing a gatekeeper can come in a variety of forms. Here are the top ways you can inch closer through the door.
“Hello, my name is John Smith from XYZ Financial. Is Ms. Jones available?” This seems like a perfectly proper introduction, which identifies who you are, where you’re from and who you’d like to speak with. However, seasoned gatekeepers will already have their fingers on the “transfer-to-voicemail” button. The first issue with this introduction is formality. Not only does the gatekeeper not know who you are, but apparently neither does your target. By using first names, you put yourself at a familiar level with the gatekeeper. This will help you get you through the door.
“Hello Mary, this is John from XYZ Financial. Is Joan available?” This is better than the first example. However, this introduction still allows for uncertainty in the mind of an experienced gatekeeper. By simply stating that you are calling for a specific purpose, instead of asking, one may presume that the target is expecting your call. You’re now just inches away from an entrance.
“Hello Mary, this is John from XYZ Financial. I am calling for Joan in regard to the company’s retirement plan.” This example might just be the key to the door. The introduction doesn’t leave room for follow-up questions. Try not to pause midsentence, since stopping will make you appear unsure. By using first names and a confident tone, naming the person for whom you are calling and identifying the purpose your call , the gatekeeper might just let you put your foot in the door.
The Next Step
You tried your best introduction, and you were still denied access. Whatever the reason, don’t give up. When gatekeepers say that their colleagues are busy, ask when they will be free to talk. If a time isn’t clear, ask to make an appointment, either in person or by phone. By making an appointment, you will already have your foot in the door. However, an annoyed gatekeeper may deny you an appointment. Never get pushy or rude. Remember, the people on the other end of the phone are working as they were trained. Ask for the target’s voicemail. Then thank the gatekeeper for his or her time.
At this point, there are several options available that relate to one simple idea: gatekeepers are people, too. After a few days, call them back. Establish a good rapport. Be humorous and creative in your approach. Find something in common, but remember to thank them for their time. When you feel comfortable enough, ask if they can do you a favor by answering a few questions about your target: What is his or her preferred name, method of communication, etc. If you are polite and genuine, chances are that they will be, too. The goal is to gather information at every contact.
After the gatekeeper has answered your questions, send him or her a thank you letter and attach a letter for your target. Say how much you appreciate the valuable time he or she spent with you and ask for the target’s letter to be passed along. Call again after a few days to check if the gatekeeper got your letter. You may be surprised by a phone call from your target.
If All Else Fails….
Sometimes, there’s a nut you can’t crack. After repeated attempts and phone calls, you’ve been denied access through the door, but you still shouldn’t give up. However, you may want to talk with the relief staff. Call during lunchtime or at the end of the day.Someone who isn’t as experienced as the regular gatekeeper may let you in. Remember, confidence is key.
A good rapport with these individuals can take you a long way. Even though they might not have any input in the decision-making process, they can make or break your chances of success. By following these few simple principles, you can move past the gatekeepers and get your foot in the door.
Charlie Epstein, CLU, ChFC, AIF® is the founder of The 401k Coach® Program, which offers expert training for financial professionals to develop the skills, systems and processes necessary to excel in the 401(k) industry and facilitate successful retirement outcomes for plan sponsors and participants. Charlie Epstein has frequently been named to 401kWire’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the 401(k) Industry List and Top 300 Most Influential DC Advisor List. He was recently named to the Legg Mason Retirement Advisory Council.