Getting Past Gatekeepers – Stark Statistics for New Sales People

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monty python bridgekeeper


First, the technicality: it was a bridge keeper that Sir Lancelot faced in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yet, this is a scene that has come to mind more than once over my career as I’ve worked on getting past gatekeepers.

Granted I never met any who required me to provide the correct answer to the question, “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Still, many could make me work hard to accomplish my quest of getting to the decision maker .

No question, getting past gatekeepers is a popular sales topic.  Fun fact: a Google search on the topic turns up 463,000 results.

And no doubt, depth and tenure of sales experience play a huge role in passing through successfully. However, Objective Management Group offered statistics that exhibit the extent to which newer sales people struggle in getting past gatekeepers.

According to their study, while 46% of all sales people are able to pass through to decision makers, that figure includes procurement people as decision makers.  Drop out procurement, and only 13% of experienced sales people are able to reach decision makers.

When it comes to new sales people, only 1% make it past the gatekeeper to a decision maker.

Agency new business development is a calling for the thick-skinned, certainly.  Even the ultimate rainmakers hear a lot of “No”s  as they strive for the “Cha-Chings!”s, but this statistic on the success of new sales people reaching decision makers really gave me pause —especially in consideration of agency new business.

This is not new news, but it’s well put: a Center for Sales Strategy Post, 10 Tips for Getting Past the Gatekeeper, articulates the two main concerns of gatekeepers:

  • Keeping the wrong person away from the boss
  • Allowing the right person to the boss

The statistics are important for agencies of all sizes regardless of the experience of your new business team.  For those with a lot of experience and success in getting past gatekeepers, the statistics reinforce both the importance of HAVING the experience and of INSURING it is passed along.

Every salesperson is a new salesperson at some point in their career.  Solid training and encouraging mentorship sustains a successful program.

Many agencies admit without hesitation that tenured sales experience is simply not an in-house resource.  RSW/US New Business Directors bring that depth to our clients.

One of our case studies exhibits just one of many wins that began in successfully enlisting the gatekeeper as an ally:  Full Service Midwestern Firm Case Study.

In building a trusting relationship with the CMO’s gatekeeper, the New Business Director was able to lead the client to a $1.5 million win.  

Don’t worry about knowing the air-sped velocity of an unladen swallow.

DO acquire and foster the experience your firm needs to effectively reach decision makers.

Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.