Thursday, August 14, 2008

Breaking the bond of the "Gatekeeper"....

You know who he (or she) is.

That person you have to deal with to get access into a client's organization. Could be the actual buyer, but many times is just someone who is paid to say 'no', and really does not have any power to say 'yes'.

And you are stuck with him...or her.

How do you break the bond?

I worked with a client this spring; providing business development services to access and develop new strategic accounts in the global Engineering & Construction sector. We had one global E&C account with revenues over $6B, but my client (software company) had very little visibility and access into the account. My role: providing company & industry insights, access to key executives, and refine the sales strategy; complementing and assisting the account manager and his team.

And his main contact in this company was simply...a pill. Someone who was almost hostile to the account manager, who in turn was oblivious to the verbal assault. But someone who did have the power to affect the terms of an enterprise level deal.

Ok, we can just go around him, using my relationships (which were at a much higher level in practice management).


This gatekeeper made it be known that we were NOT to go around him....everything HAD to be coordinated via him.

(Where's Dr. Phil when you really need him?)

Plus, the guy always wanted to meet over lunch.....hmmm; wonder why?

A new strategy was needed. One that minimized the gatekeeper's impact, kept the account manager motivated, and hopefully one that could turn this around.

What was accomplished:

- Killing with kindness (not a great ROI given the level of effort, but there was some minor amount of 'R')

- Me working with my relationships, and providing my account manager with 'plausible deniability':

("Honest, Mr Gatekeeper; I did not know Scott was talking to Ms. SVP of Corp. Dev!!")

- Appealing to the Gatekeeper's primary need: perform less work. We told him we could get other staff within his organization involved, and run all decisions through him. All the power, none of the hassle.

- Finally, working with executives (I was developing some 'benchmarking' for the industry....gave me a reason to reach out) who had a vested interest in our success (the SVP of Process Mfg, and key program managers who wielded enormous influence), and getting them to support our gatekeeper (not that easy to do, given the gatekeeper's internal reputation, as it was).

Rocket science? No.

Lots of lunches? Yes.

Thinly disguised compliments? Sure.

To summarize: taking a chance on alienating the gatekeeper (via my role....note: why do I have to be the bad cop?), getting key influencers involved, allowing the gatekeeper to maintain his position of authority, supporting him via other internal leaders (which made him feel good), and putting him in a position where he had to go forward or would be perceived as truly a gatekeeper.

It's funny, but gatekeepers do not want to be perceived as gatekeepers.

Who knew.

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