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Getting Past Bertha: The Rules of Gatekeeper Engagement in Sales

GatekeeperWe all know who Bertha is.

She’s the ever-present Gatekeeper… the evil lord of the Decision-Maker’s precious  appointment book, telephone, and front door.  She eats unsuspecting sales reps for breakfast.  She’s been around the block, and knows what you’re up to.  You’re a Salesperson, and as far as she’s concerned, you’re the enemy.  She’s made up her mind; her boss’ office is the end zone, and she’s the entire Steelers front line.

When Bertha asks, “What is this regarding?”, we all know where she’s going.  She wants to get to the bottom of why you want to waste her boss’ time, and if she doesn’t get a satisfactory answer, you’re getting flushed like last night’s Taco Bell.

As a professional sales rep, it’s critical that you answer Bertha quickly and confidently. One hesitation – just one hint that leads her to believe you’re tentative, nervous, or don’t know your stuff – and you’re toast.

So Rule #1 of getting past Bertha is: Be Ready For Bertha.

Don’t count on your last-minute, off-the-cuff wit to pull you through; you must be prepared for questions like “What’s This Regarding?” and answer them with confidence.

(NOTE: Want to know my best responses to the question, “What’s This Regarding?”  Just E-mail me at [email protected] with the words “BERTHA” in the subject line, and I’ll send ‘em right to you.)

Rule #2 is: Play Her Game.

This is her turf.  In order for you to win, she has to believe that SHE’S in control.  You won’t beat Bertha; your best bet is to win her over, which leads us to:

Rule #3: Treat Bertha Like She’s The Decision-Maker’s Best Friend.

You don’t know how much the Decision-Maker counts on Bertha to help him or her decide what to do.  Many bosses ask their assistants what they think about certain vendors or product lines.  They often ask their assistants questions like: “What’d you think of that person that just walked out the door?”  Most every Bertha has an opinion, and even though they may not take their advice, they listen to their responses, and it does influence the Decision-Makers’ thinking.

And if you can’t get past her, for whatever reason, employ

Rule #4: Figure Out When Bertha’s NOT There, and Call Then.

The best times to call are during “normal” lunch times, just before work hours begin (i.e., at 8:15 am if the day begins at 8:30), or just after normal work hours end.  Decision-Makers are often there early and stay late.

If you get Bertha’s voice mail, hit “0”, which usually transfers you up to the reception area, and ask the receptionist up front to transfer you to the Decision-Maker’s direct line, bypassing Bertha’s line.  (I use this tactic quite often.)

If none of these work, there’s also

PhoneRule #5: Find Another Company Contact.

There may be someone else inside the company that can get you the access you need.  Call another extension, strike up a conversation with that person, and let them know that you’ve been trying to reach so-and-so, and wondered if they could help.

As I teach in every ticket sales training program I conduct with teams across the nation:  Sales is a game – play to win!

P.S.  If you’ve got a great response to “What’s This Regarding?”, send it to me at [email protected], and I’ll print it in a future Sports Networker column… and to learn more about my 3-day “Sales Dominance” program for sports ticket sales executives, click here.


Photo Credits: Gatekeeper ; Phone


2 Responses to Getting Past Bertha: The Rules of Gatekeeper Engagement in Sales

  1. TimNATC September 4, 2009 at 6:09 am #

    Bill – Great post, these are all points I tell my students.

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