Don’t Try to Kick Down the Gatekeeper

The question of how to handle executive assistants seems to come up whenever I am training someone on a new calling campaign.

It’s one of those areas of sales that is pretty simple but where there is plenty of misinformation out there, especially in those “old sales books”, so here’s my approach to dealing with “the gatekeeper” (a.k.a. the executive assistant).

Use the same value proposition (script) that you plan to use with the executive themselves.

Explain to the executive assistant exactly what you sell, focusing on the benefits of your offering and the research you have completed that shows how this could be valuable for their company (and their boss).  Then ask the assistant if they know if this is something their boss is looking into.

Often the assistant will say “I don’t know”.  Ask them if their boss is the best person to speak to or would they recommend someone else.  If they recommend someone else, you can call that person and say “Sally Smith, Bob Jones’s assistant recommended I speak to you about this”.  You have a referral.

We’ve found that as the seniority of the title you are calling on rises, so does the caliber of the executive assistant.  At the same time your likelihood of reaching the executive drops (down to less than 10% per call for CEO’s). 

When calling CxO’s, executive assistants can be your greatest asset.  Since you will speak to them frequently and they are really smart, you should enroll them on your side.  Human beings can tell when you are treating them as objects not people – even on the telephone.  If you try to do this with a savvy CxO’s assistant, you will be toast.  On the other hand if you treat them well, they can be a great resource for you.

So don’t try to kick down the gatekeeper.  Knock gently and ask politely if you can come in.

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