Buying signals from the gatekeeper or screen: What kinds of cues should you be alert for?
(For the record, gatekeeper and screen are usually interchangeable terms, and may apply to anyone from the guard at the gate, to the secretary, to the Decision Maker’s personal assistant.)
Be alert for the subtle clues, or buying signals gatekeepers may send that indicate that this gatekeeper or screen is becoming interested, and hence relaxing the barrier.
If you’re cold calling by phone, the cues will come via the words, by the tone of voice, by the questions asked.
If you’re cold calling face to face, in addition to the above, watch for non-verbals such as whether the person begins to lean forward toward you, whether they are giving you more eye-contact, and the like.
Don’t hesitate when you pick up possible buying signals from a gatekeeper. Use the momentum that you’ve built up and move on to ask that person for what you want, which is, ultimately, to meet with the prospect, the key decision maker (or DM).
In some organizations, the Screen is authorized to set up the appointment, and can write you onto the calendar without your needing to speak to the DM at this point. That’s ideal, as it means you don’t have to make your case again to the DM over the phone. If you sense this may be the case, work on the assumption, and suggest to the Screen a pair of alternative times from which to choose:
“I’m free to meet Mr. Bolger next Tuesday afternoon. Or would Thursday morning be better?“
Precisely what these buying signals gatekeepers unconsciously send may consist of will depend a lot on the individual’s own mannerisms. Here are some typical gatekeeper buying signals to watch for; in time you will develop a sixth-sense for when the mood has changed and the screen has become more open:
Change in phone manner. The Screen may be less formal, less curt, or may become more informal and relaxed.
Questions are often subtle buying signals gatekeeper send. Watch for a shift from questions about the product (which are basically looking for reasons to say No), to questions that relate to practical things like where you are located, or when you can come in.
Some statements may be indirect buying signals. A Screen who says, “Mr. Watkins is out of town all this week,” is, consciously or not, more or less telling you that you’ve won, and it’s now just a matter of settling on a mutually-convenient time. If so, stop making your case, and say something to the effect, “Fine. I’ll be in your area next Tuesday and Thursday. Which would be better?”
Interest in what you are selling is itself a gatekeeper buying signal. Be attuned for subtle clues. If you’re selling, for example, productivity improvement software for the office, the gatekeeper (or screen) might probe for reasons to say No. But the screen might also be wanting to know more because he is very eager for a way of easing his own workload. Often, the difference will be perceptible in voice tone, energy, and enthusiasm — perhaps even in the kinds of questions. If the questions are somewhat technical, that may be a clue that they have already begun looking for something like you offer.