Don't let the gatekeepers down

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Q. I call on physician practices. What's the best way to get past the gatekeeper?

A. Getting past the gatekeeper (typically, an administrative assistant) shouldn't be your goal. Ultimately, you want to speak with a physician or some other decision maker. So, in that sense, you have to move beyond the gatekeeper. However, if you think in terms of working with the gatekeeper to accomplish better patient care, you'll improve your chances of achieving your sales goals.
First and foremost, be someone gatekeepers are glad to see walk through the door. Gatekeepers like sales people who are respectful of their time, friendly and kind, especially when they can't accommodate your immediate needs. Some sales managers frown on candy and doughnuts as a sales approach. If that's all you have to offer, they are absolutely right. On the other hand, don't kid yourself; people will always like thoughtful treats.
While doughnuts and smiles may make gatekeepers more sympathetic to your needs, it's also critical that you consider their needs. One of their needs is to look good to their employers. It's very likely they have been given specific instructions about how to handle sales calls. They know who the decision makers want to see. When an administrative assistant lets you in to see the decision maker, don't let him/her down. Be prepared. Ask for the referral, of course, and then give them something they can use now. For example, if you are good at providing updates on patients the doctor has already referred to you, give the decision maker a full report.
Decision makers will give feedback to the gatekeepers. If you waste the manager's time, rest assured that the gatekeeper will make sure you never see the other side of the glass again. Whether it's the latest sleep technology or news they can use, your professional presentation is the best treat you can offer.


Len Serafino is vice president, eastern division, of CHAD Therapeutics. Reach him at (615) 708-9548 or