Get to the Decision-Maker — But Don’t Forget the Gatekeeper

Get to the decision-maker. This is basic advice frequently heard from expert sales people. And good advice it is.

Few business situations are more frustrating than selling a “gatekeeper” only to learn this contact person has been overruled by someone with more power.

Unfortunately, this problem can be a constant irritation for photographers and stock distributors who must deal with gatekeepers much of the time. A designer or art director may love the product, but the boss or the end client may see things very differently.

It is infuriating, but, if you are willing to do a little extra work, you can take steps to improve your odds of making the sale.

Sometimes the answer is fairly simple. By asking the right questions and exercising a little political finesse, you occasionally can discover the name of the decision-maker and obtain permission to contact the person directly.

In other circumstances, you may convince the gatekeeper to let you sit in on his/her meeting with the decision-maker. Don’t be afraid to use your persuasive powers here. Persuasion is what sales is all about.

However, even if you cannot get to this decision-maker, you often can obtain help from the gatekeeper. This person is already on your side, having chosen your work over that of your competitors.

You can start by making sure the gatekeeper has the necessary information and tools –– Web site URLs, printed pieces, portfolios, contact information, a resume or company history with a list of other clients. Testimonials from previous customers will help establish your credibility. Gathering this information in a single packet will make the gatekeeper’s job much easier.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions about the decision-maker. Does the decision-maker like the kind of avant-garde work you and your contact enjoy? If not, tone down the leave-behind materials. If so, have more fun with the presentation.

Finally, talk to the gatekeeper at length. Make your case. This person will remember some of what you say and bring it up during discussions with the decision-maker. Suggest why your work will accomplish the decision-maker’s goals. Consider possible objections the decision-maker may raise. Mention answers to the gatekeeper.

All this can be done in a subtle fashion that does not imply you are trying to tell this person what to do. You probably don’t want to say, “Tell the decision-maker this . . .” Your gatekeeper does not want marching orders. But, expressing your enthusiasm for the project and vocalizing your pitch will provide additional ammunition for the gatekeeper.

Again, this person is already on your side and wants what you bring to the table. Anything less is a compromise for the gatekeeper.

[tags]photography business, photography tips[/tags]

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