Picture of a gateIt’s a term that’s been around since the time when telephones were first added to businesses. The Gatekeeper. The one who answers the phone and holds the power to help you or send you on your way.

Just about every office has one and in my opinion its a very important job. The person answering the phone is the first impression of a business. They are often very busy juggling many tasks and phone lines at once, and then you call.

You are the person they are trained to screen out, a potential salesperson, one of many that may call that day.

If you are lucky enough to get past the gatekeeper you will probably be sent straight to voicemail. So how in the world are you supposed to prospect for new clients? Well, let’s start with a few basics. First of all, you need to be friendly and upbeat on the phone, or in person if you are door to door prospecting.

You need to believe in yourself and your business, people will read you a mile away. If you don’t believe in yourself then they won’t either. You need to be friendly but firm. Initially, you will probably be shut down, it’s an automatic response when you’re trying to sell something.

Many of my clients have come from people that initially told me no. This is where it gets a bit tricky because we don’t want to be that pushy salesperson.

When I introduce myself, the gatekeeper will often tell me “I don’t think they are interested.”  I smile and say “that’s fine” but do you know if they are happy with their current service? Often times they will not be happy, but they don’t want to go through the perceived hassle of changing vendors.

This is when it helps if you have references close by. “You know, ABC Company down the street told me the same thing when I spoke with them. But they allowed me to do a proposal for comparison and it turned out we could offer better service.

They have been our happy client for 2 years.” You can be firm and confident without being pushy. Don’t be pushy. No one likes that. Then ask again -“could I at least do an estimate for you without any obligation?” If they say no then move along but some will surprise you and say yes.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have any references, be up front. Say something like “I am just getting started, you would be my first client and you can bet I will take great care of this office!” Try to build a rapport with the gatekeeper.

Learn their name and use it, sales 101 – everyone likes to hear their own name. Don’t take it personally when you are turned down – remember it’s their job to protect the owner or decision maker from being bombarded with salespeople.

When you win over the gatekeeper you have scored a major victory. The owner relies heavily on them to help make these kinds of decisions. You will most likely be dealing with them as well once you are hired.

Once you have won them over they may ask the owner to meet you, or better yet put you on their calendar. Be sure to thank them and follow up with a hand written thank you card. No one does that, it’s old fashion. You will stand out if you do it.

If you want to succeed in the cleaning business then you need to win over as many gatekeepers as possible. Get creative, send out holiday cards to gatekeepers you have met with, stay in touch with them if it doesn’t work out right away. Build a network of gatekeepers and you will see your business grow!