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The Sales Shift from Gatekeeper to Expediter

by Hank Barnes  |  January 27, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Yes, I apologize if I am adding yet another post to the mass of content about how sales needs to shift.  But I hope you add this one to your “useful” pile and not your “I hope I never hear that again” pile.

After thinking about my post last week about respecting the buying process and the feedback I received, my mind started to go in some crazy directions.  How can sellers respect the buying process, but still meet their objectives?  Waiting for buyers to contact you, particularly if you work for a brand that is not well known, is a recipe for failure.   At the same time, contacting at the wrong time doesn’t work either.    What can you do.

I’d suggest yet another mind shift for sales is one part of the solution.  For years, and I think to a large extent it still happens today, many in sales felt that they were gatekeepers.      They sit in between the buyer and their organizations.   They want everything to go through them.   A buyer wants information, then sales wants to be the one to get it for you.  You want to talk to someone technical, it’s “not so fast,  let me make sure I can make that happen (and put a bunch of qualifiers on what I expect from you in order to make that connection).”    Gatekeepers often “extract their fee” for the act of unlocking the gate to get to what you need.


It’s the wrong way to think and act today.  It’s also a bit delusional.

First, and we’ve known this for a while, customers don’t need sales to help them with access to information.  They can find it on their own.   Furthermore, if they have started on this path and then engage with sales, and a gatekeeper type discussion ensues, it’s likely to become a dead-end–one of the memorable moments (not in a good way) where they buyer seeks never to interact with that seller again.

But it is not just information.  It connecting to people.  Let’s talk references.  I’ll be exploring references in more detail in my next post, but one of the interesting facts that came out of a recent Gartner survey on buying was that “sales arranged references calls or visits” was the lowest ranked sales activity in terms of value from a buyer perspective.  This was startling.  The high tech sales world has always been driven by references.   What is going on?   We still need to dig deeper, but my hypothesis is that there are two factors at work:

  • Due to social computing, buyers can frequently find existing customers on their own and make contact without the seller even knowing it
  • Buyers may be feeling that the ‘brokered” contacts are too scripted and controlled, they may get some useful information but they have doubt in their mind about the full authenticity of the discussion.

How should sales be behaving?

I suggest they need to think and act like expediters.   An expediters understands the client situation and goal and works to find the fastest way to achieve that goal.   They don’t make money if they don’t help the client achieve the outcome.   They don’t keep people out—they connect (and get out of the way—-other than under.   To effectively expedite, sellers should:

  • Understand the buyers process–where they are and where they want to go
  • Guide them toward information and assets that speed the process
  • Help them avoid missteps and delays

And they have to do one very important thing for themselves.   They need to use the understanding of the buyer situation to make sure it is worth their time.  There is no reason to expedite efforts if there is no value to you, the seller in the end.   Your level of effort should be commensurate with how close to that value for you the buyer is.  Your time is valuable to.

But above all, don’t think that you have the ability to hold access to information and assets as a “chip” that you can play in return for getting the buyer to do something they may not want to do.  That doesn’t work.   They have other ways to get what they want.  You don’t want to be viewed as a roadblock. You want to be the one that gets them in the fast lane.


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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: buying-process  references  sales  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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