Many of the gatekeepers you will face are executive assistants, and they usually work for the leaders (executives) of a specific department of the company. For example, the CFO will likely have an executive assistant who will help him or her personally with all sorts of tasks. However, this executive assistant will usually also support other leaders and employees in the finance department from an administrative standpoint. The CFO and other senior leaders in the finance department will often route their phone numbers to the executive assistant, making this person the gatekeeper when you call.

Executive assistants will usually be a little more sophisticated in terms of competence and experience, and this by no means is a low-level position. You might notice this in the way they try to screen you because they may listen to what you have to say and make a more informed decision on how to handle you instead of just trying to get rid of all salespeople. With that, if you can communicate very clearly who you are and why the prospect will want to talk with you, you can increase the odds of this gatekeeper either letting you in, directing you to a better person to contact, or sharing valuable information with you.

Executive assistants will often work closely with the leaders of a department, and this means that they will often have deep knowledge about the department, current issues and priorities, and who does what. Because of this, they can be a great resource for gathering valuable information. If you end up on the phone with an executive assistant and he or she starts to block you out, definitely shift to treating him or her like the target prospect and ask some of your pain and current environment questions. Not only will the executive assistant likely be able to answer many of your questions, but he or she might also appreciate the respect that you are showing by treating him or her like the target prospect.

In some situations, you may end up having an Instant Meeting with an executive assistant where he or she ends up sharing extremely valuable information that you can use for navigating the organization and finding opportunities. In some cases, the executive assistant will provide information that helps you to identify that the organization is not a good fit and that it does not make sense to spend your valuable time trying to get into the account. Or the executive assistant may hear how you help and identify that there is someone else in the organization you should talk with instead of the target prospect. Or after building rapport with the executive assistant, you could try to turn him or her into a coach and ask for help and guidance on communicating with the target prospect.

The key point here is that the executive assistant will appear to be a gatekeeper standing in your way, but if you handle the situation correctly, this person can become a valuable asset that you can leverage during your efforts to try to get into a new account.