In B2B selling, who’s your Gatekeeper?
Who makes the decision to buy your products? Who’s the “economic end user?” Is it the shopper at the retail shelf? Or is it someone else like a contractor selling in-home?
Consider the power of the person who educates the shopper or homeowner on their options.
If that education is the basis for decision-making, the one offering their advice has the ability to filter information and steer the purchase information to benefit themselves. Even a sophisticated consumer will reconsider their position based on the level of trust they have in the presenter.
Influence stemming from trust defines the Gatekeeper
That disproportionate influence, the education role, and their vested interest in the outcome make this person critical to the selling process.
We call this person the Gatekeeper because of their role in walking the homeowner through their options.
You can better understand the Gatekeeper with a simple example drawn from everyday life…the roofing contractor. If you have a problem with your roof, you’ll most likely call a contractor for advice on the problem. After an inspection, your worse fears are confirmed – you need a new roof. You walk through some options, select a color and get a quote. If it all adds up, the contractor will go to work and your problem is behind you.
There’s no doubt in our story about who chose the roof and selected the color – the homeowner did. But the Gatekeeper led the homeowner to the conclusion that a new roof was needed. Most of the conversation focused on an outcome, but in the process a number of critical questions were addressed.
Indeed, those answers were designed to build up your trust that this firm was the best for the job.
In fact, the contractor had to sort out a myriad of manufacturers and suppliers. And in the course of solving the problem, subtle suggestions or even direct answers to objections carried a lot of weight.
For example, “In the years I’ve been installing XYZ brand, I’ve never had any problem the company didn’t stand behind.” Or “This is the contractor grade product, not what you find in a home center for a dog house.”
When you sign a contract with the contractor, you expect them to deal with the details. You follow their advice and look to their experience. You trust them.
Their experiences and qualifications make them the Gatekeeper.
Who’s the Gatekeeper in your field?
Now that we know about the Gatekeeper and the power of their role, so what you ask. Consider where the influence point in your business is.
Better yet, consider how you are marketing to take advantage of the Gatekeeper.
- The cost of marketing to a focused, limited group is always more efficient than a broad sweep of potential audiences
- Aiming at roofing contractors is an easily defined group
- Targeting homeowners who might be re-roofing is group that’s far from small, almost impossible to define for marketing and too expensive to practically reach
In a sense, you are able to justify a targeted business-to-business marketing effort instead of a broad-based consumer advertising effort. Even if you still plan on spending the same amount of money as you would for the ad effort, you can create a lot more value for the Gatekeeper.
Marketing to the B2B Gatekeeper
Examine your own situation. Where in the selling cycle does the Gatekeeper appear?
Once that key constituency is identified, you need to begin the process of focusing on their needs and offer programs to help you both grow sales together.
Let’s go back to our roofing contractor to make the point. The contractor is a businessperson who brings a lot more than just products to the homeowner.
As such, the in-home selling that takes place works to build on the reputation and credibility of their firm, not on what manufacturer’s product is being installed.
Savvy building materials companies have taken advantage of this and developed tools to help the contractor organize and grow their business
These tools are geared to each step of the selling process for a contractor:
- Lead development
- Closing the sale, follow-up and referral, and business-building resources
- Blogs, social media and contractor referral sites are all making Gatekeepers even more connected – and influential — to business growth
Educate your Gatekeeper
Create tools that can be easily modified for their use – to keep the emphasis on the Gatekeeper, not you.
For example, the roofing contractor generally uses a pitch book in the home. A pitch book is filled with information about the company, how they work and testimonials from satisfied customers.
Because the emphasis is on their company, they rarely want to take advantage of a manufacturer binder (or template).
Creating a program that shifted the focus to who’s presenting – and not on what product is specified – has spelled success for a number of suppliers.
Gatekeepers will support those who have their interests at heart
When calling on the Gatekeeper, ask them what their objectives are. Search for the hot buttons that will allow you to show them the depth of your support.
For our roofing contractor those needs might be canvassing and direct mail, advertising, professional identification, or product training.
The winners for his business – and therefore the company supported in the sale to the homeowner – comes not just from price, quality and delivery, but from the breadth of support.
By developing a range of resources, the sales call to the B2B Gatekeeper can be on the total business proposition – and how to best grow their business.
Your business will, in turn, grow with their support.
Special thanks to Mark Mitchell for co-writing this article with me.