How to Get Past the Gatekeeper in B2B Customer Development

“Selling only to engineers is like nerd-to-nerd selling, and it doesn’t usually work. You can get stuck in endless cycles of non-decision.”Ken Morse, MIT Entrepreneurship Center Founding Managing Director, 1996-2009

In every organization, you’ll find gatekeepers actively trying to block sales.

A gatekeeper is an individual or team whose job feels threatened by new software or processes. The gatekeeper or saboteur might be the business intelligence group inside IT or the CIO’s department which is currently trying to build its own solution.

Saboteurs often fear losing their influence, or worse, their jobs.

Entrepreneurs often face gatekeeper or saboteur problems when there’s strong interest for a solution, but a deal can’t seem to get signed.

For example, a contact inside the organization informs you that the technical buyer, the CFO’s office or another department is holding back the approval process, things are running in circles and everything seems to be about politics…

If you’re faced with this situation, work with your internal influencers to draft a list of departments and stakeholders that could be holding back the sale. Go through the list and put yourself in their shoes… What do they stand to lose? What do they want?

Meet with all gatekeepers or potential saboteurs one on one. Make them verbalize their concerns. If they’re unwilling to put it into words, you’ll know that the reason might be purely political. Try to increase their win and reduce their risk.

Meet again with your internal influencers. Reiterate the importance of your product’s Return on Investment (ROI) and the urgency to solve the pain. Try to motivate them to put pressure on the gatekeepers.

To get get past the gatekeeper, you must convince that you’re there to help. IT people are notorious for playing the role of saboteurs — try to avoid selling to IT if you can.

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