Win at Work With The Gatekeeper Equation

by Brad Isaac on October 25, 2007

business_white_locked_237523_l Negotiating?  Job searching?  Trying to make a sale or buy something?  Want better service no matter where you go?  Here is a tip that will make all of these jobs easier if you follow it.
Aloof and ego-centric people kill their odds of successful outcomes before they start with their pitch.  Whereas the wise go in with powerful people on their side. 

One oft neglected strategy that gets your foot in the door is to take care of the gatekeeper.  Gatekeepers at first appear to be underpaid, low powered people but they can dramatically affect how you look to the person you want to impress.

And while this tip might seem manipulative, it is not.  Just read to the end before passing judgement.

Who are corporate gatekeepers?

A corporate gatekeeper can be anyone.  But the most obvious example is a front desk secretary, waiter or assistant.  Although their positions may seem small and unimportant, they have the ear of decision makers within the company.

What can gatekeepers do?

You might be surprised how much influence gatekeepers have.  Let’s just think about it for a second.  They deal directly with the public and in high-pressure situations.  So they often command a lot of attention.  Their decisions and opinions matter – often times more than the boss’ opinion.  Because first impressions matter, a gatekeeper gets the first glance at a candidate before anyone else. 

A boss will often bounce thoughts off a gatekeeper…

“How do you think he’d work out here if we hired him?”
“What do you think of the widget she was selling?”

What you don’t want is the gatekeeper saying “Well he was rude to me.  Hire him if you want, but I know he and I will have problems…”  No good manager or leader wants to deliberately introduce a problem to the company.  Can you see how this works?

I’ve personally witnessed some egomaniacs who feel the best way to be impressive is to walk into a business and abuse the people at the front desk.  “I am so important, I don’t have time to wait all day.”  At that point, the battle is over for this bonehead.  It doesn’t matter if he aces the interview, the front desk will now be on a mission to get even.  And by virtue of being gatekeepers, they know the right buttons to push to make sure he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance of getting the job.

The Gatekeeper Equation

Here’s how the gatekeeper equation works:

  • If you are rude, short or otherwise negative to a gatekeeper, your overall results will be influenced negatively.
  • If you are neither nice nor mean to the gatekeeper, your overall results will not be affected.
  • If, however, you make a low-key effort to have a positive interaction with the gatekeeper, your overall results will be positively influenced.

I’d like to emphasize that positive interactions with the gatekeepers should not be manipulative or artificial.  I’ve stressed before that since most everything you want is acquired through other people, it’s important to consistently improve your human interactions.  Treating everyone as both valuable and important is the height of maturity.  Like the old saying “You can’t love another if you don’t love yourself first.”  By treating your gatekeepers with respect and kindness, you demonstrate a self confidence that you are worth doing business with.

What  Is A Positive Gatekeeper Interaction?

A positive interaction consists of a smile and treating the gatekeeper as a friend – not as a servant. 

Good:  “How’s your day going?”
Bad:    “How about going and getting me a beverage?”

Good:  “Ahh… Looks like you are a fan of Disney World too.  When did you go last?”  (As you look and smile at a family photo taken at the Magic Kingdom.)
Bad:    “I don’t have all day.”

You might be chuckling at the thought of someone acting so rudely, but it happens.  And it happens a lot.  That’s why you can be miles ahead of your competition just by going out of your way to make the gatekeeper’s day a happier one.

Take care of the gatekeepers and they’ll take care of you.

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