What is a gatekeeper?
A gatekeeper can be many things. In general, it's the person you must convince to let you speak to the decision-maker. This person can have many different job titles: Secretary, Administrative Assistance, Office Manager, Operator just to name a few.
Many articles and books will tell you how to get past the gatekeeper. They write these how-to articles from a perspective of getting around some sort of obstacle that is viciously trying to stop you from achieving your goal of reaching the decision-maker and earning your bonus.
We like to think of the gatekeeper as someone who can actually help close the deal. Why? Well, the gatekeeper is one of the few people at the company who probably has regular contact with the decision-maker. Even if they don't, they are able to pass along either good or bad recommendation about you and the company you're calling for to the decision-maker.
The gatekeeper is your first buyer
It's best to treat the gatekeeper like they are your first buyer. If you can convince them the reason you're calling will add value to their company or even their role, you'll have a much better chance of convincing the decision-maker. The gatekeeper is trying to protect their own time as well as their boss' time. Show them you can help them do just that!
The gatekeepers are also very knowledgeable about the company's pain points. Make nice with them and they can open up a world of information that will help you in your sales pitch to the decision-maker.
The higher up the chain you go, the more experienced the gatekeeper. They will have much more responsibility and much more practice dodging pesky sales calls. Take the time to understand the kind of tasks they have. Many assistants to high-level positions, like CEO, are responsible for far more than just scheduling. They often times make many of the purchasing decisions or at the very least, are the ones who put together the research for new products and services that the CEO would later review and make a decision on.
Take the time to make a connection with the gatekeeper. Learn their name and use it during your conversation with them. They'll feel like you're treating them like a real part of the company. Put their name in your notes.