Introducing Ms. Gatekeeper!
Each day presents a new challenge and an opportunity to learn in the world of an Executive Assistant (EA).
You quickly learn that sales calls are constant and that no matter how you respond to a request, whether via phone or email, they keep pressing on rarely taking no for an answer. I quickly learned that I needed to “up my game” when I allowed a piece of correspondence to get past me, the gatekeeper, and on the desk of my C-level executive.
It was a nicely packaged, neatly handwritten note thanking him for accepting her invitation on LinkedIn. This erred me to believe there had already been a relationship established. Lesson learned….it wasn’t true. It also made me realize this person was trying to establish a relationship with my boss, and our organization, based on a lie. No integrity, no ethics, no Bueno.
What an experience, however, probably not even close to the best I’ve heard. There was a caller who politely introduced himself as my executive’s “Cousin Brian”. Since I had not known my current exec that long I wasn’t attune to his close family let along extended. You guessed it…no such person in his family. And one of my all-time favorite calls came into the office from another department requesting my exec clear his calendar to meet with a company at the request of “Ted Kennedy”. They had an amazing product that must be seen. Knowing that Sen. Ted Kennedy passed in 2009 I was immediately suspicious. These suspicions paid off and it was bogus. Turns out Ted Kennedy is a fairly common name.
So how do you get past the EA, the “Gatekeeper” if you will? There is no magic formula other than be true and honest. I realize you are working from a script: your goals, what/who you represent, what you have to offer, why your solution/product works better. You’re in this for the long haul until you get the desired outcome – a meeting! My exec is your prospect . You will thank me, you won’t be pushy as you know the difference between persistence and annoyance. You will try not to see me as a barrier but ultimately you will.
Most commonly I hear:
It’s a personal matter. I have worked with or spoken to X from your organization who referred me to you. I’m calling on behalf of CEO of X company. I just need a few minutes. A gross mispronunciation of the execs name. I met him at HIMSS. His first name. Please know this gets you no further. If you know him so well, why don’t you have his mobile number or direct line. I am your new account executive. Why didn’t the previous account executive leave you contact information?
Don’t bully me or use derogatory techniques to shame me into thinking I’m “only a secretary”. Don’t underestimate what I know about my department or my organization. All calls are handled and triaged by me. If you do not feel comfortable talking to me, I cannot share your message. Tell me why you’re calling. It may be more appropriate that your call goes to another member of our leadership team.
Be true, be honest. That’s what sells.
Remember, I stand beside, not behind, my executive. I’m a strong, confident partner. Treat me as such.