One of the most common problems sales people encounter when trying to connect with key decision makers is the executive assistant, also known as the gatekeeper.

These individuals’ can help or hinder your efforts to get a face-to-face meeting with a high-value prospect and if you’re not careful, they will barricade their boss’s office door and permanently prevent you from gaining access. However, when you use the right approach the executive assistant will quickly give you the key to the executive’s office.

Here are four reasons why you might not be able to get past the gatekeeper, connect with the decision maker and land that important deal.

1.You use manipulative tactics.

It still amazes me how many sales people believe that using a manipulate tactic will help them get past an executive assistant. Pretending you know the prospect (when you don’t) or claiming this is an emergency call may work…once.

But this type of approach is never effective in the long run.

Executive assistants are smart people. They deal with sales people every day and they can usually spot a manipulative tactic from a mile away. It is much more effective to be straight-forward, honest and direct in your dealings with an executive’s assistant.

2.You treat them poorly.

I once worked directly across from a Vice President’s executive assistant so I had the good fortune of hearing some of the telephone calls she received. Plus, she frequently expressed her frustration to me after talking to a sales person. More often than not, the sales person treated her poorly, used a condescending tone or demanded that she put them through to her boss. They would also evade her questions or act as if they were her commanding officer.

When you treat an executive assistant like a second class citizen, they will do everything in their power to prevent you from meeting with their boss.

3. You forget that they have a brain.

Talking to an executive assistant as if they are a moron is a colossal mistake. These individuals’ are usually well-connected within the company and have a better understanding of the internal workings of their organization.

I once spoke to a front-line receptionist who was the CEO’s older sister. She knew everything that was happening in the company and was also extremely proficient at being able to “size up” sales people and their approach. Needless to say, people who thought she was “just a receptionist” scratched their heads when they could never seem to land that all-important appointment with her brother.

4. You forget their role.

One responsibility of an executive assistant is to protect their boss’s time and they are diligent in doing so. Don’t hate them for it, that’s their job. They know exactly how busy the decision maker is and they are fiercely protective of that person’s time.

However, executive assistants will add you to the decision maker’s schedule providing you can demonstrate why it makes good sense for them to do so.

If you use a manipulative tactic and end up wasting the executive’s time, the executive assistant will be questioned why you were given that appointment. And that will cause them to become even more protective of their boss’s time in the future. That’s why most EAs ask questions about the nature of your request, the product or service you want the decision maker to consider.

It is important to note that executive assistants can be extremely helpful.
However, you need to treat them with respect and be very clear on your intentions from the beginning. In fact, you should treat them like the decision maker in all your conversations by asking them high-value questions and demonstrating the value of your offering.

Your first sale is to the executive assistant. When you manage that conversation properly, they will give you the opportunity to have a similar conversation with their boss.