"A gatekeeper's job is to make incisive inquiry to pre-qualify external suppliers, not to turn away all comers."
Large Differences In Approaches to Gatekeeping:
I find vast differences in the approaches taken by corporate gatekeepers when dealing with outside parties who bring them opportunities. While recognizing that there are many more reasons for a company to say no than yes, different gatekeepers reveal different mindsets (also perhaps, instructions). These differences in attitude and approach can determine whether a company seizes opportunity or simply seeks to avert possible risk, regardless of upside potential. Last week, I experienced a very vivid reminder of this through varying reactions by gatekeepers to the same value proposition.
Gatekeeper 1: "I hear what you are saying, but please help me to understand why I should be interested in what you are offering given that our exisiting solutions seem pretty satisfactory."
Gatekeeper 2: "You have just made my day. I have been looking for something like this for quite a while. Let's figure out what we need to do to make it work the way we need it to."
Gatekeeper 3: "I think we're going to decline for the following reasons..."
Gatekeepers Should Realize the Impression They Make:
I am not praising or knocking any of these gatekeepers based on their respective responses. Their individual situations, needs, decision making criteria, and instructions could be dramatically different. Further, it is my responsibility to present my value proposition in a sufficiently compelling way so as to invite discussion. It is certainly possible that in some instances, I fell short in that respect. All of this said, I wish to comment on the differences in response I received and the impression each made on me. This will impact my interest in approaching each of them with oppprtunties in the future.
In the first instance, I was pushed by the gatekeeper to crystallize my value proposition and its advantages versus his existing solutions. Even though he comes across as somewhat negative, I was fine with this. It is important that we work to discern whether our value offering can be meaningful to this customer. At least the customer encouraged us to have this discussion. In the second response, the gatekeeper is interested in discovering possibilities together. His enthusiasm is contagious, and there is no ego on display. Who wouldn't want to deal with someone like this? In the third case, the gatekeeper shut the door without even taking time to discern whether the value offering could be relevant or meaningful. Not very motivating.
I accept that it's not easy being a corporate gatekeeper. Well, it is if one only lets in sure things (i.e. rare) and rejects everything else. For every situation, judgment and attitude are everything. While one does need to be discerning (after all, when everything is possible, nothing is), with the right mindset and a practical approach, many more solid opportunities can become available.