Sales Advice: Helping you to get past the receptionist or gatekeeper

Published: 16 October 2014

Get past the gatekeeper - make that sale!

Getting to the decision maker or other influential people can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things a sales person has to do, they almost see anybody that stands in their way as the enemy.  However, if you simply consider that they are doing their job in the same way that you are doing yours, your life can be that much easier.

Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Them” provides us with a myriad of suggestions on how to build relationships.  In his book he talks of the importance of first impressions and this equally applies with that of the gatekeeper.  Positive happy tones of voice will certainly start to breakdown the initial barriers. 

Although obstructive gatekeepers are usually resistant to protracted conversations, the importance of rapport building through low risk open-ended questions can be beneficial especially when coupled with a genuine interest in the person you are talking to.

Gatekeepers feel their role is to protect those inside “the sanctuary”, and it is appealing to this parent like attitude that often pays dividends, after all if you can pitch your wares to the gatekeeper’s organisation, surely they will be better off because of it won’t they?  It is because of taking this attitude during the conversations and written communications with gatekeepers that will help ensure success.  This opens up another barrier which needs to be overcome, namely that of your own self confidence.  Quite often the only thing standing in your way to success is self-belief where a small dose of positive thinking and affirmation may be just what the doctor ordered.

Gatekeepers are an intrinsic member of any decision making unit who should be treated with respect and with whom all of the usual sales cycle processes merit consideration. 

Build Rapport - Charm that Gatekeeper

The importance of “rapport building” has already been discussed.  The next stage of the sales cycle is “questioning”.  With gatekeepers this equates to understanding their position relating to why they feel the need to protect.  Sales people know that once they have identified a need, they match this with a “benefits based proposition”.  So turning to our gatekeeper this means presenting your reason as to why their organisation would be better off through talking to you.  Fortunately, as we know that all “objections” give us an opportunity to further seal the deal, when the gatekeeper gives us reasons as to why the buck stops with them, we can use our tried and tested objection handling techniques.  As a reminder these techniques include persuasion, reframing and compromise, amongst others.  The final stage of the sales cycle is the “close”, which should be delivered with confidence, remembering of course that the sales cycle is aptly named that, should you meet with resistance you should start back at the beginning.

Don't Give up just before that sale!Research shows us that most sales people tend to give up trying to penetrate a customer after three communication attempts, however the same research also tells us that most buyers acquiesce after seven attempts.  This does not mean seven phone calls or seven emails, it means a variety of communication attempts.  One strategy that often works is an introductory email stating a reason why a conversation with you would be beneficial and that you will be re-contacting via the telephone on a given date and time.  The call to action is therefore “please be ready for my call”.  This heightens the awareness of your contact and may even pique their interest in anticipation of your carefully crafted teaser email.

One final word of encouragement, rejection is by no means a reflection on you as an individual, it is purely a small hurdle along the way to the riches that lie ahead.  Try to learn from each rejection, persevere whenever you feel that others would retire and think laterally about the core messages in your attempts to circumnavigate the gatekeeper, who after all will ultimately be thankful that they wisely allowed you through the door when you demonstrate with clarity their justification for doing so.

If you have more sales questions like this why not join us for our Live Sales Q&A on October 29th over at the Professional Academy Twitter page.

For more in-depth information on Sales why not look into an ISMM Sales Qualification by downloading a copy of our most recent sales prospectus or contacting one of our qualification advisors today.  

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7 ways to study - Advice from Students, Tutors and Experts

Published: 14 October 2014

7 Ways to Study Smarter

CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing student Dave Thackeray is just weeks away from the Strategic Marketing exam. Today he asks seven highly-respected marketers how to prepare for the big day...

I was a serial failure at school. Fidgety and largely disinterested by the standard curriculum fare, I found myself excelling at anything remotely creative. But if you’re not a professional actor being great at drama doesn’t cut it; and despite being pretty competent at languages, I’m still getting to grips with Wiganese 18 months after starting my current role in Greater Manchester’s Pie Zero. But I love a challenge and that’s why rebooting my studying ambitions more than 20 years on seemed like a good idea. I’m a big fan of many different learning styles, which is why I picked Professional Academy to help me pass my CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing. I can study at my leisure to get a good grounding but from what I’ve heard the workshops offered to students choosing the blended option (rather than purely distance learning) are a veritable godsend for boosting your confidence and validating everything you’ve discovered on your own.

Now I’m back in the hot seat and the studying is well underway, I recall many of the problems I once had. I think working in a digital role has exacerbated many of the foibles I suffered as a teenager - my attention span seems short, and a lot of the theories I’m learning are going in one ear, and out the other. During those dark days when I don’t seem to remember anything (I’m on 2.2 in the Strategic Marketing module CIM workbook and it’s all about numbers, which were never my strong suit) the words of my Professional Academy tutor Carol Laing shared in my last blog post ring in those same ears. Focus and concentration are clearly the order of the day, and these skills are especially important when time is short and you feel like you’re working all the hours god sends. Which is why I decided to reach out to several people I highly respect to get their take on how to study smarter. When it comes to tips and tricks, I find short responses hits the sweet spot so I went on the Tweet beat to hear what they have to say...


Know thy purpose

Paul Smith (PR_Smith) of PR Smith, co-author of eMarketing Excellence and creator of the SOSTAC® marketing planning system told me it’s essential to know precisely the goals of your study so you’re not wasting any time swotting up for those all-important exams.

Go with the tried and trusted

Paul’s a big cheese in marketing so we’re more than happy to have him give a shameless - but wholly justifiable - plug for his own system that has inspired thousands of organisations at large to crush it. This relates closely to the Strategic Marketing module since it includes a deep dive into marketing planning:

Consistency, not cramming

Prolific and award-winning marketer, and author CC Chapman (@CC_Chapman) said planning and preparation triumphs every time for smart students:

Play the long game

Some Professional Excellence tutors and former students had things to say on the timing front. It seems there are two trains of thought when it comes to scheduling your studying. Find a day and dig in, says Claire Boscq Scott:

Rinse and repeat

… or just build repetitive habits. Says Marcus Kilvington:

Take note

Fellow Professional Academy tutor John Chacksfield is a big fan of online tools that help you store and locate notes and information to help you create the definitive study resource.

Action, not distraction

To round up this list, seriously social marketeer Jeremy Waite offered up some solid - and unexpected - solutions to age-old problems of distraction getting in the way of action:


Those are some tips I learned to help me study smarter. Proof’s going to be in the pudding when I take my first CIM exam in December. First I have a Professional Academy two-day workshop by when I hope I’ll be well on course to giving the test my best shot. You'll be hearing how I fared in that workshop in my next article. Meantime I’m always on the hunt for better ways to study so if you have any wise words to share, Tweet me at @davethackeray and I’ll post the best here on the blog over the next few months.


Dave Thackeray Documents his CIM Student JourneyFormer journalist, editor and company owner Dave is now the web and social media officer at WLCT, a charity operating leisure services for councils. After years making his way through the marketing maze he decided to go back to basics and learn how to do it properly with Professional Academy and CIM. Follow his progress on this blog and feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter to ask about his experiences. 

If you would like to Join Dave on a CIM Marketing Qualification Course you can contact Professional Academy for some advice or Download a copy of the Marketing Prospectus today

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Is big data’s growing role in the recruitment process sustainable?

Published: 09 October 2014

Big Data in Recruitment - Warning

BBC business reporter Matthew Wall asked an interesting question last week: Does job application success depend on data, rather than your CV? Professional Academy’s (PA) success depends on data. We know it’s powerful. We also know that, ultimately, there is only one data crunching system that can get your recruitment strategy right. That system is the most complex computer on the planet: the human brain.

PA’s success depends on data. We’ve pioneered that most advanced online learning management system available to develop custom-designed learning and development programmes for leaders, sales people and marketers. We can pull off meaningful data about any candidate that has ever been through our doors, anywhere in the world. We are certain about the power data gives us to help our clients develop exceptional people. And, at the end of the day, that is our business, ‘developing exceptional people.’  We’re passionate about people; we simply use data to help organisations enable their people to excel. So we were fascinated to learn about all the ways organisations are using data to help them recruit.

Matthew describes many ways that companies are analysing and using data in their selection processes in this article.  Clever algorithms are removing subjectivity from the recruitment process. This is attractive, as research shows us that most managers claim to use objective criteria to appoint. Research also shows us that, in reality, these managers claiming to use objective criteria to appoint people, actually use subjective criteria, such as empathy and likability. 

Likeabilty - the number one reason to hire someone

Sure the way people interact with games tells us a lot about how they think, and their social media trail may tell us a lot about their attitude, and recruiting for attitude, training for aptitude is something we promote. It’s very easy though for candidates to leave data trails that show you what they think you want them to know, and with articles like this around raising awareness of the recruitment process, and organisations like ours, making potential candidates aware of the importance of their digital presence, it will only become easier. Using data-mining alone for selection is not sustainable.

Research also shows us that most people leave a manager, not a job. Managers are guilty of not training, supporting and coaching.

Action Centred Leadership - TM John AdairThey focus too much on task and not enough on individual and team needs. If recruiting becomes another data driven task, even if you are basing your decision on the right data, there is a danger that the manager may not retain that candidate. If you are going to the effort of data-mining to find the right people, you are probably investing in training them too, and, to paraphrase Richard Branson: “there is only one thing worse than training people and they leave; not training them and they stay.”

At PA we believe that with the right strategy anybody with commitment can achieve their goals, in this case recruiting the best candidate or getting the best job (depending on which side of the desk you sit).  Getting exceptional people (or becoming exceptional at your job) takes belief, dedication and depth of knowledge in what to develop in the person (or yourself).  Sure, big data analysis has its place. Its place though, has to remain alongside human judgment using the most complex computer that exists: the human brain…

If you are interested in learning more about Management & Leadership including how to recruit the right people please feel free to download a copy of our CMI Management Prospectus or contact one of our qualification advisors today.

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Live Twitter Sales Q&A Session with Professional Academy & Talk Business.

Published: 07 October 2014

Live Sales Q&A

On October 29th from 11am to 12pm Professional academy will be teaming up with Talk Business Magazine for a Live Sales Q&A Session on twitter via @ProfAcademy.

The event will follow along the lines of our recent FAQ article with Talk Business and will give any one working in or interested in Sales as a profession the opportunity to ask some of their most pressing questions to the Professional Academy expert sales trainers & tutors.

On the day you will be able to submit questions from “what is the best way to handle sales objections?” to “how can I pick the right sales client?” and receive the answers from our experts years of sales practical experience. All you need to do is add the #AskProfAcademy hashtag to the tweet or send the question directly to @ProfAcademy or @TalkBusinessMag and of course keep it to 140 characters.

Experts on the day will include Martin Hutchins. Martin is the MD of Professional Academy and fellow of the ISMM with over 20 years of High Level Sales and Sales Management Experience.

Feel free to submit your questions prior to the event via the twitter feed and we will make sure they are answered by the Professional Academy experts on the day.

You can read Professional Academy’s latest article for Talk Business Mag (on Page 97 of Octobers Edition) and find regularly updated sales advice articles via the Professional Academy News Feed.

Professional Academy are also an accredited ISMM Study Centre. You can find more information about ISMM Qualifications with Professional Academy by downloading a copy of our Sales course prospectus or contacting a Professional Academy advisor today – Alternatively you could visit Professional Academy at the ISMM’s National Sales Conference on October 16th at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. 

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How Women’s Roles In The Workplace Have Evolved - Guest Blog

Published: 03 October 2014

Is the workplace becoming more balanced?

From Guest Author Abi Clapham about Edenred.

In the past, men went out to work while women stayed at home with the children. We’ve come a long way since then, with more women than ever currently taking the role of CEO, MP and business owner – so let’s take a closer look at the remarkable ways women’s roles in the workplace have evolved.

It began with the war

During the war, we women were given the opportunity to prove just how capable we were at taking on the same job roles as men – with many of our ancestors filling in for their fathers, husbands and sons, be it in factories, mines, offices or the emergency services. Times were tough, but with all of the men fighting in the war, there was little choice in the matter – and women successfully showed that they were more than proficient in the workplace.

So what’s the situation for women nowadays?

Fast forward a few decades and you’ll now see many women in top roles in organisations – be it in parliament or in the boardroom. Of course, there is still some way to go before we see an equal representation of men and women in boardrooms.


Here are the top reasons why women are still under-represented in the boardroom:

  • Children

Are Children Why women are under-represented in the boardroom?

The biggest presiding reason for the lack of women in the highest paid roles comes down to children. More often than not, women choose to put their careers on hold in order to start a family.
Of course, the recent rise in women gaining the top jobs may be due to the large numbers who are making the decision to have a career first and then children. Just last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that the average age for a woman to give birth was almost 30 – the highest age on record. It said this was due to “increased participation in higher education, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing important of a career” – so there you
 have it.
  • Gender biasIs Gender Bias why women are under-represented in the boardroom?
There remain some board directors who feel that the top roles in an organisation should still be held by men, with Sir Alan Sugar famously admitting his reluctance to employ a woman who may one day become pregnant.


What can be done to change this?

Recent legislation states that firms need to more than double the number of women on their boards by 2015 (or face Government measures). Despite this, some women argue that this is not the way forward, with many seeing it as a case for positive discrimination.

Is the future workplace bright for women?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. As mentioned above, many women nowadays are choosing to enjoy a successful career before settling down to have children. This means that women will have more of an opportunity to reach the higher roles in a company – and if they choose to return to work afterwards, this will arm them with better prospects.

In addition, there are now a greater number of women than men choosing to attend university, and with women a third more likely to graduate with a degree than men, it seems that they will leave with more qualifications – elevating their chances of success over male counterparts in job interviews. The more women there are in a company, the higher still the chance that some of them will reach the top roles.

Does that mean women will overtake men?

In the not too distant future, these facts should hopefully lead to an even balance of men and women in the boardroom. It is important to remember along the way however, that men and women are still very different. Yes, women can do the same jobs as men – and vice versa. What should be the focus of boardroom representatives are the various approaches and views which can be brought by both genders – men and women working alongside each other at the top of companies will really show what we’re all made of.

But until we get there, let’s not forget the enormity of the changes that have so far taken place with regards to women’s roles in the workplace – and it’s likely that these changes are only going to continue.


About the author

Abi has a wealth of blogging experience across a range of subjects, from education through to employment. She currently writes content for employee incentive company Edenred. In her spare time Abi enjoys writing, cooking and wedding planning.


Got you thinking?

Heather Jackson will be speaking at the WBF seminar this October

If this article has got you thinking and you are interested in challenging the status quo, working towards better gender balance for better business, you may wish to attend The Women’s Business Forum 2014, 6th & 7th October 2014, Sofitel, Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport. Tickets and more information available here.

You may also be interested in The Two Percent Club.

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