Things are not looking good for gatekeepers these days.

I recently ran across this chart, showing that administrative assistant positions, as a percentage of all job openings, have declined by half since 2006:

And those who remain have a lot less power than they used to. They won’t put you through to the decision maker? Well, just wait until after hours and you can leave a voicemail. Or shoot an e-mail (even if the gatekeeper won’t give out the buyer’s e-mail address, it’s usually easy enough to figure out). Or find the buyer on LinkedIn or Facebook.

This sounds like good news for salespeople, right?

I’m not so sure.

For one thing, it means that everybody has more access to your buyer. It’s called the freeway effect: If everybody can drive for free, traffic increases exponentially. Yes, it’s harder to get to a buyer if there’s a gatekeeper in the way. But the flip side is that if you do get through, you arrive with the gatekeeper’s implied endorsement – and a lot less competition for the buyer’s attention.

Even more important, you miss out on an incredibly valuable resource. You want to be as prepared as possible when you speak to your buyer. You want to know about their organization, their top concerns, what they like and hate about salespeople, what they’re responsible for. You probably won’t find that kind of information on a Web site or online profile. And if you have to ask your buyer, you’re wasting his or her time and look unprepared.

Get gatekeepers on your side, and they can help you with all that.

Gatekeepers may be endangered, but there are still plenty of them around – especially when you’re calling on high-value buyers. Be glad they are – and make the most of them.

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