Jon E Horton - 22 laws of selling

Jon E. Horton has worked in sales, marketing and consulting for more than four decades. Through his extensive experience in the field of telecommunications he has been able to apply his sales expertise to form strong partnerships with executives from a wide variety of industries. He has distilled his years of work in the rules and vignettes found in The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling.

Laws of Selling: Winning with Gatekeepers

Author: Jon Horton | Category: Basic Laws of Selling

Following my recent podcast interview with Radio Ink Magazine, I received significant feedback to my brief laws of selling discussion on Gatekeepers. The comments varied but generally fit under the umbrella of Homer Simpson smacking his forehead and exclaiming, “D’oh”, as in, “Gee, I never made the connection.”

For those of you who missed the interview, I introduced the Gatekeeper this way: A real person that exists, without exception, for every Decision Maker;

  1.   Gatekeeper titles can range from Receptionist to Administrative Assistant to Department Head;
  2.   It’s the person who stands between you (the seller) and the Decision Maker when you call or visit in person;
  3.   It’s the person who is trusted by the Decision Maker to screen out frivolous interruptions; and,
  4.  It’s the person who has the Decision Maker’s ear for good or bad reports on those (you) seeking appointments.

Like many of the less obvious basic laws of selling, dealing appropriately with Gatekeepers requires performing some mental gymnastics. For those less practised in the art of sales, this task calls for a full 180-degree twist!

For many sellers, the Gatekeeper I have described is viewed as simply an annoying hurdle standing in the path of commerce, impeding efforts to make a sale. They approach this obstacle much as they would a large boulder in the middle of the road – if they can’t roll it out of the way, they’ll find a way to go around. As I’ll explain in a moment, this strategy won’t work. What these salespeople really need is an attitude adjustment that changes their perception of a Gatekeeper from an obstacle to an opportunity.

Laws of Selling: Gatekeeper Tips

Treating a Gatekeeper like an inanimate object (a boulder) is certain to have negative consequences. Consider these unhappy truths:

  1. The Gatekeeper will resent being treated poorly and will find a way to convey that bad feeling to the Decision Maker; and,
  2. The Gatekeeper is not going to go away. After sellers navigate around a Gatekeeper once, they will face the same challenge repeatedly each time they try to contact the Decision Maker but they will find the Gatekeeper to be less and less receptive.

Conversely, savvy sellers will aggressively seize the chance to cultivate a positive relationship with Gatekeepers. These salespeople will treat Gatekeepers with the same courtesy and respect they show to Decision Makers, even taking the time to conduct a mini-CNA before asking to speak with “the boss”.

The benefits of taking this opportunistic (and animate) approach to Gatekeepers are both predictable and significant. A salesperson’s life becomes exponentially easier when:

  1. The Gatekeeper welcomes contact from the seller;
  2. The Gatekeeper makes sure the seller’s messages reach the Decision Maker; and,
  3. The Gatekeeper speaks highly (better) of the seller to the Decision Maker when compared to other peddlers.

If salespeople remain unconvinced that Gatekeepers merit this special treatment, one final reality check should close the deal. It is not uncommon and perhaps even likely for Gatekeepers to ultimately be promoted to Decision Makers. So, the way sellers treat today’s Gatekeepers may well determine their future relationship with Decision Makers. I rest my case.

Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from For more on basic laws of selling, please read Chapter 8, The Law of Gatekeepers. Contact

Last updated: Apr 30, 2013