Getting past the gatekeeper

By Christopher Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations

This article was published in the June 2019 edition of NTEA News.

Who is the gatekeeper? With many organizations, it can be challenging to get past some bureaucratic red tape. In many instances, the gatekeeper is the individual responsible for filtering out unnecessary requests. Positioning yourself with the understanding of a potential customer’s needs and operations, and being able to communicate solutions, can be a strategy to get a foot in the door.

Connecting with the right people in an organization — those with internal knowledge and decision-making authority — is critical in furthering your business. The first thing you need to figure out is with whom you should speak. While there is no simple answer (it may take some research and organizational digging), contacting a specific person should give you a better opportunity than going in cold asking for the purchasing department.

Helpful resources to monitor are industry “top” lists, such as The 100 Best Fleets. Keeping an eye out for top fleets or those that have received awards can be a great way to make a contact. If customers feel a supplier has taken the time to learn about their organization, it may create more of a personal connection.

From cold call to personal
While new business relationships have to start from the beginning, turning a cold call into a personal one can jumpstart the connection. It’s hard to beat an in-person introduction, but with time being a rare commodity, it’s important to utilize other methods of communication. More and more parts of business are going digital, but it doesn’t mean the personal aspect needs to be lost.

Social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, enables effective networking in the digital age. For instance, don’t be afraid to congratulate an unfamiliar individual or organization on an achievement. This helps demonstrate you’ve taken the time to see them as a potential partner rather than a sales call.

Trade associations continue to be important resources, as well. For example, many fleet professionals who attend The Work Truck Show® use it as an opportunity to meet with current suppliers, upfitters and industry partners, and seek out new solutions.

Helping customers go beyond selling
When talking with potential customers, there are several things to avoid. The top two are “I can save you money” and “We do a better job.” While important, these things are already automatically expected. Fleet professionals want partners that understand their business and issues. If you establish and maintain solid communication, ensure quality of product and service, and demonstrate your ability to improve their operations, you will be in a good position to start a new relationship. Most important, though, is to be on top of the first unit a new customer orders. This is the first impression, and if handled poorly, can often be the last, with little room for a second chance.

For more fleet information, visit