By the powers vested in me by Research magazine, I am declaring the month of June “National Gatekeeper Month.” Have you hugged your gatekeeper today? Who exactly are these unsung heroes of the financial advisor’s practice? They are the brave men and women who ultimately decide who gets to talk to or see Mr. or Ms. Rep. Day in and day out, they field inquiries and questions from clients, prospects, and, oh yes, product companies.
There is nothing in the world more frustrating than trying to sell something to someone and encountering… the gatekeeper. We’ve all talked to gatekeepers in the past. They say things like, “What company are you with?” or “Will he know what this is in regard to?” A great gatekeeper is also very non-committal on the phone: “I’ll be sure to pass along your message.”
How did these people grow into such a powerful force in the financial services industry? It’s simple. We, as an industry, created them. Back about 20 years ago, when I embarked on my financial services career, there weren’t a lot of wholesalers out there. And there certainly weren’t any inside wholesalers. Back then, wholesalers made all their own calls and set their own appointments. They needed to be fluent in all their company’s products. For example, my first territory: I wholesaled life insurance, fixed annuities, immediate annuities and variable annuities. Yep, all of them.
Eventually, however, some national sales manager came up with the idea that if one wholesaler was good, more would be even better! The folks in the ivory tower began dividing up territory and hired a wholesaler for each product line.
Early in my career, when I called an office, I was the only one from my company calling that office. Most gatekeepers (and their reps) were happy to talk to me. After realignment, those same gatekeepers began getting phone calls from my internal (the life insurance guy), his internal (the fixed annuity gal), her internal, and me. All that from just one company! Multiply all those calls from one company by 100 companies and it’s a wonder any business gets done at all!
As the assault from sponsor companies continued, financial advisors raised their shields. Today, the gatekeeper sits figuratively in the bell tower with a high-powered assault rifle ready to pick off any intruders, no matter where they come from. I’m sure when most signed on for the job, they didn’t think hand-to-phone combat was going to be part of the deal. And it is for this reason we are honoring all gatekeepers this month.
Try to imagine what your life would be like without your gatekeeper. Sure, you’d never have to pay for a meal again, but would you be as profitable? My guess is no. If you agree, then do something nice for your gatekeepers this month. Take them to lunch. Buy them some candy. Build them a vacation home. Do everything you can to make them know you appreciate them.
If you happen to be an underappreciated gatekeeper, rip this article out of the magazine and highlight the sentence in the previous paragraph: Build them a vacation home. Feel free to write in the margin, “…or I’m out of here!” Place the highlighted article on Mr. or Ms. Rep’s desk and wait. If you don’t get any response, start putting through all his or her phone calls. You’ll get that vacation home sooner than you think.