If you sell to advisors, you’ve probably experienced at least one deal that seemed like a sure thing—but you just couldn’t make it happen. You hit it off with the advisor. He or she seemed to really get your message. But the sale just petered out, leaving you to wonder why.

On the other hand, maybe you had a client relationship that inexplicably soured. You lost the account without ever understanding what happened.

Pay attention to the people behind the curtain.
You might have forgotten an important fact: Advisors aren’t the only gatekeepers you need to get past. Behind the scenes at any advisor firm are the unsung heroes who keep it running. Assistants. Office managers. Operations people. The owner’s right-hand person. These are very powerful individuals, and you ignore them at your peril. Any one of them can squelch a deal or spoil a relationship.

These people aren’t out to get you. They have legitimate concerns. Often, the owner will be tossing your solution onto their desks for them to implement. Getting trained, converting systems, fixing problems, dealing with client complaints, repapering accounts, hanging on your support line for hours—these tasks will all be added to their workloads if you succeed at making the sale. Worst of all, they’ll be first in line take the blame if anything goes wrong. So it’s understandable if the gatekeepers are not exactly rooting for your success.

How to turn a gatekeeper into your biggest fan.
The good news is, if you get the gatekeepers on your side, they can become your most loyal champions—not only during the initial sale, but for retention as well. It takes a certain amount of finesse to win them over. You wouldn’t pitch them directly on a formal sales call, and you can’t come out and ask what their role really is. It’s mostly about acknowledging the importance of their relationship with the owner, and creating messaging aimed specifically at them. Then incorporate that messaging into your sales process and collateral. Make sure the website explains how you make their jobs easier and more interesting.

I’ve seen annuity wholesalers handle gatekeepers with real flair. They would roll in with flowers, pastries for the office, or candy for their kids, and win some serious relationship coin. And more importantly, they would spend extra time at the office answering their questions, or scheduling personal training calls with the product team. They recognized if they could make this one woman happy—and it usually is a woman—she would fight tooth and nail for their product.

A word of caution.
Do not cross a gatekeeper. They feel easily threatened, and are worried that vendors will throw them under the bus or tell the advisor they don’t know what they’re doing. Convince them your product will help them do their job better, and never, ever say it will reduce the firm’s headcount! Offer extra training and extra servicing to make them the in-house expert on your product.

Take extra care of the gatekeepers at the start of a client relationships, and they’ll reward you with a longer relationship.