How To Get Past C-Level Gatekeepers With Your B2B Direct Mail Lead Generation Sales Letters

Alan Sharpe

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If your business uses direct mail to reach C-level prospects, you face a unique challenge: getting past the gatekeeper.

Gatekeepers are usually found in Fortune 1000 firms, where the CEO, CFO, CIO and other chief executive officers are too busy to open their own mail. Gatekeepers are usually the C-level executive’s personal assistant, and sometimes the mailroom.

A gatekeeper will generally do everything in her power (depending on the express wishes of her boss) to screen all mail for sales pitches. And since the gatekeeper does not appreciate the value of your unique value proposition, the odds are against your sales letter ever reaching the desk of her C-level executive. So here are some tactics you can employ to get past the gatekeeper with your direct mail.

1. Use an invitation

Send your sales pitch in a wedding-style invitation envelope, with a typical invitation card inside that invites the executive to respond to what you are offering (usually a sales meeting, but maybe a white paper or other information).

2. Sell to the gatekeeper

Address a letter to the gatekeeper by name. State your value proposition, explain why it is of value to her boss, and ask her to pass along the sales letter that you enclose. Be sure to thank her in writing for her help.

3. Make a sweet offer

Send a box of chocolates or flowers to the gatekeeper, wishing her a great day and asking her to pass along your sales letter, which you send as a separate package.

4. Reason with the gatekeeper

Phone the gatekeeper, treat her as a peer, and ask her if she can help you get your message to her boss. Ask for her advice. Ask her to recommend the best method (mail or phone or something else) for you to reach her boss.

5. Use an unusual tactic

Commission a white paper. Write directly to the C- level executive, but instead of giving a sales pitch on paper, ask the executive if you may interview her (or him) for your white paper (or article or special report). Ask for an appointment.

Be sure to make your interview topic one that appeals to the business challenges that the executive faces every day, and one that helps you present your credentials simply in the way you present your questions and explain the thesis of your writing project.

6. Use a dimensional mailer

Dimensional mail is effective because it stands out. It doesn’t look like everything else that the executive is receiving that day. Dimensional mail is also effective because it always gets opened.

No one who receives a box three feet long, 9 inches wide and 5 inches deep, bearing the prospect’s name and job title on the top and an intriguing headline, is going to pitch the box in the trash unopened (I have a client who mailed a canoe paddle to prospects; it worked). Innate human curiosity is too powerful for that. Just make sure that what’s in the box ties in with what you are selling.

One rule to keep in mind throughout this lead generation exercise is The Golden Rule that Jesus Christ taught and practiced. If you always do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you will succeed in reaching more C-level executives than you ever will using less-than-honest practices.

About the author
Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation specialist who helps business owners and marketing managers generate leads, close sales and retain customers using business-to-business direct mail marketing. Learn more about his creative direct mail writing services and sign up for free weekly tips like this at

© 2005 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the “About the author" message).


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