Archive for Prospecting

Others won’t respect your time unless you do

Running lateOne of my clients suggested a meeting from 10-11 AM recently, and his prospect assumed my client was offering to meet up at either time-not that my client was setting the boundaries for an hour-long meeting!

Once you’ve been involved with Sandler for a long time, it becomes very natural to set a meeting time with an end time (say, 11-12) and both people know that’s a one-hour meeting. But outside of Sandler, that can present a communication challenge.

Sometimes we have to change the way we serve information up and be more specific in setting the time.

Another client of mine has a referral partner she meets with frequently. This referral partner is often late, and my client was getting frustrated about it. At their next meeting, he arrived just as she was standing up to leave. Rather than reworking her schedule, she told him that she would love to sit down and have a conversation with him, but she only had a few minutes at that time.

The referral partner called her two days later and apologized! He told her that he wouldn’t be late the next time they met up.

I would encourage you to change the emphasis, if you’re having a consistent timing mismatch for your meetings. Instead of saying, let’s meet from 1:30-2:00, reframe your time-setting. Try something like this:

“You know, I think we’ll need about half an hour for us to adequately address this concern. I’ll block out from 1:30-2:00, and if you can meet me at 1:30, I think we’ll have enough time to cover everything before we have to wrap up at 2:00."

Of course, some people just won’t respect your time as much as their own. But some people may be legitimately reading your suggested meeting times differently than you’ve intended them to.

By being very clear about your time frame, you let both types of late-comers know what your expectations are. Then if you have to cut the meeting short or reschedule, that’s become part of your upfront contract.

You can’t expect other people to respect your time unless you do! Setting clear expectations can help you do that.

Don’t chase unqualified leads

Running in placeWant to shorten your sales cycle? Learn how to qualify and disqualify leads early on in the process. Stop chasing leads that aren’t going anywhere!

Most people spend an incredible amount of time chasing leads who aren’t going to do business with them. People will often get a long-awaited appointment with a prospect, do a well-prepared presentation, and then realize that they weren’t a good fit after all.

If you don’t have enough time to prospect, it may be because you’re spending time on leads who aren’t going to do business with you.

You may be in a field where you can’t really avoid at least some proposals, bids, or presentations. But I would encourage you to disqualify leads as early as you can in the process. That way you aren’t wasting time you could be prospecting on someone who really isn’t a good fit.

If you’re in an industry where people often call just to compare prices or bring some different numbers back to their boss or current vendor, here’s one way you can cut to the chase and avoid wasting your time and theirs.

If you talk to someone who seems to be calling just to benchmark your pricing, run them through the pain funnel to see if there’s really a problem you can solve. That will help you discover if they’re really interested in what you offer of if they’re just trying to get a number from you to pass on to someone else.

This is way easier said than done, but it might look like this: “This is a crazy question, but I’m getting the sense that you’re just wanting some numbers that you can take back to your current supplier and negotiate with. Any chance that’s accurate?”
If you’ve already created an environment where they’re comfortable, then you can navigate that conversation. You will likely have people tell you outright that their boss wants them to get a lower price, but they aren’t allowed to switch suppliers. Don’t you want to know that before you spend time on a proposal?

When you’ve brought them through the pain funnel and asked them about their intention, then you’re able to have a real conversation with them.

If you’re working with a purchasing agent, for example, you may never get to actually talk to their boss. But what can you do in a conversation to make them comfortable enough that it can actually be a real conversation?

That’s the best way for you to quickly figure out whether or not it makes sense to have any further conversations.

You don’t get to choose your competition

Competing sales peopleYou’ve probably encountered prospects that responded strangely to things you’ve said or done that seemed perfectly normal to you. Or you’ve received negative reactions in group settings when you introduce yourself as a sales person.

Most people you encounter will have already have experience with sales people. Unfortunately, for many of those people, their experiences have been overwhelmingly negative.

Those experiences influence their behavior, and like it or not, how they perceive you-until you show them you don’t fit their stereotypes. Your competition is every other sales person, and you don’t get to choose your competition. But it does help to know what strange things they’re doing!

Here are a few examples from clients of strange sales interactions they had when they were wearing their buyer’s hat.

Focus on features and benefits

One client noticed a flyer left by a sales person on his home. The advertisement was for a company that did window replacement. It said, “While you were out, we noticed you might have some windows that may be drafty or need replacement.”

My client saw the pain statement and thought this window replacement company might be onto something! But the rest of the flyer was all about features and benefits. That one pain statement was an effective hook, but launching into features and benefits made my client’s eyes glaze over, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one.

Throwing paper

A man selling copiers came into the lobby of my client’s building. Well, she didn’t actually find out he sold copiers until after he left the office!

He walked into their lobby with a crumpled-up piece of paper, threw it at the office manager, and then handed her his card. Then he left the office.

His card said something cheesy about copiers and crumpled paper, but my client was baffled when she spoke with her office manager about it later. He threw crumpled-up paper at someone and expected them to buy from him later?

Half-hearted selling

One of my clients who sells construction materials recalled a funny sales interaction that didn’t go anywhere. A sales person selling stamping lubricants went to my client’s purchasing agent and gave him a bag of microwave popcorn with a card that read “Thanks for letting us pop in!”

My client thought, this is a fun pattern interrupt, he’s got our attention now. But when his purchasing agent told the sales person that they were satisfied with their current supplier, the sales person backed off immediately. He told them that if they ever wanted to change, he was available. And then he left.

He got their attention, but he lost the sale because he didn’t even try to dig for pain.

Some of these tactics seem bizarre. But the thing about bad sales tactics is that you need to be aware of them because you can be sure your prospects are. And the more aware you are of bad sales tactics, the easier it is for you to work against those stereotypes.

Adjust to make your prospect feel OK

Working togetherOne of my clients has been in conversation with a prospect for many months, and there’s been a lot of back and forth between them. After an initial proposal and another, revised, proposal to this prospect, my client finally got a phone call with the decision-maker himself.

He was pressuring my client for a better price. That much was obvious, but my client hadn’t yet been able to uncover why the initial two prices hadn’t worked for this prospect. And he wasn’t going to just keep throwing out lower and lower numbers.

So my client said, “Listen. I understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I want to give you a number that you can use too, but so far, I’ve put out two numbers that are not going to work for you. Instead of just dancing around the topic, help me out. I can’t give you another number unless you let me know what your budget is, and then I can tell you really quickly whether or not we’re going to be able to do business together.”

To my client’s surprise, the prospect opened up and shared his budget! He was not expecting to get that level of transparency with this prospect.

When I debriefed with my client about this encounter, he told me that his instinct would have been to be more aggressive and direct about the fact that the client had avoided giving him his budget.

But instead, he softened his message to make sure his prospect was feeling OK. And because he made the conversation about the prospect-his needs, his budget, even his timeline-the client felt OK enough to share his real budget.

My client adjusted his natural style to accommodate this prospect in their interaction. It’s simple to talk about adapting to your prospect’s communication style, but it’s not easy. It takes practice.

But when done well, it can open up conversations that will surprise you.

What to do when things seem too good to be true

Happy earsOne of my clients who is a trainer received a couple of referrals a while back. When he got in touch with one of them, she was immediately ready to get started training her staff, which is not typical in his world.

He called to follow-up on the referral and she asked when she could come out to train her staff. Typically, he meets with the decision-maker for fifteen minutes or so to decide if his training is a good fit, and then he schedules enrollment.

But in this phone call, she was ready to begin training immediately. So he asked what time worked for her, and they decided he would come out in the next week to meet the employees.

They skipped the entire decision-maker step! He received dedicated time to train the employees, a payroll deduction slot-everything he needed on his end, before he even started.

But he didn’t know what their pain was! Without know that, it could either be really successful or really challenging.

A really good approach in situations like that is to pause and ask a few questions. It’s a good time to say, “Whoa, I’m curious-we’re skipping a few steps that are kind of normal here. Are you okay with that?”

Obviously, when you’re approached with something that seems to good to be true, you’ll need to ask that question in a way that makes sense for the situation. But you can’t know what’s going on in your prospect’s world or what’s causing unusual speed unless you ask.

It’s very easy to get happy ears-excited about something that’s not a sure thing- if a situation seems too good to be true, or is moving too easily toward your goal. It may be that this prospect was just an excellent fit for my client, but I think he would have been more confident going into the training if he knew more about the reasons behind his prospect’s speed.

You probably won’t know the decision-making structure or process for every prospect you contact. But if things seem too good to be true, asking a few questions can get everyone on the same page so you can move forward confidently.

Who’s making your gut reactions?

Inner childHave you ever been frustrated by a friend or a colleague who was limited in life by the things they heard when they were young? Or you know someone who thinks they can do no wrong no matter what they do?

Both of those mindsets can be caused by transactional analysis. Transactional analysis is the psychological processing in our subconscious that drives our thoughts and actions.

It creates the subconscious tapes that play in our heads and inform our gut reactions.

People react to these tapes in all kinds of ways, though. The three parts of transactional analysis are the parent, child, and adult tapes. But the parent and child tapes are the ones that can trip us up most easily.

Here’s how the parent and child tapes can affect people well into adulthood:


The parent tape is associated with judgements-judgements on what’s acceptable and what isn’t, what’s a normal way to interact with others, and what life goals are worth working toward.

One of my clients, for example, remembers his dad working two full-time jobs for most of his childhood. Because of that, his dad often told him to never work for someone else, but to do his own thing. Years later, this client started his own business.

The parent tape is based on what your parents said, did, and valued when you were a child. It doesn’t have to be explicitly based on what they said, although it was for my client.


People react to their parents’ behaviors in all kinds of ways. The child tape is where that emotional assessment of their parents’ behavior is made and becomes engrained.

A different client has shared with me that her dad was always hard on sales people. He outsmarted them at every turn and was pretty merciless about it. This client, in a rebellious stage, refused to even negotiate with sales people but paid them in full because she felt bad of them. She didn’t want to fight with them because she saw her dad do that too often.

Your parent and child tapes affect the way you react to situations and how you instinctively judge circumstances and people. You may not even be conscious of it!

But once you are aware of transactional analysis, you might be able to see how your parent and child tapes play into your day-to-day life. Once you do, you can decide what part of your tapes is helpful, and what part you want to ignore.

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Careful with those fighting words!

Fighting wordsThe customer’s always right... Right? That’s great in theory, but it’s not always feasible in practice. Promises made and unkept are worse than promises not made. But not making the unreasonable promises of an angry client or prospect can seem like the makings of a fight!

That’s where Sandler Rule 28 comes in: When under attack, fall back. Falling back can be very appropriate when you’re trying to cool a heated situation.

If a customer is upset with your projected timeline, for example, falling back would look like this:

“Help me understand. If we’re not able to make this shipment within 3 months, we’re probably going to lose you as a customer. Knowing that’s the case, what would you do if you were me?”

It’s hard to stay angry at that. It gets everyone to a more okay place, and it gives the other person an opportunity to give you a suggestion they would be comfortable with.

One of my clients had a meeting scheduled with two team members from another company, to see if it made sense for them to do business together. Their Up-Front Contract stated that only those two team members would be present, but the CEO had other plans.

While the CEO wasn’t initially invited, he had a pretty dominant personality and decided he should attend. So he did. The CEO was very uncomfortable with the industry that my client works in-distrustful, even-but he kept asking technical questions during the meeting.

The answers to those questions required my client to use some industry jargon, and it didn’t go over well. The CEO accused my client of using a lot of words but not saying anything. My client was angry, but didn’t want to lose the rapport he’d already built with the other two team members.

At this point, my client knew he needed to fall back. He told the CEO, “I don’t have a horse in this game. If we aren’t a good fit for you, that’s really okay. I’m happy to explain the technical side to you, but if you don’t want me to, that’s okay.”

The CEO left early. But the other two team members actually tried to sell my client on how he wouldn’t have to deal with the CEO! They still wanted to do business with my client.

When you’re trying to get your needs met, instead of falling back, it’s easy to get defensive and lose bonding and rapport.

But my client wasn’t trying to get his needs met at the expense of this other company. Because he didn’t fight back when the CEO wanted him to, he was able to maintain bonding and rapport with the other two people in the meeting.

Instead of fighting back when you feel under attack, try to make the other person feel okay. You’ll be surprised at what doors will remain open.

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Don’t take it personally

Instant dislikeWhen you introduce yourself and what you do for a living, do you often see other people tense up?

You’re not alone. And it’s probably not you they’re reacting to. Experiences lead to expectations-and you can see it so quickly in a conversation.

In my world, I never introduce myself as a sales trainer. But when I’m at events, someone will sometimes introduce me to another person as a sales trainer. I can read the other person’s face, and they can’t wait to get away! To most people, the only thing worse than a sales person is a sales trainer.

There’s nothing personal about this. They don’t even know me! But their experience and expectations about salespeople create a gut reaction in them. I have to be aware of that if I’m going to have any meaningful conversation with them.

If you aren’t careful, you can lose opportunities really quickly because of other people’s assumptions about your industry.

Depending on the industry you’re in, prospects might assume that you’re trying to confuse them, trying to squeeze a hefty commission out of them, trying to sell them something they don’t need-you can fill in the blank. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the gut reaction that people have to your industry.

This is why the traditional sales model of “present, present, present” is flawed. There’s such a small number of things we encounter each day that we quickly agree with. Most of the things we encounter we either disagree with or only agree with somewhat.

And “present, present, present” doesn’t just happen in sales interactions. You might find this mindset in your company’s marketing, advertising, and customer service, just to name a few.

Think of how quickly this happens to you when you’re in the buyer’s shoes. When you are able to approach a sales interaction from a different perspective than “present, present, present,” that’s a pattern interrupt. And it can be a really effective one.

What you’ve got to think about is how you can change the interaction. You have the ability to control and change that if you choose. Change your messaging and approach.

You might even find that people who tensed up when you introduced yourself are interested in what you do after all.

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Avoid mismatched expectations

Mismatched expectationsIn Sandler, we have the concept of an up front contract. That’s not a signed document. Rather, it’s a clear agreement regarding how the meeting will go. It’s really about expectations.

Is it easy to have mismatched expectations? Of course! In Sandler, we call that Mutual Mystification. A mutually agreed upon up front contract is designed to avoid that.

Let’s say a roofer is working with a customer. That customer may have an expectation that everything will get done in less than a week, so the roof will be finished, and their house can be sold. That’s an expectation.

The roofer first needs to make sure the customer is comfortable through some good bonding and rapport. But once that’s done, the roofer needs to be sure to set a good up front contract.

There are five areas that an up front contract should cover:

1 – Logistics

This includes things like time, length of meeting, and the location. Be specific! One client of mine scheduled a meeting with a customer in the “conference room.” When the time for the meeting rolled around, my client and his team were waiting in their conference room, while his customer and their team were waiting in their own conference room!

2 – Purpose

Why are you talking? It doesn’t matter if you or the client scheduled the appointment, you both need to know why you’re meeting.

3 – Their Expectations

What does your client or prospect expect to get out of the interaction? This is key to making sure they come out of the meeting with their needs met.

4 – Your Expectations

Of course, you want your needs to be met as well! So you need to be sure that you share your expectations.

5 – Outcome and Next Steps

What do you expect to have accomplished by the end of the interaction? What will the next steps be?

Without an up front contract, it’s easy to have Mutual Mystification. With one, you can set the tone for the meeting and make sure there are no uncertainties.

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Literal versus reality when disqualifying

Money leakIn Sandler, one of the things we talk about is disqualifying prospects. If you go into an interaction with a prospect looking for red flags, you’re likely to save a lot of headache later.

However, as with all concepts, you can definitely overdo it. We call that literal versus reality. If you’re too literal in applying the concepts we teach, and don’t adjust them to fit your reality, you can shoot yourself in the foot.

A client of ours who is in online marketing has been with us a number of years, and realized this not too long ago.

One of the things he latched onto fairly early in his journey with us is the fact that he would save a lot of time by disqualifying prospects early on. Before he engaged with us, he was taking on a lot of bad clients. So he quickly started saving himself time and headaches by disqualifying.

However, after about four years of working with us, he finally realized he’d gone to the other extreme. He realized that if the door was open for a conversation, he needed to have that conversation before disqualifying the prospect.

When he began to realize this, several things started to change for him. In one instance, he received an email from a prospect that initially sounded like she wouldn’t be a good fit. She wanted a specific type of website, and had specific requirements for the timeframe.

My client could fit either the timeframe or the type of website she wanted, but not both. In the past, he would have disqualified her and simply sent her an email sharing that he wouldn’t be a good fit. This time, he called her up and had a conversation instead.

As it turned out, the conversation led to an out-of-the-box solution, where my client would make her a lower-end website that they could get online faster, then upgrade the website later.

Of course, the prospect had no clue that option even existed, so she wouldn’t have known to ask for it. Without that conversation, they never could have done business together!

While disqualifying prospects typically prevents a lot of frustration, disqualifying too quickly can lead to lost opportunities. When my client shifted from literal to reality, it made a huge difference.

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