Archive for Technique

Make your prospects comfortable

Low-pressure conversationOne of my clients recently talked with me about how challenging himself to make his prospects comfortable has benefited his commercial real estate business.

Not long ago, he was meeting with an acquaintance to look at a very large property. My client talked with his prospect about the building and the surrounding area, but he also shared with his prospect how and why he works with people the way he does.

He told his prospect, “Hey, if any part of this makes you uncomfortable, let me know. I don’t want you to make the wrong decision-I want you to make sure you’re comfortable with the decision you’re making and seeing where that goes.” He gave his prospect total freedom to back out of working with him as a real estate agent and looking at that property in particular.

Instead of choosing to back out of the process, the prospect was comfortable enough that he wanted to work with my client at the end of that conversation.

In most sales conversations, there’s the possibility of discomfort on both sides. You usually can’t know how comfortable or uncomfortable a prospect is without a conversation. When you try to make the prospect comfortable, that changes the interaction.

If you’re sincere when you tell prospect they should choose whoever they’re comfortable with, that’s a huge pressure reliever. You don’t have to be the right choice for every lead you generate.

Personally, I love it when we get hired by churches and nonprofits to work with them, and I encourage them to use language like my client used in his sales interaction. Telling a prospective member that you don’t know if you’re the right church for them, but you’d be happy to help them find the right one if you’re not-that really changes the dynamics of the situation.

If you’re prospecting, you can let someone know up front that you don’t know if the two of you should visit or not. Offer to take 30 seconds to tell them why you’ve called, and then they can let you know what they think. Let the prospect determine whether or not you continue the conversation.

Because ultimately, if they don’t have a pain that you can address, they’re not going to be a good fit for you anyway. Giving the prospect the opportunity to decide whether they want to continue the conversation makes them more comfortable, and can save you time if they really aren’t a good fit.

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.

Discovering motivations in unexpected orders

Customer service callOne of my clients, who works in the construction industry, was bragging about one of his sales representatives to me a while back. This representative made good use of an unexpected order to discover more about the company requesting it.

This sales representative saw an order for a part replacement that seemed out of place. It was a decently-sized order, but it wasn’t a product line that was typically ordered at that volume, and the client hadn’t placed an order in some time before then.

After looking at this client’s records, the sales representative called the client. He said, “I’ve noticed you’ve placed this order and we’ll be happy to get it out to you-but before we do, can I ask why you’ve placed an order for this product? It doesn’t look like you typically buy this product.”

Talk about going out on a limb! But this sales representative was confident enough in his knowledge about how these parts were usually purchased that he could tell something was unusual in this order. In fact, he suspected the client had bought a competitor’s product.

The client told him that he was actually ordering the part at the contractor’s request. This wasn’t a surprise to the sales representative, and he kept asking questions to uncover more of the real reasons behind this unexpected order.

The representative discovered that the client had, in fact, been buying a competitor’s product. But so many of the contractors this client works with preferred my client’s product that he finally felt compelled to purchase from them.

His unexpected order seemed out of left field for my client and his sales representative, but this customer of theirs had been gradually moving toward that decision for a while.

The representative used the pain funnel really well. He kept asking questions until he figured out this client’s pain.

If you keep asking questions, you can find out your prospect’s pain. But more importantly, the prospect will discover for themselves why they should do business with you based on their pain.

A horrible closing technique

Negotiating for carA while back, I held a bootcamp for a large company at their headquarters. I spent Thursday and Friday with sales representatives who sell all across the country, and on Thursday night I heard a story that is a great example of sales gone wrong.

When I speak in front of large groups, I like to ask if anyone has experience selling used cars before I use it as an example. In this group, there were two sales representatives who had worked in used car sales previously.

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner as a group and I happened to sit next to one of the guys who had been a used car salesperson several years before. And during dinner, he shared this story with me. He’d never been able to get over this sales tactic he was taught, and was relieved that the Sandler principles we’d gone over that day were so different.

The man that I talked to worked at a used car lot when he was younger. The owner owned about six or seven of these used car lots, and he worked with a sales trainer that he brought in to train his sales team.

This trainer spent about a day and a half training these sales people, and he told them, “If you want to sell more cars, here’s the best close you can use.” The trainer encouraged them to understand that for most people, buying cars is a pretty emotional experience.

At this point, I’m thinking, okay, this could be going somewhere good.

The trainer told them that if you’re with a prospect who’s wrestling with their decision, here’s what you should tell them: “Hey, I know this is a tough decision, but I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other a bit today. I just wanted to tell you, if you don’t buy this car from me, I won’t be able to feed my kids tomorrow.”

Immediately, I think, NO! That’s a terrible way to treat a prospect. When he finished telling me that story, the sales representative told me that he had a friend who visited that car lot recently, and that’s still the close.

Obviously, that’s the kind of behavior that makes prospects wary of sales people. And while I think that’s a terrible way to do business, it’s important to know that your competition includes all the sales people who use tactics like that.

Those are the kinds of expectations that you need to work around or disprove in order to have real communication with your prospects. Understanding that some of your prospects will have had that experience in their past can help you understand their behavior better when you’re working with them.

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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Embrace, blend, or defend?

Bad phone conversationThink of something you’ve agreed with in the last week. It could be something simple like someone commenting on the weather, or something as complicated as a business plan.

Now think about something you encountered in the last week you immediately disagreed with. Was it something you saw on the news, something from an article you read, or something you heard someone say? Maybe all three?
Which was easier to remember?

For most people, it’s much easier to think about what you disagree with than what you agree with. And if someone says something you immediately disagree with, that’s an automatic disconnect right there.

Think about that dynamic in sales conversations. What happens on the other end of those conversations is the same thing that happens to you when you automatically disagree with something you encounter.

People react in three different ways to new information:


When you agree immediately with something you’ve encountered, you embrace that idea. Statistically speaking, we don’t embrace much new information.


If someone says something you somewhat agree with, but not fully, you blend the information with what you already believe. You take the good and reject the bad.


Defending doesn’t necessarily mean you put up your defenses to fight, but it might. When most people hear new information, we start out skeptical of it and are on the defensive. This is the most likely response, statistically.

For example, if I sell parts, and I call up a manufacturer to say that we have the best parts for his machinery, hands down, he will most likely respond out of a defensive mindset. And this happens so quickly in a conversation! It’s much easier to get defensive about a new idea than to embrace it. It’s a subconscious process.

Your prospect might not even be aware of it. But since you are, you can change your behavior to respond well to those defense mechanisms.

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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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Uncovering expectations with magic!

Magic wandOne of the more powerful techniques we help people learn is how to uncover expectations. We call it the “magic wand” technique. A client shared a great story a while back that helps demonstrate how it works.

The client of mine is a roofer, and he’d received a referral from a realtor he had worked with before. The realtor had him look at a roof, and warned him that the owners were literally moving out that day. The husband had been transferred out of state, and they had just now gotten a buyer for the house.

My client knew it was going to be tight. Usually the whole process of getting an adjuster out to the house, filing the claim, and receiving the check takes a week or two. So usually it’s done several weeks before someone moves out. In this case, most of the family’s possessions were already loaded on the moving truck out front, and they were inside doing touch-up paint work!

As my client talked with the family, he found out they had never replaced a roof before. Not knowing what their expectations were, he immediately thought of the magic wand technique.

He asked them, “If I could wave a magic wand and you ended up with the best possible outcome, what would that look like to you guys?”

They answered, “We have to have this closed before we move into our new house. And if the roof’s not insurable, the buyer’s going to back out of the deal.”

Understanding the situation and their expectations, my client got the ball rolling quickly. He had an adjuster out there first thing the next morning, and got them an estimate and a check that same day. He also got a signed contract for them that day, and his roofing company completed the job just a couple days later.

Later, the family was saying goodbye to their neighbors, when the neighbors asked about the roofing sign in front of their house. “You guys just had your roof replaced?” they asked.

“Yes, we did,” the family responded.

“Wow, that was fast!” the neighbors said. “It’s been years since we’ve had our roof replaced. Think we should talk to your roofer?”

Of course, the family said they should, and went on to rave about what a great job my client had done at meeting and even exceeding their expectations!

You can use that magic wand in a variety of situations to uncover what the best case expectations are when you’re talking to a prospect. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a $20,000 sale like that roof, or a $20 million one. It’s all about putting the focus on the other party and learning what they ideally want to happen. It’s about making the situation comfortable enough that they’re willing to share that with you.

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Guts and humor

Laughing BusinessmanOne thing that David Sandler always taught was how powerful it was when you combine guts and humor. An experience a client of mine had a while back demonstrates that.

A client of mine had been calling on a potential referral partner. Considering he didn’t get thrown out the first time, he visited him multiple times. Eventually he became a little frustrated, as he wasn’t sure if the relationship was going anywhere. So he thought he’d try a variation on something that David Sandler did years ago.

After walking back to his office and sitting down, my client summoned up his courage, and asked, “I’m curious, how many times am I going to have to come here before you give us a shot at helping one of your clients?”

The prospective referral partner laughed. “Actually, I really like you! I like your persistence. Absolutely keep showing up. I just don’t have a lot of need for your services at this moment.”

“Well,” my client responded, “Can I ask you another question, then?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“How do you generate your business currently?”

That turned into a longer conversation about where he got his business from. Turns out that some of his referral partners would actually make great referral partners for my client as well!

The original story of David Sandler goes something like this. Sandler was visiting a prospect, and just like always, they didn’t talk about Sandler’s services at all. Getting frustrated, Sandler pulled out a small note card.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asked the prospect.

“Sure,” he said.

“How many times do I need to visit you before you’ll consider doing business with me?”

His prospect told him, and he wrote the number down. “Great, is it okay if I count this visit?”

“Sure,” the guy replied.

For the next few times they met, they didn’t talk about Sandler’s services at all, but at the end, he always pulled out the notecard and asked, “Is it okay if I count this visit?”

After just a handful of visits, nowhere near the number on the notecard, the prospect laughed and said, “Okay, enough with the notecard! Let’s talk about doing business together.”

What worked for my client and what worked for David Sandler was combining just 5 seconds of guts with some humor. Most salespeople don’t combine those!

So the next time you’re stuck with a prospect that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, try that technique. It’s crazy what using guts and humor does to a sales interaction!

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