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In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training explores more of your top sales challenges and how to overcome them.

Today we're talking about the top sales challenges that we face as individual sales producers. We have different types of people who listen to the show. Certainly short selling cycles, long selling cycles, transactional consultative. It's all over the board. Some do sales and service and some just do sales. At the end of the day, we all have challenges and a lot of these challenges that we have fallen into some general areas. Finding clients, servicing those clients, closing, presentation. There's certain boxes that we all kind of have these challenges that surface over time in a repetitive manner. Sales is a tough, tough profession. You've got to remember that. Certainly, no one ever said it was easy. We certainly know it's profitable if you do it well. Certainly, can feed you and your family. We also know in today's economy that if you're really good at sales, you are hirable at any point in time.

Think about any organization. We, of course, train thousands of them. They're always looking for top producers. I can't tell you how many times people have said to us "Hey, do you know a top producing sales person?" Those people are hard to find. So, here's what we know. Top producing salespeople have certain characteristics and there's a ton of them but let's focus on a couple right now.

One is that you're continually increasing your skill level and your knowledge of the profession. Think about that for a second. You should be practicing key components of your sales cycle, right? You should take different parts of your sales cycle, whether it's your 30-second commercial, your approach talk. Whether it's your top five questions that you've put into memory and you know how to weave them into a conversational style. Whatever it is, you should be practicing those things. Bluetooth is probably our best friend. What I mean by that is you can actually pretend you're talking on your cell phone when you're in the car by yourself and you should be rehearsing. Just practice. It doesn't take that much time but when you're in front of a customer, it really does show because that confidence level is increased, your belief has increased, that "Hey, you know your stuff." It also allows you to focus on the customer, which is the most important. When they're talking, you shouldn't go blank trying to think about how you're going to respond. You should be in that conversation, in real time. The only way you're going to end of doing that is if you know your part of the presentation, the questions, wherever you are in your process.

So, key component. You all should be doing an awful lot of reading on books on behavior and attitude and technique. Read as much as you can. You'd be amazed what we find because I believe people should spend at least two hours a week increasing your skill level. Two hours a week. It's not a huge investment. You could do that couple minutes every night before you went to sleep. Read something, practice in your head, visualize, whatever you want to do. Here's the gig, I believe the longer you're in the profession, the less likely you are to go back and hone your skills when it comes to technique. When it comes to reading books on behavior and attitude and all the things that will help you become a well-rounded sales person. For some reason, we get to a level of expertise in this profession and we stop practicing. We stop rehearsing. I just don't know what it is but it certainly is there. It's one of those DNA flaws that sales people have.

Think about this. Would you want your surgeon to stop practicing when they were in their craft, right? They finally become a medical doctor after X amount of years of medical school and they said to themselves "Who, made it." And they stop practicing. Of course not, but yet that's what some of us do. Not you, I know, but you know other people who do that. So today we're going to talk about "All right if we were going to invest and we were going to make sure that our skill level is increased, what are some of the things that we would do?" Where would we spend our time? We're going to talk about the top sales challenges, cause that's the focus of today. There's a ton of stuff that we could learn but, you know, at the end of the day, let's use that word for a second, learned. Sales people are not born. It's a craft that you learn. Think about it, right? When you came into this world, you weren't all of a suddenly put in the cast called "Sales People." No! People always say, "Well, that person over there, across the room, they're a natural sales person."

You know what, I don't believe it. Here's what I think typically happens is that people have practiced. It's a science. I believe sales is science. There's certain things, people are predictable. You should be able to practice your side, much like a play. Much like the doctor analogy we just used, but if you practice and you follow the process and you have that belief and confidence, then it looks like an art form. Then it looks like "Hey, you were born into this thing called 'sales'." It doesn't happen overnight. People that are picked out, "Oh, he's a born sales person." There's a lot of work behind that. So don't fall short of, "Hey, it's just not in my DNA." It can be in your DNA, but what puts it in your DNA is hard work and practice.

Okay. Let's break these categories up into some things. First of all, finding clients. We're going to talk about how to differentiate yourself on a call. Talk a little bit about presentations. And we're going to talk a little bit about account management. Because those are really big four buckets that people have a lot of challenges in.

All right, finding clients. Now finding clients, I believe, is probably the lifeblood of any sales person. And around this thing called finding clients, there's a huge amount of anxiety. And there's a lot of challenges. So, we're going to talk about some of the things that you need to be successful in this category called "Finding Clients." Now, let's give you a rule. Rule number seven, out of the Sandler rule book, which is number one best seller, Amazon.com and certainly flew up to the top of the charts in the Wall Street Journal, here's the number seven rule. You don't have to like prospecting, you just have to do it. And it's true, think about it. We don't wake up every morning and say, "Oh my gosh, I want to go find clients today. I want to prospect." And those who say that are either sick, or they just haven't done it in so long that they glorified this experience of talking to strangers. It doesn't necessarily work.

How do we do it? Well, there's a couple things you can do. Number one, have a cookbook. That's right, jot that down, "Have a cookbook." So prospecting isn't fun. It's not fun, we've talked about that. Most of us look for a thousand different things that you could do other than prospect. But because it's not fun, and we also lose more than we win, right? We do lose more than we win. It's certainly true in sales, it's certainly true in prospecting. The cookbook is the key because here's what the cookbook is. The cookbook is a recipe of what you do every single day. And so I may not be able to control whether the prospect picks up the phone or not, I can't control whether they give me an appointment or not, but I can control my own behavior. I can control my own activities. So I need to create a recipe, a daily behavior plan, that says "If I do these following things, I'll be successful."

Now obviously there's some math involved in here because you have to make sure that it's realistic. But the cookbook is what you need to do every single day to be successful. If you don't know what that is by the way, "Hey, what do I have to do every single day to be successful?" That's your first "Aha" moment. Go figure it out. But when we're talking about prospecting, we're talking about finding clients, that's a key aspect, it's that lifeline that life blood, of your organization. So here's why the cookbook is key. Yes, we've already said one, it lets you control the things that you can control. It lets you focus in on that. But here's the other thing. It lets you win. It lets you win.

And what does that mean? Well we know in prospecting you're going to lose more than you win, we already know that part. But the cookbook allows you to win. Because at the end of every day, you could say "I actually hit my goal of doing X amount things in order to drive new clients into my pipeline." That doesn't mean you closed anything, that means you've done the right types of activities, and you've done the right types of behaviors in order to get there. So it's good for your head. Right? It also breaks it into small chunks. We can handle anything for a short amount of time. So instead of saying, "I've got to make over 700 outbound calls." as an example, in this month, I break it down to a single day. Hey, I know I've got to lose 30 pounds, but that's a huge amount. But if I say, "Look, I really just have to lose a pound a week." That's not so bad. And that's what the cookbook does, it allows us to take it into those smaller chunks.

So here's something else that it does. But by the way, let me talk to you for a second. You know the cookbook makes a lot of sense, you've heard about it a ton of times in your Sandler programs, but a lot of veterans skip this thing called the cookbook. The cookbook made you successful, it allowed you to do all the things that you should have done to get up to that pinnacle of success, but here's the problem. We stop doing it. Because with the cookbook, comes accountability. Think about that. If you knew what you were supposed to do every single day, and you didn't do it, there comes guilt. So we'd rather not be accountable, so we throw the cookbook out the window. So veterans, if you don't have a cookbook, go back, resurrect the one that you had. If you have one and you're ignoring it, hey, implement it. If you talk to top producers in your industry, you will find that they have a daily behavior plan. They stick to what works every single day. And it does work, it works in every part of your life. So cookbooks are key.

My mom had a recipe for great sauce. And no one could figure it out. So we would call my mom and say, "Mom, how do you make that sauce?" And she goes, "Well a little of this and a little of that, and if I don't like the taste, I put some more of this in and some more of that." Well, we could never replicate that. So we made her write it down. And so now my sauce tastes exactly like my mother's sauce. And my brothers have the same sauce as well. So what happened? She replicated success within our family on this sauce. But you can replicate success in your life by following a cookbook when it comes to building new clients.

And when we get back, we're going to talk about the second thing when it comes to finding clients, we call that a Prospecting Plan. If you implement a Prospecting Plan, this thing will change your life, because when it comes to finding clients you got to have a Prospecting Plan. The plan basically says, how many new conversations should you have in order to feed the funnel? Alright? So if you think about prospecting, you may say, "Well how many new prospects do I need?" Well, let's just pick a number. I need 20 prospects every single week in order for me to feed the funnel. Now, when I talk about prospects, I'm going to say new conversations for a second. Because we don't want people to say, "I'll talk to you next Tuesday." That's not a prospect. Let's use the phrase, "new conversation." So how many new conversations do you need every single week in order to succeed?

First of all, you should know that number. If you don't know that number, that's probably a top challenge you don't even find on your radar screen. So here's the thing. How many new conversations do you need in any given week? Write down the number. Let's say it's 20. Here's how the Prospecting Plan fits in. Where are the 20 coming from? That's the question. Where are the 20 coming from? You need a plan. And so go through the list of all the ways that you could find new conversations, or find prospects. And let's say your industry, there's 15 different ways that you know that could be done. Well, chances are, you're not going to do all 15. Chances are you're going to pick the ones that are ... That you can do. That makes you comfortable, you know you're good at, and it fits into your sweet spot. There's certain things that I'm not going to do. It's just not my personality. The good news is, that you don't need all 15.

So let's say that you've narrowed this down to 10 viable options for you. Well, that's the first part of your plan. Here’s the second part of your plan. All right, well how many do I need from each category? So let's just say that maybe getting referrals was one of those. Going to a networking meeting was another one. Making outbound calls was one. Getting referrals not from customers, but internal people. So I put a number next to each one. If I needed 20, and I know I can get five referrals from customers, three referrals from internal, three from networking, you see how it works? I know every single month I get two from an inbound call. And so all the suddenly I've got numbers next to this.

Now, if it comes up and I know that my known sources exceed 20 or meet 20, great. If it falls short, I've got to do some more. I've got to proactively go find some, or I've got to up my numbers by going into digging not five referrals now, but maybe I need seven. So my plan is put into place. Now, this is key for a couple different reasons. Because once my plans in place, I can track it. Think of what happens. First of all, 80% of the salespeople don't know how many new conversations they need on a weekly basis. But for those who do, if you don't have a plan of where they're coming from, realistic, and you've tracked it, then chances are, by default, you're going to have to make outbound cold calls. Or you're going to have to put all your eggs in one basket and hope for referrals. And let's say that nobody in your company gets 20 referrals. So all the suddenly you're behind eight ball every single month. And that's a dangerous spot to be, that's a huge challenge. You've got to make sure you put the plan in place.

Now, here's the thing. Here's the thing though. What happens when it's the 20th of the month, you expected to have five referrals, and you only have three. Well, that's great news, in a way, and the part that's great news is, now you know it. You can proactively call customers and get referrals. Here's the thing I know about referrals. You could work your tail off for customers, referrals don't jump in the boat as fast as they should. You've got to go look for them. You've got to go troll for referrals. They're not just going to come in. You got to proactively go out there and get them.

So, Prospecting Plan. Once again, number one, determine how many new conversations you need. Determine number two, what's my plan, where are they coming from? And then number three, how many can I expect from each one of these categories? Number four, manage it, inspect it. Here's the next one. When it comes to finding customers, something else that we can focus in on is, when you're prospecting, go for the appointment. Go for the appointment. Sell face to face. That's rule number eight out of that book. When you're prospecting, go for the appointment. And here's what that means. Sometimes we're so happy that we got a live person, that we all the suddenly are on a sales call. When the goal of your prospecting time, let's say that we set an hour a day aside, was to get appointments. Well, then that's what you should be doing. Because if you've got a good appointment, they're not going to back out. It's only when you beg for appointments that you show up and there's nobody there to meet you. But if you've got a good Sandler phone call, then chances are that's not going to happen.

So get the appointment, and then sell face to face. Now for those who sell on the phone, either set the appointment for you to call back. Because let's face it, from the buyer's perspective, you interrupted their day. Chances are they weren't waiting for you to call so you could spend 37 minutes on the call with them. It doesn't happen that way. I'll give you another little tactic for finding customers that may help your challenge. Did you ever notice one of the challenges is that the longer you're on the phone, the harder it is to get an appointment? I think so. The longer you're on the phone, the harder it is to get the appointment. Inevitably, you'll hear something like, "This sounds really interesting. Could you send some literature?" And you don't want to hear that.

So here's something that you can do. Set the appointment, and then qualify the lead. Now, what does that mean? Let's just say that they said, "Yeah, sounds good." And you put them in your outlook for Wednesday at 10 o'clock. Here's your line: "Hey, in order to make sure that our time together is as productive as possible next Wednesday, can I ask you a couple questions?" And first of all, you're asking permission. Secondly, you've couched it to make sure that you're utilizing your time effectively together. Those are two great subtle moves. Of course, they'll say yeah, if they have the time, and now ask your two qualifying questions. Because sometimes it doesn't make sense, obviously, to go see people who aren't qualified. But it's easier for me to ask some of those tough questions like, let's assume in your industry there's a contract phase. Who are you doing business with now? XYZ Company. That's a good company. "When is your contract up?" You may ask that question, that may be important to you. You have to insert what your qualifying questions are.

Here's another one. Have you ever had a challenge where the gatekeeper knows you're a sales person? You just must send some signal. You pick up the phone, and they just can smell sales person. Right? You just must send this signal out somehow. Well, let's face it. From their perspective, you could either be a sales person, making an inbound call, if we're going to use that. Or you could be a customer, you could be a friend. Who knows? Let's assume for a second you're not talking to the executive assistant for a second. You know, when I call, I use first names only. I'll always say, "Hi, it's Dave. Is Steve in?" I don't say, "Hi, this is Dave Mattson from Sandler Training, I'm looking for a Bill Smith, please." When you say that, when you do that full introduction of me, the caller, and who you're looking for, that's not a friend, that's not a customer. You are by default a sales person. I'm not saying you have to hide it. If people ask you, of course. Answer. But I always say, "Hi, it's Dave. Is Steve in?" I don't say, "Hi, it's Dave from Sandler Training." Because what I find is that that secretary, that receptionist, that person is going to make a decision whether Mr. Smith wants to talk to me. I would rather have Mr. Smith make that decision on his own. And that's key.

Those are some little nuances for finding clients. Now, let's go back to the other bucket that we're going to talk about. How to differentiate yourself on a call. Here's some things to think about. I always believed that if a call starts well, it tends to end well. A call that starts poorly, tends to get worse. So, we've got to start strong. There's a concept called Primacy and Recency. People remember how you start and how you end. So make sure you start strong and you end strong. Obviously, the middle should be strong, but sometimes it doesn't necessarily have to be as strong as that first impression. People are looking and judging all the time. You know that. You've heard that for years. How long does it take somebody to make a first impression? And we can argue whether it's 90 seconds or two minutes, it doesn't much matter. The end of the day, they're always judging. They're always judging.

So you've got to break down the buyer/seller wall. We all feel it. When you show up, you don't have a relationship, you can feel that buyer/seller wall, you've got to break it down. Here's some of the things that I would suggest to you that you do. First of all, I like this phrase, "Hey, thanks for inviting me in today." That challenge helps break down the wall. Because here's why, when you use that opening line, "Hey, thanks for inviting me in today." What does that send? That sends that you invited me in. Verses "Hey, thanks for saying yes when I begged for my appointment." Here are the dozen donuts that I promised you. That's terrible. I'm not saying you do that obviously, but "Hey, thanks for inviting me in." Also, what happens. Well, people only get invited in if the other person wants to see them. So suddenly now we're on equal ground at some level.

Here's the other thing, I'd like you to expand and make sure that you use a good 30-second commercial. I love to troll for pain, using a 30-second commercial. Here's a challenge that salespeople have all the time, do you ever find yourself spewing product knowledge in the beginning? Trying to look for some area that the prospect has some interest in? Now of course if your Sandler trained you to know that's not what we should be doing. You shouldn't be showing up and throwing up product knowledge. But here's maybe a way around that. You can open up with something like this, "Hey I know we haven't worked together in the past, should I give a couple minute overview, maybe at 30 thousand feet, of who we are and the types of customers that we help?" Not bad. You, of course, have your 37-second commercial, your upfront contract in the beginning. But many, many times, I heard David Sandler say, after a good upfront contract, "We haven't worked together in the past, would it make sense if I spend a couple minutes giving you a little bit about who we are as a company? And the types of problems that we solve and the customers that we work with?" Everyone used to always say, "Yes!" I've used that line forever. People always say yes.

And so the challenge now is, okay great, when people want you to give them a little piece of information first, especially if there's no relationship, and then they can reciprocate, it's kind of interesting. You've got to start off, you can't say, "So what are your top three challenges that you have when it comes to financial blah blah blah?" That's a lot of pressure, that buyer/seller wall has not been broken down yet. Your challenge is, what do you do to break it down? Well, if you say "Hey, should I spend a couple minutes telling you a little bit about who we are as an organization, the types of customers that we help or problems that we solve?" First of all, insert your 30 second commercial right there.

Now this thing called 30-second commercial, when you're talking about, in the beginning, this could be a nice three to five-minute opening. Talking about the top three or four problems that your organization and you solve for customers potentially just like them. That's perfect. People love to hear these 30-second commercials. Cause what are they doing? Here's what they're doing group, they're inserting themselves into your story. And that's key. At the end of the day what we're talking about are things that we should focus in on to increase our effectiveness. We should be practicing something in our craft two hours a week. Whether you're reading a book and increasing your knowledge when it comes to head stuff, psychology, whether it comes to tactics or strategies, whether it's coming to how other people succeed. It doesn't much matter. Spend some time, but what we talked about early on is practice also. Practice, practice, practice. Take different segments of your sales process, and get them down. Because the more you say it out loud, then the easier it is to say it in real life in front of customers.

So we talked right before the break about expanding your 30-second commercials. One of the great starts of a call after an upfront contract, and by the way, you should go to an upfront contract section and review what that is because that's one of the pivotal points within the Sandler selling system is the upfront contract. It really does set the stage. But a great line is, "Hey, we haven't worked together in the past, should I spend a couple minutes tell you a little bit about our company and the types of problems that we solve and the customers that we work with?" People always say yes. And then start. But what do you say? Well, you shouldn't be doing a feature benefit dump. You shouldn't be doing, "Hey we started in business in 1932, and then in 1936, we moved down the street. Yawn, yawn, yawn." Who cares? No, you want to focus in on what? On potential issues. You want to establish credibility. You want to tell a story. You want to be a consultant.

So how do you do that? Well, you troll for pain. Take the top three, four pains that your customer base is experiencing, before they worked with you, problems that you solve, and you throw it out there is what we call your 30-second commercial. So most people will do a 30 second commercial on the phone, and that's great. I'm suggesting that you start your call with an expanded 30-second commercial. Could be taking three to five minutes. Perfect.

Now let me give you a little tactic when it comes to 30-second commercials. Don't become robotic. So if one of your pains is that people are experiencing poor service, they're uncomfortable with poor service, and they try to talk to a person and yet all they get is voicemail, and finally five days later somebody calls them back, and it's frustrated, and people internally are all up in arms. The whole service thing. Well, you can talk about ... You know we work with companies who are really frustrated by the fact that they can't talk to a live person. Then you tell a little story. That's the key. You have to put some personality into it. Don't become a robot. But tell a story.

For instance, or for example, tell a little story about what it look like when that occurs. And that's what the magic is. Why? Because people are inserting themselves into your third party stories. They're saying to themselves, "Hey, wait a minute. That sounds like me." Or they could say, "Well that's not me, but here is me." Either way, all you're doing is ... I used this word called trolling for pain earlier on. Think about if you fish for a second. You went into your tackle box, you took out the top four lures, and you threw them into the pond at the same time. I don't know which one they're going to bite on, but chances are statistically, in this pond, those four lures work. That's all you're doing here. You're going into your tool box, as a professional sales person, you're taking out the top challenges that your prospect faces, and you're throwing them out there. And you're going to see which one are they biting on. Everyone bites on a different one, depending on the situation, the time of day, all that stuff in the fishing world. Same thing holds true here. I love that one.

Now listen, when they bite on one, here's another challenge. How do you get them to start talking? So we teach you a couple things. First of all, when someone says, "Well yeah, I've got a service problem." As an example, I want you to say, "Well tell me more." Or, "Hey, can you give me an example of what service issue means to you?" I love that one. "Can you give me an example of the last time that happened, or when that happened to you?" When you ask somebody, "Hey, could you give me an example?" Here's what they do. They psychologically go back into time, and they take that experience, which was unpleasant, and they bring it to the current times. They bring it right in front of you. Suddenly they become emotionally involved, they take something that they had already dealt with, but boom, right in front of you again, as if they're reliving the problem. Perfect. Because if you think about it, people buy emotionally and then they justify their decisions intellectually. You don't want it to be an intellectual sale, they're not going to go through the pain, the hassle of making a switch from their current situation to you, unless there is some pain there. Unless they have problems. And there's enough of them that they're going to make movement from where they are to you.

Well, how do you do that? Well, you want them to live through the stuff that they were frustrated with. That they were sick and tired, that they're concerned about. That's what happens when you say, "Hey, can you give me an example of when that happened? What did it look like? What happened then? Tell me some more about that." You are the doctor of sales. Remember, do not suffer from premature presentation syndrome. Let them talk. Let them experience it. Okay?

So here's some other things that you want to make sure. Use your questions to uncover whether they have any need for your product. When you've got to use questions to uncover the strength of your product knowledge, what does that mean? You don't want to lead with product knowledge. Product knowledge should be used to increase your own confidence, but also to get the top questions that you need in order to see if there's interest in your prospect's side.

So what does that mean? Well, I'll always say, "Hey, I don't suppose you've ever had a situation where..." Or, "How do you handle this issue?" And what you're doing is you're putting the issue in that your product solves. You're not saying, "Hey listen, I've got a 32 step process to overcome poor customer service, would that be of interest?" No, you want to create good questions that uncover whether they would have a need for your products. So take some of the features and some of the benefits of your product, and create good questions to see if the prospect has any interest in that area. You do it with a slightly negative question, which is, "Hey, I don't suppose."

Have you ever noticed when you ask a slightly negative question you tend to get a positive response? "Well, I'm not sure if that's ever happened to you." "Well yeah, it actually has." But if you asked a positive question, "Well that probably happens to you every single day, doesn't it?" They always say, "No, not really." So if you ask positive questions, and you go at the buyer, positive questions leading into the buyer if you think it psychologically, they tend to move back. But if you're like, "Well I'm not sure that's an issue." You're already leaning slightly back. What do they do? They lean forward. It's called the Pendulum Theory. Think about that. It goes back and forth. That's how it works. You should go and learn negative reverse selling in your Sandler training center because that is one of the magical things that you can learn in order to get over some of these challenges.

Now, let's talk about another bucket of challenges that we have in the presentation. That's always a challenge. I always hear people saying, "Well I thought I did a great job in the qualifying stage, but when I got to the presentation nothing happened. They just kind of dragged me through the mud with six months of non-decision." All right well, first of all, that's probably symptomatic of things that were happening ahead of time. When you get to the presentation, there should be no surprises. Here's the other thing, you shouldn't create the presentation in some vacuum. You're always making sure that your prospect, your potential customer, has co-created the solution. You've got to make sure that they have their fingerprints, as they say, all over this potential solution. You want to make sure that you've run some ideas by them, you've gotten some feedback. When they see it on the document, that's not the first time they've ever seen it.

You're not going for the "Wow" effect, "Oh my gosh, I never knew you could do all that." That's the "Wow" effect that the amateur salespeople look for when they do their presentation. Forget that. What you're looking for is, "Hey, this is the problem that you've said. Here's some of the solutions that we've talked about. I tweaked them because you've told me here's some issues. And here they are." And they should say, "Oh yes, that's exactly what we talked about." There should be no surprises.

You should also make sure that all the decision makers are involved. How many times have you heard, the challenge is always, "Well I was in front of one person and they loved it, but then they had to take it to somebody else." Okay, well let's assume for a second that we all know we should be in front of all the decision-makers. That's obvious. But let's also just make an assumption for this, if you couldn't be in front of them all, for whatever reason. You certainly can make phone calls, and if that's not an option, then you need them to project for you what the issues and questions that those who are not in the room with you are going to be.

What does that mean? Well, you could ask the person in front of you. "It's obvious we can't be in front of the other two people, Mary and Steve. Knowing Mary and Steve as well as you do, what are some of the questions that they're going to raise based on what they do within the organization?" I mean obviously Steve is the CFO, he's going to be asking some financial questions. What do you think those will be? And if you project, okay what will Steve ask? What will this person ask? They'll give you two or three right off the top of their head, because now they're in it. Oftentimes they're not thinking about that until they're actually in front of them. But you just basically psychologically put them right in from of them. That's key.

Here's something else that you can do. The challenge is, that when we do presentations, and you get to the end of the 50-minute block that you were allotted, and you say, "Do you have any questions?" And they say, "No, no questions." But yet they leave totally confused because they can't give you an answer. Here's a way to overcome that challenge. You should be saying several times during your presentation, and kind of asking if they have questions. Here's the problem when you say, "Do you have any questions?" People tend to say no. Why? Because they've been taught in school, "Hey, don't say you've got questions." I never raised my hand in school. "I don't even know what you said for the last 44 minutes of this class, Mrs. Smith." Who says that?

So here's instead what you could ask. Turn the negative into a positive. You could say something like this, "Hey, ask questions. There's typically one or two right around now." That statement actually elicits questions. And then just be quiet as a sales person. Ask questions, there's typically one or two right around now. And they'll ask questions. That's a great thing. First, they're going to ask them when they're fresh in their mind. Because oftentimes, think about yourself when you're buying. You may have a question a couple minutes into it, by the time you're ended, and that sales person says, "Do you have any questions?" We typically say no we don't either. Because maybe we forgot or we don't want to extend the call. But you can pull out those questions as they occur.  And the other thing that happens is you're engaging them into the conversation.

Now, one of the other things that you want to make sure is that you do the thermometer close. That thermometer close will make you money. You've got to make sure that you're not going to end up closing at the end, I'm going to ask you to close midway through your presentation with that thermometer close. It's powerful, it works every single time, it'll help you, and inevitably somebody will always say, "Well, how do you get that presentation down?" Because you watch presentations and they actually read power point. I mean that is boring. People can read. They don't need you to read a power point for them. One of the great things that I love to start a presentation with is once you have your good up front contract, you've done a little rapport, and you review the pains, here's the top three issues that we talked about that you said were important to you, issue one, issue two, issue three. Which one would you like to have me deal with first today?

Think about that for a second. You actually get to have the buyer control the order of the presentation. That's really slick. So when you say, "Here are your top three issues that we talked about, pain one, pain two, pain three, Mrs. Smith is that accurate?" "Yup." "Anything you want to add?" "Nope." "Well, which one do you want to see us deal with first today?" "Well, I'd like you to deal with pain number two." Now what do you now know what you should have known anyways, but what do you now know for sure? Pain number two is the most important. People always want to find the most important issue first. They don't give their lowest ranking pains first. People want to ... "Hey, how you going to solve my big problem?" So that is great.

Secondly, guess what happened? You set a whole different expectation. First of all, they're engaged in the presentation, and it's consultative because you're not starting off with a power point presentation with 137 power points. The first 63 is establishing quote on quote "Credibility." Here's our company, here's the leader, here's what people say about us. Who cares? Your proposal should be actually set up with "Here is A. Your understanding of the issues. B. Your solution. C. All the company validation and credibility stuff, I put in the back.

They should know that. It's okay to weave it in, obviously. But let's face it, from the buyer's perspective, what are the three things that they want to know? If you had to talk about the issues, your solution and your company, most people want to know, "Did they understand me? Did they understand my issues? What's their solution?" All the puffing of feathers and beating your chest and telling how wonderful you are, that can be done at the end. And chances are, I've got to tell you I've been selling a long time, and all the Sandler trainers will tell you the same thing, it's rare that people beat on you for six references, they want to know about this, they want to know about that about your company, I hardly ever talk about Sandler. And all the worldwide capabilities that we have, this and that. It's not because it's not great, not because we're not proud of it because the prospect really only cares about their pain. That's the issue.

And so if we get to that other stuff, great. But oftentimes what you're going to find is if you start with their issues in mind, you never get to your side. And that's truly, truly the right thing to do. You got to practice that presentation. I always say mine out loud six times. The first time it comes on, it doesn't sound so great. Second time, little better. Third time, best. Four? Bang, bang. By the sixth time, it becomes part of me. And then, therefore, if you use that move, "Here are your top three issues, as I understood them, is that correct?" "Yes." "Which one would you like to see solved first?" It doesn't much matter then which one they pick, cause you've got your part down. I'm going to memorize slide number six before it comes to seven, somebody raises their hand and asks the question completely derails your presentation, that's because you memorized sequence. That is just terrible. Engage people. That's the key. Engage them.

Let's go to another bucket challenges that we have, is really account management. And so, at the break, I was reminded about something, which is, "Hey, have fun." You know, if you know your part, you're going to have fun. And having fun on the sales call, having fun in a presentation, can only come if you feel comfortable. Think about people who are uncomfortable. Are they having fun? No. They look like they're all wound up with anxiety. And if you're sending that signal to your buyer, that's terrible. I don't want my surgeon to come in the night before the surgery or the morning of, looking really nervous and all wound up. That's not really good. I want them to be confident, having a smile. Yeah, that's what you should be doing.

One of the things as I go back to another topic earlier on, finding clients. We do a lot of training with IT, and we do a lot of training within the financial services in the insurance world, and one of the great, great phone scripts that's kind of like a preoccupation breaker, is one of these "Have fun" scripts. Which is ... The IT company will call and say, "Mr. Smith, Hi Bill, it's Steve. This is a cold call. And I'm sure you're filled with huge amounts of anticipation." And the guy starts laughing. "Hey Bill, it's a cold call. I know I've interrupted your day, but I can imagine right around now you're just filled with huge amounts of anticipation." And they just kind of chuckle a little bit, kind of breaks the ice. Or the other one is, "Hey Steve, Hi, it's Dave. This is a cold call, and I know you hate getting them, you're probably wondering now do I even want to pick up the phone? And I spent about three hours trying to figure out how to dial this number cause I hate making them." It's kind of fun. People start laughing. So I said, "I hate making them, you hate getting them, can I take 30 seconds now that I've got you and tell you who I am and what I do?" And they let you do it. Why? Because it's different. And you're having fun.

When it comes to getting a client, account management, boy, you've got to do some stuff. How about wallet sizing? The challenge sometimes is we don't know what type of account that we have. Is it a growth account? Or is it a maintenance account? I often ask people, "Well, how much do they spend in your area?" And people look at you. For instance, let's assume that you sold IT for a second, you're high-fiving everyone internally because you got a five million dollar deal. And that's great. And I'll say to them, "Well how much does this company spend in your space worldwide?" "Well, I'm not really sure" the person says. Well if they spend six million and you just closed five million, that's pretty good, right? You got the majority of the money spending in your area. Well let’s assume for a second, they spent 100 million dollars in your space, and you just got five.

Well, there's a huge opportunity for growth there. And that's a whole different strategy in account management than it is if you got the lion share, you're trying to maintain your position. Think about it in sales, you're only doing on of two things. You're protecting and growing existing relationships, or you're finding and plundering somebody else's. That's kind of where you are. So if we break it all down, figure out which one is it? The only way you can do that is to really look within your customer base and say, how much are they spending in my area? How much am I getting? What's that percentage? And is this a maintenance, protection, make sure they're all comfortable, although you should be doing that anyways. Or really is it a growth opportunity? Because I just have a foot in the door and I have a small percentage of what they're spending. Big difference.

Here's another challenge. Keeping your relationships with your customer at A level. You can have A, B, C level relationships. Or Gold, Silver, Bronze, you can use whatever analogy that you'd like. The fact of the matter is you've got to get them, increase your relationship with your customer. Here's a question you should be asking yourself all the time. In the next 90 days, what are the top three things that I can do to increase my relationship with my customer? What are they? You've got to figure out where you are. I love asking people, "Hey, what are the top two or three things that I can do from an account management standpoint to make sure that you are absolutely comfortable? What would they be?" First of all, they've never been asked that question. Think about that for a second.

Here's a challenge. Do you really know if your customer is 100% satisfied with your activity in the IT company? Do you really ever know if they're talking to your competitor? Well, how about just asking. You can say, "What are the top two or three things that I can do in this position to make sure that you are 100% comfortable? That you're happy?" And write down what they say. And when you're with them, remind them of the list. "Hey, you said these three things is really what you're looking for when it comes to a partner like myself. How am I doing? Am I doing great? Am I doing poor? Am I doing fair? A, B, C?" When you ask people to give you honest feedback, that's great information. Because if they say, "Well you're actually doing great at feedback, great at educating our internal employees." They're validating you're doing a good job.

Customers forget all the good things that you do for them sometimes. But when you say, "How am I doing?" It comes right back up. Now here's the other thing, let's assume that you're doing poorly in an area. Well don't shy away from it, that's good news. It's not good news that you're doing poorly, it's good news that you know about it. So they say, "Well you're not doing so great in follow up." What does it need to look like? You need to make sure that you increase from a C to a B. And then drive to an A. But knowing that you have an issue is okay. Now you can deal with it, don't shy away.

So when it comes to the challenges that you have in this, figure out where you are, figure out what your 90-day plan is, figure out the cast of characters. What I mean by that is, draw an organization chart of your top customers. Circle the ones that you have great relationships with. Now, look at that. And if you don't have a lot of people circled, get nervous. You should go find two or three every quarter that you can have a relationship with that you could circle. Say yup, I got a good relationship with that person. Most sales people have a relationship with people, not the organization. If you don't have enough people circled, and the person that you did circle left the organization, would your business suffer? I bet you it would. I bet you it would. That's a huge challenge.

You should have relationships with as many people as you can. Because in today's environment group, people are moving. People are promoted. People are shifting. So don't ever rely on just one or two key people in the organization. Things are shifting. So we all have challenges. Figure out what yours are. Create a playbook for yourself. A playbook simply is here's the challenge, here's what I'm going to do to overcome it. And then start practicing, rehearsing, and focusing in on it. Because today's challenge may be really simple for you tomorrow. And that's the key. You're always growing, you're always risking. And we're always going to fail. But we got to learn from that failure, we've got to make sure that risk is fine. Stick up your head, it's okay.

You've been reading the transcript of Selling the Sandler Way with Dave Mattson. Sandler Training is the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals to Fortune 500 companies, with over 250 locations.

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