The typical sales procedure goes like this:
- Find someone, anybody, who could be interested in what you do/sell/make/offer/promote in the slightest.
- Make a request for an appointment.
- Show up and throw out all you know about your product or service, figuring out how to compress as many features and benefits into the time your prospect gives you.
- Agree to give your prospect everything they could possibly want—if not for free, then as near as possible.
- Try one or two devious closing techniques.
- Make the sweetest smile you can.
- Continue to speak quickly, loudly, and engagingly enough to keep your prospect off-balance for an extended period.
- Rep the process with as many live prospects as you can.
- Chase, chase, chase—while hoping and praying for the best.
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
For the next 12 minutes, join us as we go over the seven stages of the Sandler Selling System and the questions you may ask to improve your sales skills.
Bonding and Rapport
In the Sandler universe, bonding and rapport are dependent on a few key factors.
To begin, you must have a strong sense of self. You must be aware of how others see you, your own worldview, and your strengths and limitations better than anybody else. This will help you comprehend how your prospects will view you.
Second, you'll need a razor-sharp emotional and situational radar. At each level of the sales process, you must read the prospect's emotions swiftly and accurately.
Third, you'll need a lot of stylistic versatility. Each prospect will be unique, so meeting them where they are will be crucial to your success. You must learn to be a social chameleon, as Garrido puts it.
Fourth, professional humility is required. Humble people are truly interested in other people's points of view. That presents itself in asking many questions, not the type you fake for the first few minutes so you can "finally get down to business."
Finally, after you've mastered the fundamentals, you must be able to swiftly acquire your prospect's trust. Although this is easier said than done, effective trust-based questions may aid in bonding and rapport-building.
Some instances are as follows:
"If I don't believe I'm the ideal answer for you after learning more about your firm and what you're trying to accomplish, would you mind if I mentioned a couple of my rivals who would be a better fit?"
"So that we're on the same page, aside from price, which is clearly important to all of my clientele, what other eligibility requirements do you typically use when selecting new suppliers?
"If I don't believe we'll be very effective in those key areas in the eyes of, say, your boss, I'd really rather inform you upfront than gamble any humiliation for you later. Are you satisfied with that?"
Bonding and rapport are something you work on throughout the sales process. Still, ineffective salespeople make the mistake of spending too much time on it during the sales call.
If your appointment is set for 45 minutes, you only need 5 minutes. You might begin with a query like the one below:
"Thank you again for the invite, Mark. How are things doing for you today?" using your Nurturing Parent voice, which is your most effective sales voice.
The actual effort begins with the initial contract once you've attentively listened to the response and replied accordingly.
The Up-Front Contract
According to Garrido, it would be in everyone's best interest if the salesperson and the prospect could agree on the following:
- The meeting's start time, end time, and venue;
- The meeting's objective;
- The client's schedule;
- The plan of the salesman;
- The meeting's probable results; and
- They agreed to continue the procedure or immediately quit wasting each other's time.
An Up-Front Contract is what Sandler refers to it, and it's a strong weapon. Here are some magical questions to ask to do this (while tailoring them to your own needs):
"So, Mark, it seems like it could be a good idea for you to ask me over for a face-to-face discussion regarding the new manufacturing plant you're developing. Is that reasonable?"
The important words here are "invite" and "fair," which should not be overlooked since they are really strong terms. When you have the opportunity, make use of them.
"So, Tom, when and where would be the greatest time for us to meet?"
"Let's just agree on our top three most essential agenda topics. Is that reasonable?"
"Just to make sure we're both on the same page, let's agree on what the following steps may be if we're a good match. Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Experience tells me that we'll be able to figure out whether we're a good fit in around 10–15 minutes. We'll probably want to start figuring out how we can do some business together if we're still chatting after approximately 40 minutes. Is that reasonable?"
"Will you be inviting anyone else to the meeting?"
"For the initial meeting, we usually feel that asking you some questions about the issue is the best way to go—you know, to try to view the business issue through your eyes—are you OK with that?"
"Do you think there's anything more we should add to the agenda?"
After you've secured an Up Front Contract for a meeting, we proceed to the next phase of the Sandler submarine and start researching the prospect's pain.
The distance between where individuals are and where they desire to be is called pain.
And every sale is motivated by the prospect's assumption that if they buy your product or service and put it into practice, they will feel better.
There are three types of pain: acute, chronic, and neuropathic.
- Pain that starts off as a blip on the surface;
- Pain in terms of how it affects or is related to business; and
- On a personal level, the pain influences or is connected to it.
A prospect's initial complaint will almost certainly be a minor ailment. With a few probing inquiries, you can get the candidate talking at this point:
"Tell me a bit more about what you've gone through - why are we even talking?"
"What is one thing you wish your current supplier did better?"
Your objective is to get the prospect to expand on the issue, probing deeper into the business's pain as they start opening up about the surface discomfort they are feeling (level two pain). Analyzing inquiries like these can help you identify level two pain points:
"Has this been an issue for a long time?"
"Have you tried anything about it?" Was that successful? "
"How much do you believe this has cost you in terms of missed opportunities or income - or the potential loss of revenue in the coming months?"
You've reached the moment where you're starting to feel the real anguish. Not dealing with the situation has financial ramifications, which surely have personal ramifications in the future. Probing inquiries like these will help you get to the bottom of this sort of pain:
- "How would you react if the revenue losses persisted?"
- "Would this have an impact on your own performance review?"
- "Have you given up on resolving this?"
You'll have the prospect in a position where they want (and need) to take action to alleviate their suffering once you've taken them through all of these pain levels.
Now that they've reached a point where they feel compelled to act, it's time to shift the conversation to the budget.
Remember that there is a great difference between a prospect willing to work and one willing and able to act.
Here are some questions you'll ask to figure out which sort of prospect you're working with at this point.
- "Tom, what type of investment were you anticipating for this project?"
- "To use a hotel comparison, Jamie, were you planning to invest in a 1,2,3,4, or 5-star hotel?"
- "Will you discuss with me the range of possible budgets for this project based on your previous experience with similar projects, Sam?"
We continue to the last stage of the qualifying process once you have a solid feel of their budget and have determined that it is significant enough to assist them in addressing their problem.
We're trying to:
- Assess whether the prospect qualifies for a thorough presentation.
- Exclude the prospect (in which case they don't get a presentation).
- Indicate who else needs to be engaged in the process to take it ahead during this stage of the Sandler Process.
Here are some questions to consider while making that decision:
- "When do you want the advantages of the solution to be delivered or in place?"
- "How should I design the presentation I need to give?"
- "Where should it take place?"
- "How many people will be in attendance at the presentation?"
- "Why does it have to be done this way?"
This is the moment to dismiss a prospect if you don't have a clear vision of what happens after submitting your proposal and quote or if the prospect is unsure about the intricacies of implementation. Anything else is just free consulting, which is a terrible strategy to expand your company.
It's time to follow up once you've verified that your prospect qualifies for a presentation and quote. During the presentation, the questions must be directly related to the pains they stated in the pain step.
You should check their temperature at each stage of the presentation, ask them whether what you're showing them is what they expected to see and adjust the course if it isn't.
Sandler advises that you immediately deal with any prospective buyer's remorse once you've completed the sale.
To do so, you need to inquire about the following before signing the contract:
"Can I tell you what my greatest worry is, Terri? I'm afraid I may have pushed you into this bargain. Is that true?"
This will close the sale. Or they will ferret out any potential reasons for backing out or blockages, avoiding the all-too-common experience of returning to the office and hearing from the prospect that "something has come up."
You should also prepare your prospect for what their supervisor and rival will say if they learn that you and the prospect are conducting business together.
"How will you react if (name of competition) chooses to slash their pricing at the last minute to earn your loyalty?"
"How do you think your employer will react when you tell him you've chosen to join us?" And what are your thoughts about that?"
Reversing is an added bonus.
Before you start using the Sandler Selling System, there's one more key strategy to master that will help you at every stage: "reversing," which is all about figuring out what a statement's objective is before reacting.
Let's imagine you work for a logistics firm that ships throughout the United States and a potential client asks you a simple query like:
"So, tell me. Is it possible to collect immediately from the dockside in Baltimore Harbor if you ship overnight to Richmond?"
If you explicitly answer the question, the dialogue will come to a halt, and you will have learned nothing. You could use various reversal strategies, and here's how you might have responded to that question with a question of your own.
- The Negative Reverse: "Good question: I don't imagine you'd want to share with me why those two things are essential to you right now, would you?"
- The Start-Stop Reverse: "I'm glad you asked. We do, in fact, collect every day from... wait, hang on a second... Tell me why you're inquiring."
- The Strip-Line Reverse: "What is it about Baltimore and Richmond that has everyone so hyped?"
- The Presumptive-Question Reverse: "I'm guessing you're asking me because the majority of your clients are in Richmond, and the bulk of your cargo enters the United States through Baltimore. Is that correct, or am I incorrect?"
- The Most-Important Reverse: "Both are critical, but let me ask you this. Which is the most essential of the two and why?"
- The Dummy-Up Reverse: "OK, I wasn't anticipating that inquiry. I'm not sure, but I'd be glad to investigate. Is it critical for us to be able to?"
- The Let's-Pretend Reverse: "Good question: I'm not saying we can, but what would it mean to you if we could or couldn't?"
- The Competitive-Edge Reverse: "That's a great question for which I'm guessing you have a reason—if that's the case, what is it?"
- The Key-Strategy Reverse: "Why did those two activities become relevant to your key business strategy in the future?"