When you conduct an interview, you expect to ask questions and listen to answers. That’s precisely what you should be doing in your sales calls. Sandler questioning techniques are the key to uncovering the prospect’s pain, getting a budget commitment, and establishing the decision making process. You’ve got to be willing to “interview” your prospect, and let him/her do most of the talking. The information you need to get the sale is within the prospect’s answers. If you’re doing too much “selling,” you’ll never hear those answers.
Your prospects operate on the assumption that salespeople are trying to trip them up, get information out of them, and “trick” them into a sale. So, from the first contact with a salesperson, prospects do everything they can to maintain control.
The difference in the Sandler Selling System is that when the Sandler trained salesperson takes control of the sales interaction, it will benefit the prospect. Prospects have upfront contracts with the salesperson so that there is no doubt about what is going to happen next. Prospects will be able to reveal the core issues that created their need, and have those issues dealt with in a tailor-made solution. Every aspect of the sale is understood before any time is spent on a presentation, and that presentation will directly address the prospect’s pain, within a budget that has already been established. And, if there isn’t a fit between the salesperson and the prospect, the Sandler salesperson will be the first to say so, and give the prospect “permission” to comfortably say no.
When to Talk Money
The traditional salesperson gets in front of a prospect, and pulls out a glossy brochure and some reports about his/her product. The salesperson then spends about a half hour talking about all the wonderful features of the product, the myriad of benefits that any buyer would enjoy, and how this product is far superior to any of its kind on the market. After the presentation, the prospect asks a simple question—“How much?” When the salesperson quotes the price, the prospect says, “Sorry, that’s way out of our budget. But thanks for coming in.” Thanks indeed! The salesperson leaves without a sale, and the prospect has a lot of information to take to other suppliers to find the right solution, at the right price. Recognize the scenario?
If you’re a Sandler trained salesperson, you probably haven’t experienced that one for a long time, because you establish a budget at the beginning of the sales call cycle, not at the end. The time to talk money is up front. When you know the budget allocation the prospect is working with, you’ll know if you have a solution that can meet that criterion. You’ll know where the money is coming from, and who is authorized to spend it. And you’ll know what solution to present to the prospect, if the sale goes forward. Presentations close a sale; they shouldn’t provide a surprise ending.
You Make the Call
Situation: You’re hiring a new member of your sales team. You’ve developed a job template, as well as a comprehensive list of required skills and attributes for success in the position. You’ve narrowed the field down to three candidates, and it’s time to interview. There’s one candidate that you find particularly appealing. The candidate is bright, amusing, quick with answers, and seems like he would be a fun person to have around the office. However, his background is not as good a fit as one of the other candidates. He has no experience in your specific industry, and the ramp-up time would be considerable. But you really like him personally.
Action: Instincts and gut feelings shouldn’t be part of the hiring process. Why go to the trouble of laying the proper groundwork and creating a profile of the ideal candidate, if you’re willing to throw it out the window when someone with charm comes along. Charm can go a long way, but if the candidate doesn’t meet the criteria you’ve created based on the job and industry requirements, you may be stuck with a very charming, but very unproductive team member. A member whom you may have to go to the trouble, and cost, to eventually replace.
The Sales Manager as Coach
Coaching is an important aspect of effectively managing a sales team. As coach, the sales manager can make sure that each member of the sales team is performing the behaviors that will produce positive results. He/she can assure each member of the team has the competencies that will help them meet their personal sales goals, and contribute to the team’s overall goals. This, in turn, will accomplish a major task that all managers face—getting things done through other people. It is always a challenge to have the measure of one’s job performance depend on the efforts of others, but by coaching team members to success, managers can maintain control of their personal success and satisfaction.