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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Boston, Massachusetts

Last week we shared with you how Reversing is a questioning strategy designed to encourage prospects to reveal and even relive their pain. Reversing may also help you disqualify prospects who don’t have any pain at the current time, so you don’t waste any more time pursuing a prospect that doesn’t need your services. Reversing is quite simply, answering questions with more questions.  On average, it takes 3 reverse questions to get a prospect to talk about their pain.

It’s really just a case of knowing what you are doing. If you practice your delivery, you can deliver an effective reverse without upsetting your prospect at all.  Reversing is a great way to get a prospect to trust you and reveal their pain. Why? Because reversing goes against the norm. People expect sales professionals to sell, not ask how they feel about things impacting their work and life.

During many of our sales training workshops, I role-play this technique with participants. Many are shocked at how well reversing works. I select a volunteer from the audience to play the role of a prospect asking me a technical question.  The volunteer will start by saying something like, “I need software that can be dovetailed with our customer relationship management application. We want our sales team members to track their calls on the road. I want them to be able to press a single button and update the database record with what just happened on their call. Will your software integrate with our customer relationship management software?”  “Hey, that’s a great question,” I will say as I start to reverse the volunteer’s first technical question (This appreciative, complimentary phrase is called a “stroke“).  "I get that question a lot. Can I ask you why you asked me that just now?”
While we are doing the reversing role-play, I will write down lines on a flip chart as I ask each reversing question. It looks like this:

 I

Reverse #1

In response, the volunteer will say something to the effect, “Yeah, we’ve looked at a lot of applications, but none of them seem to integrate with our CRM.”
“OK, it makes sense why you’d ask that question. Can you help me understand why it is important to you?”  I’ll draw another line on the flip-chart as I train.

II

Reverse #2

The role-player then says, “We have salespeople all over the country, and we want them all to use our CRM. However, we find that because they’re on the road so much, they don’t often have time to get to the office and update their prospects’ and customers’ records. So, we have no tracking. If we lack tracking, salespeople and management can’t monitor behavior. If we can’t monitor their behavior, we can’t manage, coach, and develop them as effectively as we’d like to. So naturally, we’re concerned about that.”  Then I’ll say, “That makes total sense. Help me with why you want to address at at this time?”

I’ll draw another big line on the flip-chart as I reverse the conversation back to the volunteer once again.

III

Reverse #3

The participant goes deeper, “Well, we want to minimize customer complaints and improve productivity. What we figured out is that in order to become more effective, our sales team needs to call people back much more promptly. Sometimes those follow-up calls get lost altogether because tracking isn’t updated. In some cases, of course, the customer is not very happy about that so it’s really impacting our bottom line.”   I react sincerely, “OK. Now I’m curious. How does this impact you?”

I draw another line on the flip-chart as I send the conversation back into the “prospect’s” court with yet another probing question designed to bring out the pain.

IIII

Reverse #4

The volunteer responds quickly, “I manage 50 salespeople including three regional managers. We need better tracking because we spend way too much time generating reports manually. We’re too busy with a task that should be automated and can’t do the things that we really need to do. We want to hire more salespeople, but we’re not giving our current employees the coaching, training, and mentoring they deserve. So, we’re having high turnover.”

Drawing another line on the flip-chart, I will ask, “How does all of this make you feel?”

IIIII

Reverse #5

The answer might be, “Frustrated, and from time to time a little overwhelmed with all the work. It takes so much time to generate reports and interview replacement candidates.”  At this point in the role-play, I’ll ask the entire group not to answer the following question because it is just for the volunteer. “Do you have any idea what these lines I drew on the flip-chart are for?”  As I pose that question to the group I will draw yet another mark.

IIIIII

Reverse #6

Generally, the volunteer will have absolutely no idea. I open the question up to the entire group at the workshop, and draw another mark.

IIIIIII

Reverse #7

Usually, some guess right away,  that each hash mark represents a question. It’s easier for them to spot it because they’re not emotionally involved in the role-play. More often than not, however, the role-play participant never sees it, much like most of your prospects won’t see it.  Whenever I ask role-play volunteers what they felt during the interaction, I get positive responses:

“I felt like you cared. You seemed generally interested in helping me get to where I wanted to go. I didn’t feel like I was being sold to.”
• “I felt like I was in therapy!” (Meaning in a “feel good” way.)
• “I felt like you understood where I was coming from.”

Guess what? Prospects are no different. Most people will feel like you really care when you use the reversing sales technique. Through reversing, you’re helping prospects find solutions and relieve their pain.  When salespeople first hear about reversing, they assume the prospect will spot it from a mile away. But, as this example illustrates, and as I can attest from my decades-long career, it isn’t obvious when done properly.

Want to learn more about Reversing and other Sandler techniques? Check out our upcoming workshops and sign-up for one at no cost to you. Here's a link to our Eventbrite page, where you can find a workshop on a date and at a location convenient for you.. Be sure to use the Promotional Code: 10Greg to attend free of charge.

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