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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,


Some time ago I stood in the security line at Logan. I was on my way to Orlando to speak at the National Conference of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Using "the three foot rule", which says "whenever you are within three feet of someone ask them what they do as they may be a prospect", I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind me. He turned out to be the Head of the Central and Eastern European Divisions of L. Hoffman LaRoche. He was in charge of 3600 people including 800 sales people. In case you don't know, Roche Pharmaceuticals is the largest privately owned company in the world. Some months later, as a result of that conversation, I led my first program for Roche in Geneva, Switzerland. They paid a lot for the training and it was a "drop in the ocean" to Roche. Tuygan Goeker, the Head of the Eastern and Central European Divisions, invited me back and this time paid even more to train 33 Country Managers and General Managers on recruiting strategies in Zurich, Switzerland. It's been a great account, so what's the point?

Okay, here's the point: 15 years ago if I had met Tuygan, would I have been ready for the conversation? Honestly, I don't think so. Yet, many bosses and salespeople want to land the proverbial "Elephant" and clearly don't know how and aren't prepared, but they continue to hope and try.

So, you think you qualify to sell elephants? Here's a quiz to help you know for sure and I've put the answers and reasons below:

  1. A prospect who is listening most of the time is no prospect at all. Is this True or False? 
  2. The way to handle a negative prospect is with positive, reassuring statements: Is this True or False? 
  3. I'm comfortable calling on Chief Execs and do so frequently? Is this True or False - both parts?

The answer to question #1:

A prospect who is listening most of the time is no prospect at all! When people are interested, they'll be talking. Do you remember a bad date you ever went on? Did you talk more or less than a good date? Also, remember, whoever is talking less on a sales call, is the person who IS in control!

The answer to question #2:

The way to handle a negative prospect is to validate what they say and in fact move them even more negative. If they have pain, they will push back towards being positive. It could sound like this, prospect says, "We've had customer relations software for a few years now, but no one is using it, so I'm not going to consider another one right now". Sales person should say, "That makes sense to me. Did you put a lot of effort into training and implementing it?" Prospect might say, "Well, we should have put more I think". Sales person could say, "So, do you want me to close your file on this, or do you feel it makes sense to discuss it further and see if it's a lost cause or there is a way to get your people using the tool?" Prospect, having pain would usually say, "Well, I'd like to think it's not a lost cause, what did you have in mind?" Now, having built credibility and a sense that the salesperson doesn't "need" the business; the conversation can continue with less resistance from the prospect and move towards closure.

The answer to question #3:

Being comfortable talking to CEO's comes from at least two things - a healthy self-esteem and knowing what to ask them. Their "Pain" is different than their middle managers'.

If you feel uncomfortable or nervous selling Elephants get involved in a good goal setting program that builds competence in selling to CEO's. Elephant Hunting requires preparation. Here's a quote from Coach Bobby Knight that explains: "We talk in coaching about "winners" - kids, and I've had a lot of them, who just will not allow themselves or their team to lose. Coaches call that a will to win. I don't. I think that puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Everybody has a will to win. What's far more important is having the will to prepare to win."

Contact me at 781-848-0993 or if I can help you in any way. Join us for a sales workshop one-time for $5.00 and see what $500.00 of training can do for your sales. More information at

Greg Nanigian is CEO of Greg Nanigian and Associates, affiliate Sandler Training.  Over the past 29 years, we've helped thousands of sales professionals and organizations optimize their selling strategies, increase profits and create lasting relationships with their customers.


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