Matt Pletzer, a Sandler Trainer, shares his best practices for selling something new that no one has ever heard of. Sure, we would all love to be Apple and have people talking about us all the time, and people lined up to buy our new products. Unfortunately, most salespeople have to try to open doors and new markets when the prospects have never heard of you. In this episode, Matt talks about the attitude, behavior, and technique of doing just that.
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Mike Montague: Welcome to the How to Succeed Podcast, the show that helps you get to the top and stay there. This is how to succeed at selling something no one’s ever heard of. Matt, welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about selling something new, something nobody’s ever heard of, and why you picked this topic today.
Matt Pletzer: Hey, Mike. I appreciate you having me on. Yeah, I picked this topic for a few reasons. One, of the community that I’m in here, Madison, Wisconsin, tends to be a startup hotbed for new technologies, new products, new services, so many of the clients that I work with have something that they’re bringing in the market that perhaps no one’s ever heard of or seen before.
The other side of that coin is I left corporate America to start my business, in the consulting business, and part of what we do is working with individuals on how to become more effective and efficient at selling, but oftentimes no one’s ever heard of a sales coach before or even conceptually thought of working with a sales coach, so it ties into what I do on a day-to-day professional basis, as well.
Often, what I find is that it can be challenging for individuals and companies to sell a product or solution that no one even conceptually knows is out there. Often, what we end up doing is we end up over-delivering, over-educating our client base, and doing something that we call at Sandler, which is called unpaid consulting. It can be frustrating to our clients.
Mike Montague: Yeah, I think all of that stuff sounds great, and it’s really interesting because it is a different sales challenge. I think everybody wants to be Apple and have people lining up at their door whenever they release a new product, but for most salespeople, that’s not reality.
You’re selling a product or a company or a solution that nobody’s ever heard of before and it’s a little bit of a different deal, especially in starting conversations with people. As we do that, let’s talk about attitude. What should you think as you go into a call like that?
Matt Pletzer: Yeah, attitude’s an interesting one, because I think the attitude that you need to have is that you don’t need the sale. In addition to it, I think the attitude that you need to have is that just because no one has ever heard of my product or service does not mean that I have to tell them everything about my product or service the first time I meet them. Doesn’t mean that I have to over-educate them on it. Really what it means is I have to come to the table with the attitude that I’m seeking to understand first.
Mike Montague: Yeah, I like that. There is I guess some bad attitudes too, that I was thinking. You could have a lot of negative attitudes, like, “Well, I have to justify my existence and stuff here, because nobody’s ever heard of me.”
Matt Pletzer: Yeah, that happens quite a bit, right? We try to justify ourselves with our experience, with our background, what we’ve accomplished, and therefore, what I often find is that the people that we work with end up speaking more about themselves and their background than what they’re actually trying to deliver for their clients and how their solution actually addresses the concern or pain or need for their client. It’s really important to focus on your client, not focus on yourself, not focus on your solution.
Mike Montague: Do you have any tips on how to come in with an equal business stature? I know for me, I was lucky enough to get my first Sandler training when I was a junior in high school, but it was tough for me as an 18-year-old to walk into a CEO’s office and pretend to act as if I belonged there. I think the same thing can happen no matter what age you’re at. If you have something that maybe you’re unsure of or they’re unsure of, any tips on how you create equal business stature there?
Matt Pletzer: That’s a great question, Mike. I mean, obviously when you’re selling something that no one’s ever heard of before, one of the first questions that you tend to get when you sit down with a prospect is, “Hey, who are you? What can you do for me? What can your product or solution do for me?”
That’s where I like to reference the movie “The Matrix.” I don’t know if you remember “The Matrix” or not with Keanu Reeves. I feel like at times we can get ourselves positioned to where we’re trying to dodge all the bullets that are coming at us instead of doing what Keanu does in that movie, in which he holds up his hand, and he stops the bullets in midair.
To answer your question more directly, I think what we can do is we can leverage something that we call at Sandler, which is called the upfront contract, which is having no mutual mystification about what we’re here to talk about today. In reality, when you’re selling something that no one has ever heard of or seen before, the real first step in the process is just to learn more about the organization, learn more about how they work, what they’re doing, what’s working and what’s not, and then you can discern whether or not your new or unique product or solution fits their needs or not.
Mike Montague: We may have already moved over to behavior, but are there other things that we need to do on a call or things that we need to plan for to help us overcome selling something new?
Matt Pletzer: Yeah, I think that’s … You led me to it, Mike, which I think one of the most important things from a behavior standpoint is to prepare and plan. When you’re selling something that no one has ever heard of, it’s probably more incumbent for you to not come to the table with your preconceived notions.
Certainly to prepare and plan to try to learn as much about the organization as possible, but also to list out the questions which you want to ask your prospect so that you don’t get caught up at that moment, where you are like Keanu, trying to dodge the bullets right and left. You can have some questions prepared to ask them that’ll help lead your prospects down the path to where you can mutually discern, “Hey, does our solution fit their needs or not?”
Mike Montague: Yeah, that’s perfect. I think having a lot of questions will help you prepare. Some questions can be discovery questions too, that they realize they have problems that you solve by the questions that you ask. It’s not necessarily just finding out about them, but it could also be leading them to answers too.
Matt Pletzer: Oh, for sure, yeah. It’s the art of self-discovery, right? That’s what Sandler’s all about, and that’s what truly being a consultant is all about, is helping your prospect’s self-discovery of do they need your product or service and trying to eliminate that word “convince” out of your mindset. I guess that probably goes back to attitude as well. I like to eliminate the word “convince” out of my vocabulary altogether.
Mike Montague: Yeah, and I found the interesting triangle in behavior is that discipline, vitality, and guts triangle. I’m thinking if you are selling something nobody’s ever heard of, it might be the guts and the discipline to keep to your plan that are important in executing this call, right?
Matt Pletzer: That’s a great point. It takes guts, and it takes vitality to stand your ground and have that mutual business stature. I find the tendency is, when we’re selling something that no one’s ever heard of before, we may rely upon price as a motivating factor to try to get our clients to do business with us, or we may knee-jerk to utilizing something that we call at Sandler, which is a monkey’s paw or a test pilot to our product or service, where that may not necessarily be needed.
Mike Montague: Yeah, I think to stay out of the weaker options are important there. I guess that leads us to technique. What are some of the things we need to do or how do we do them? Do you have any tips, tricks, or hacks for us in selling something somebody’s never heard of?
Matt Pletzer: First and foremost, we’ve already talked about the technique of using an upfront contract, which is having a clear purpose. Discerning the time allocation, one of the things that we probably don’t talk about enough with upfront contracts is how important time is. This is something that I sometimes find my clients falling into the trap of, which is they allocate too much time for initial discovery meetings with their clients.
When you over-give on time when it’s an initial discovery meeting, you can fall into the trap of which, “Now I have time to fill, and therefore my prospect may ask me questions that I’m not quite prepared to answer.” We fall into the trap of providing unpaid consulting or free consulting. Often, that means a demo of my product or solution prematurely.
Use an upfront contract, which is time, purpose, your prospect’s agenda, your agenda, and outcome. Set clear expectations for that upfront contract that use time as an asset for you would be a key technique. The other side of that coin as well would be, of course, the art of reversing, which is asking a question with a question. If you ever find yourself falling back like Keanu Reeves again in “The Matrix,” reverse your prospect. Ask a question with another question to seek more and gain more understanding.
Mike Montague: I was thinking there too, what about negative reversing? We haven’t talked a lot about that on these public podcasts, but I imagine that there is some benefit to being disarmingly honest here and just saying, “Hey, you’ve probably never heard of me,” right?
Matt Pletzer: Negative reversing is one of the best techniques I think that you can use. It’s the art of psychology, right? I often talk about my kids. I have twin daughters, and I’m probably a terrible parent for this, but when I’m putting my kids to bed at the end of the night, if I go up to my daughters at night and I say, “Hey, can I read …” Whatever book it may be. One of their favorites right now is I think “When the Elephant Goes to Bed.”
If I tell them I want to read that book, they’ll never grab the book, but if I tell them, “Hey, listen. I don’t want to read that book tonight,” of course, what book do they go up and grab?
Mike Montague: Of course, the elephant book.
Matt Pletzer: Right? That’s the art of negative reversing. This art of reverse psychology can work effectively and efficiently with selling something that no one’s ever heard of, but that goes back to your previous point of guts and vitality, making sure that I have the guts to do so. Often, when we go into a meeting when we’re selling something that no one’s ever heard of, it can be challenging for us if we lack the confidence in our product or solution and how it addresses the need in the market. It all starts with attitude, from my perspective, as it relates to that.
Mike Montague: That’s where I was thinking that David Sandler defined the negative reversing as really doing the opposite of what prospects expect, but sometimes it’s the opposite of what you expect too. You’re going in there and if you’re feeling insecure about selling something nobody’s ever heard of, your tendency, your natural reaction, is to over-explain it, to pump yourself up and say, “We have the best in the world at this,” or “This is revolutionary,” where really the better technique is the opposite of that, of saying, “You’ve probably never heard of us before. You don’t have any way of knowing that this works.” Working through the real issues rather than trying to over-inflate your current reputation and stuff, right?
Matt Pletzer: Exactly. Going back to one of your comments previously about tenure and experience, when I was a new sales rep just fresh out of college, selling medical devices, that was one of the things, one of the traps that I fell into. I tried to oversell and over-deliver on my experience when in fact I had none.
It was pretty transparent for my prospects to see that. When you’re sitting in the OR with a physician, and you’re trying to train them on how to apply a product or service in the OR, and you don’t have a lot of experience with that, and so you try to brag and boast, that can be pretty transparent for them, and they can pick up on that very quickly.
The best thing is always to fall back, dummy up, don’t try to oversell your product or solution. Seek to understand and use an art like negative reversing. Use an art like, “Yeah, you probably don’t need this. That being said, here are some of the things that I hear commonly from the people that we talk to. I don’t know. Doesn’t make any sense to you, does it?” That might be a good example.
Mike Montague: Good. Anything else you want to add, or how do we tie all of those together, attitude, behavior, and technique, to make sure we’re successful and that we stay there?
Matt Pletzer: I think that the key way to tie it all together is always to prepare. To take the time to slow down. It goes back to the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise always won the race. That’s also one of the challenges with selling a product or solution or even being a consultant fresh out of the box is that often we’re racing for sales opportunities because we need income. We need income quickly.
The challenge can be that because you’re in such a race to prove your product or service or prove your business concept, that you tend to be speeding. You tend to be the rabbit, and you don’t take the time to slow down and prepare and allow yourself to get in the right mindset, allow yourself to have the right attitude, conduct the right behaviors and keep an equal balance of behaviors, therefore your technique will be far more effective and efficient.
Mike Montague: I like it. Once again, we’re talking with Matt Pletzer. He is one of our Sandler trainers from Madison, Wisconsin, and Matt, I want to get to know you a little bit better. We always start with “How do you define success?”
Matt Pletzer: For me, I think defining success is pushing myself to be outside of my comfort zone. Every day that I’m outside of my comfort zone or every time that that means that I’m successful at growing and for me, growing is a success.
Mike Montague: What was your biggest lesson learned along the way?
Matt Pletzer: For me, in my career, it’s been that selling a product, a physical product, is something that can mask your selling effectiveness. I sold medical devices, where I could always fall back on price. In reality, when I look back, hindsight 20/20, I probably wasn’t that great at sales, but I was able to rely on the features and benefits and the price of my product to be more effective and efficient at selling. Now, having the experience that I have now within Sandler, I know a little bit better.
Mike Montague: That’s a good point. I think a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking today about selling something nobody’s ever heard of also applies to selling intangible services or things that people can’t pick up and weigh and decide how much it should cost. That’s a great point. What is your superpower and origin story, if you have one, about how you got it? What do you lean on when you need to be successful?
Matt Pletzer: For me, it’s foreseeing the future. I guess that’s a real superpower, but in reality, as it relates to Sandler specifically, when I’m following the Sandler process I believe that I can foresee the future maybe a little bit more effectively and efficiently than others that don’t follow a process.
As much as I like it or don’t like it at times, I would imagine a real superhero who can foresee the future may not like that superpower. Same thing applies here. I may be able to foresee what deal is likely to happen or not going to happen, and I may not like my internal answer, but that being said, that allows me to go back to what I know I need to do, which is let’s maintain my funnel. Let’s maintain my pipeline, make sure I have the right attitude and conduct the right behaviors.
Mike Montague: Cool. That might be our first actual superpower on that question. I appreciate it. Last one. What’s your favorite Sandler rule?
Matt Pletzer: Don’t buy back tomorrow what you sold today. I think that’s one of the best Sandler rules and one that’s often forgotten.
Mike Montague: Tell us a little bit more about that one, because we haven’t had that either. What’s “buying back your product?”
Matt Pletzer: There is this opportunity for us to pull our prospects across the finish line. This goes back to the topic that we had not too long ago, which is negative reverse selling and this whole pendulum theory. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful as a sales rep selling on futures and benefits, but that being said, our enthusiasm can often be catching, contagious is probably a better word, for our prospects.
That being said, we know that prospects buy emotionally and justify their decisions intellectually, so at times, I find that salespeople get caught up in the emotion of the win, of the sale, and they forget about what’s going to happen to their prospect when they’re not with them, which is they’ll go into intellectual mode, eventually. When they do that, they’ll seek to justify their investment.
Making sure that you use something which we use here at Sandler, which is called a post-sell, which is having your prospect rediscover and self-discover why they chose to do business with you at the moment when you’re right there sitting with them, is extremely important. That’s a tough lesson I’ve had to learn over the years here at Sandler.
Mike Montague: Yeah, and one we haven’t covered. Maybe we should do a future podcast on buyer’s remorse. I think that’s always an interesting topic. Based on what we talked about today, for how to succeed at selling something no one has ever heard of, what is one key attitude you would like people to have leaving the podcast?
Matt Pletzer: I am my own definition of success, it’s up for me to define it.
Mike Montague: What’s one key behavior to do?
Matt Pletzer: Always prepare. Always prepare. We’re here in Green Bay. Well, in Madison, close enough to Green Bay. You can probably guess I’m a big-time Packers fan and I like to take lessons from Aaron Rogers. One of the things that set him apart is preparation. I would recommend you always prepare.
Mike Montague: And the best technique to use?
Matt Pletzer: Pay attention to the pendulum and always stay behind it. It’s a forgotten thing, and if you don’t know what that means, that means that always try to stay behind your prospect. Get out of “convince” mode. Do the things that we’ve talked about previously on this podcast, such as negative reversing and trying to have your prospect explain to you why they need your product or service rather than trying to explain to them why they need it. If you always keep the pendulum in mind and where your prospect is and relative to where you are at, you will be exponentially more successful.
Mike Montague: I think that’s another one we haven’t covered too much. The simplest way I can explain the pendulum is you always want to be less excited about the sale than your prospect. I’m sure a lot of people have seen a used-car salesman or something be more excited about the car than you are, and you’re the one buying it.
They’re like, “Look, power windows and locks and CD changer and all of this stuff,” and you’re like, “I don’t need any of that. That’s not why I’m buying it.” It starts to turn you off and push you back the other way, like a pendulum. Great point there, and a great one to end on. Anything else you want to add on this topic?
Matt Pletzer: Remember that although if you’re selling something that no one has ever heard of before and you’re enthusiastic about it, that’s great, that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to lead to sales success. Don’t be overly enthusiastic about your product or solution. Make sure that you can have your prospect self-discover that same enthusiasm that you have for it as well without having to sell the features and benefits prematurely.
Mike Montague: Sounds good, Matt. Thanks for being on the show. For more information on this topic and much more, you can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Sandler Training, or get any of our free resources at Sandler.com.
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