Welcome to Selling the Sandler Way, with your host Dave Mattson, the president and CEO of Sandler Training. He is a five-time bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and consultant to hundreds of international organizations. In this show, he talks to other Sandler trainers about the Sandler selling system.
Dave Mattson: Hey. Welcome. Today we’re talking about budget. Money and economics is one of those topics that unleashes a lot of different emotional reactions within salespeople. I see nervousness when we start talking about money and economics, or they get jittery or even tense. You can really see their faces change, and their posture sometimes changes. It’s really the Achilles heel of most salespeople.
Even as a buyer, when I’m buying a product or a service from a salesperson, I actually bring it up for them. If I’m in the buying process and it hasn’t come up yet, I bring it up. People always say, “Why would you bring up the budget phase or the Budget Step?” Well, because as a buyer, I would like to know about it as well. We talked about that salespeople, sometimes, are nervous and don’t want to talk about it. The same thing is true with buyers as well. I just throw it right out on the table. I’ll say something like, “Well, can we talk about money?” When I say that, it shocks them. You can see panic on their faces sometimes or shock because normally prospects don’t say that. But most of all, what I’ve seen over the last ten years that I’ve done that is relief because they may not have brought it up themselves.
The Budget Step is really our focus today. The Sandler Selling System is unique in so many ways. One being the fact that money is talked about early in the sales process. For the Sandler-trained professional, we want to tie the Pain Step with the Budget Step, and we want to talk about money on both sides of the table, prior to our presentation, prior to what we call the Fulfillment stage.
In traditional sales models, the presentation, I feel, is done to really justify the expenditure. They spend 50 minutes just expanding all the wonderful things that they’ve done and all the problems they have solved since 1923. So they, at the very end, can throw in their number and then the client can say, “Well, that seems reasonable based on all the things that you’ve shown us over the last 62 hours of PowerPoint.”
I also think that the presentation phase is sometimes there to reveal the budget. That’s when the magic curtain gets revealed. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning, though, of what I’m going to call the long painful process of stalls and objections, and they’ve got to get to the committee all this stuff that we get dragged down Wimp Junction.
I mentioned that the Sandler Selling System is unique so, let me very quickly, for those that are just getting into the process—let me do an overview. We have seven steps.
Step number one, Bonding & Rapport. The bottom line there is you’ve got to understand how your buyer takes in information, how they communicate, how they buy, how they process. You get paid as a professional salesperson to change the way you communicate. Buyers do not get paid to change the way that they buy. Kind of simple.
Step number two, Up-Front Contract. That’s where we have mutual agreement. People want to know, where are we going in today’s call? Where are we going in the sale process? Part of full disclosure selling, this is where you engage your prospect to let them know, here’s where you’d like to go in the timeframe that you have, and also to get the top two or three issues that they’d like to cover. Buyers love that. People hate to be sold, but love to buy. You can only buy when you participate. The up-front contract is designed to do that.
Step number three, Pain. Pain is the emotional need. People buy to avoid pain. That’s an awesome topic within the Sandler process. Make sure you get to a training center and go through that.
Step number four, Budget. That’s where we are today. We’re going to talk about really how much that they budgeted to take care of their issues. We’re going to spend a whole hour talking about budget today.
Step number five, Decision. How are decisions made? When are they made? We certainly don’t want to get to the end of the process and find out that there’s a super-secret committee that we had no idea existed. So, when does that happen?
Step six for us is Fulfillment. You may call it presentation, but we call it fulfillment because we’re not just doing a dog and pony show. We’re not presenting start to finish everything that we’ve done for everybody in the world over the last 67 years. But instead, we’re presenting what the solutions are to the pain that we’ve uncovered. We tie it back. We’re fulfilling, right, through our solutions what the pains were that we uncovered, nothing more. We don’t over present.
Step seven is Post-Sell. You’re going to deal with buyer’s remorse. You’re going to deal with referrals. A lot of things are going on there.
But in our world, our qualification phase is Pain, Budget, Decision. It’s very important. We want to make sure we find people who are willing and able, and that’s the area that we do that.
Now the Budget Step is part of our Foundations Program. Our Foundations Program is a series of topics that Sandler trains both in sales and management, but from the sales perspective. It gives us the foundation, the underpinnings of the Sandler Selling System, because we’ve got a thousand hours of material that we take to our President’s Club members. This is one of those topics that you really have to have an understanding in, that will help you as you grow through the President’s Club.
In the Foundations Program, we give you material that you can succeed in immediately, but it also jump-starts you into the President’s Club. Those who have invested in the President’s Club know that the quest for greatness is a journey. The Foundations Program helps you prepare yourself for that journey. We’ve got 250 training centers across the world providing the Foundations Program every single week, so it’s fantastic.
Now today, we’re in for a special treat because we have Josh Seibert with us. Josh is going to help us understand the Budget Step from a lot of different perspectives. We’re going to look at it from a psychological perspective. We’re going to look at it from a buying perspective and a selling perspective. We’re also going to try to figure out why we don’t do some of the things that we should be doing.
Josh works with a ton of executives. We’re going to get that insight into Josh’s mind, as far as, from a manager’s perspective, how important is it that we as salespeople do a good job in the Budget Step? He also works with a lot of salespeople, very successful salespeople, who are trying to take their game to the next level. Josh actually trains internally with us here at Sandler because we’re a training organization. We train our people every single week, and Josh is an integral part of that as well.
Hey, Josh. Welcome.
Josh Seibert: Thanks, Dave. It’s a pleasure to be here once again.
This Budget Step—you’ve done such a fine job teeing it up. It’s critical to both of those ends: to managers, owners of businesses, that their salespeople are appropriately identifying the time, the money, and resources that can be expended upon for the product and services for a number of reasons, for business reasons. And that would be to make sure that they’re priced appropriately with the product or service that they can deliver effectively in the marketplace, but more importantly, so that they can uphold the margins to be profitable in the business through the sales arm.
It’s also important, of course, as you know, for the salesperson to identify the budget and all of the elements around the Budget Step that we’re going to be talking about today. This is so that they don’t prematurely present something in some budget that’s outside of the scope of what the prospect had in mind, thereby destroying the opportunity or resetting a wonderful opportunity into a totally different mindset that maybe the salesperson brought in and was inappropriate to have on that sales call.
We’ve got a lot to talk about regarding the Budget Step today.
Dave Mattson: Yeah. I think so too. Just using your point that salespeople suffer from premature presentation syndrome—how true is that? I mean, they show up and throw up all that product knowledge and they think that the PowerPoint’s going to end up closing the deal, when in reality, what we’re going to learn today is there’s a lot of stuff that has to happen prior to that. Sometimes you know, Josh, and you say this all the time, it’s okay sometimes to just walk away because there’s not a fit.
Josh Seibert: I would go even one step farther than that, Dave. More often than not, it’s the appropriate professional thing to do—to walk away from it, and preserve the prospect’s dignity, and preserve the opportunity for when it is the right time for that opportunity to be closed. We spend so much time in branding an image of who we are and what we do in front of our prospects. That first image lasts so long and it’s so hard to reset, we don’t want to squander the opportunity to be the professional that we should be in front of that prospect. Premature presentation or presenting, if you will, oftentimes, brands us in an image that we really don’t want the prospect to have.
It’s very, very hard to reset that. I think it comes from some of our beliefs, some of our feelings—what I would call scripts, what we call at Sandler and we train—our beliefs or our scripts, those messages that we have in our mind that we learned from childhood. We’ve learned through being students in school. We’ve learned from even our work environment that either support appropriate questioning, appropriate behavior, or they limit us from doing the right thing in front of the prospects.
There’s a lot of that that brings us those feelings that say, “Yes, but, we need to present it. We need to present it now. We need to present it deep, long, often, even beforehand so that we can convince them to spend money.” This process of our Sandler selling methodology is the process of discovery. A professional salesperson should be on the mission of discovery with their prospect.
Dave Mattson: I believe the discovery process, right on. We’re joined with Josh Seibert today. Right before our break, we were talking about scripts, which are messages that we’ve learned throughout our childhood, that really come with us. They shape who we are as adults.
Just a quick example—you’ve said probably as you were growing up, when your parents did something, and you said, “Oh, I will never do that when I become a parent.” You know, when they send you to bed at 9:00 on a school night. You say, “I’ll never do that. I’ll let my kids stay up all night.” Of course, when you’re a parent, you do the same thing. You’ve become your parent because you were shaped at a very early age. Scripts do that. They carry with us in the world of sales too.
Josh, are there any scripts that pop out in your mind that probably will shape what we do in the Budget Step?
Josh Seibert: Certainly. There’s a number of them. Literally hundreds of them out there, but some of them are positive and help us. Some of them hinder us. I’ll give you an example. We might have grown up as children with the message from our parents that, you know, “There’s plenty of money to go around.” Some of us grew up with that. Another one could be, “There’s always more where that came from.” I remember getting that from my grandparents. There’s always more where that came from.
Dave Mattson: So true.
Josh Seibert: Another one: “Hey, you can’t take it with you.” You remember that one?
Dave Mattson: Yeah. Absolutely.
Josh Seibert: “Hey, you better spend it now. You can’t take it with you.” My mother always said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees, young man.” There are many of them that are out there. “Hey, I’m not made of money.” There’s many scripts out there that could positively influence our mindset as we walk in on a sales call to talk about money and budget, and some of them, as you might imagine, could limit us from going in to those areas. The one that says, “Hey, it’s not polite to talk about money outside the family.”
Dave Mattson: Yeah. So true. It’s even impolite to talk about money in the family.
Josh Seibert: Yeah. We don’t talk about that at the dinner table.
Dave Mattson: How many times have you said, “Hey, how much did that cost?” “Hey, that’s none of your business. We don’t talk about that.”
Josh Seibert: That’s right. “Always save up for a rainy day.” These are all these scripts that we know and we’ve heard time and again, and we think, “yes, but” … Well, the “yes, but” is to your analogy. We think that we can overcome them, but they just keep going over and over and over. They’re branded in our self-conscience so that when pressure comes on, those are the strong messages that our parents used to guide us, lead us, protect us, and encourage us, that will influence our mindset when we walk in on a sales call. Those scripts are so very important to understand how they influence us.
Sometimes, we have to rewrite some of those scripts for ourselves so that we can appropriately walk in on a sales call with the right mindset.
Dave Mattson: Yeah. I don’t think people can underestimate mindset. They can’t underestimate personal presence, and oftentimes, those are connected because if we’re uncomfortable, that certainly shines through. These scripting messages do that. Even the mindset of bringing up money earlier in the process, which goes against all of the traditional selling models, but is so effective, I think you have to have a good head on your shoulders and understand why we’re doing certain things to actually do that. You agree?
Josh Seibert: Certainly. In your previous comments, our selling system here at Sandler is designed to prepare you and prepare the professional salesperson to simply qualify this opportunity because we don’t want to squander one that might not quite be ready yet for us to be presenting. Or we don’t want to present too early in an inappropriate way, squander it because maybe it’s not the right time, or we’re not presenting the right thing. We have a system for which we qualify within that scope of methodology that you outlined early that budget falls within.
I think what’s really important about this is to understand that this Budget Step is critical in that qualification process. Wouldn’t you agree?
Dave Mattson: Oh, absolutely. At the end of the day, I think that we often make assumptions that, hey, they’ve invited us in. They spent some time with us. They therefore have the money. We do the same thing in the Decision Step, Josh, right? They’ve seen us, and therefore they are the decision maker, but without really dealing with those issues, I think we’re moving through the process and just hoping that it works out, but oftentimes, we know from being professional salespeople that that’s not the case.
Josh Seibert: The real question is, who’s being convinced there on that sales call? Oftentimes it’s us, the salespeople, that are convincing ourselves that this person is ready, willing, and able to buy based upon some assumptions, and we begin to go beyond mindset and we go into mind reading. We’ve got to stop doing that. There’s not too many people that I know that are very effective at mind reading. Certainly, I’m not. Most salespeople are not. So, we’ve built a process to make sure that what we’re seeing and feeling are absolutely truth and we help the prospect along the way to know that now is the right time, or maybe another time would be a better time to present this opportunity.
Dave Mattson: We talked about the Sandler Selling System, and we know that the Budget Step comes after Pain. I think, if you start well in a particular sales call, I always believe—let’s just take sales calls—a call that starts well tends to end well. A call that starts horribly wrong, tends to not get much better. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I think the same thing holds true within compartments as well.
In the Budget Step, the beginning is important but we’re really coming off the tail end of the Pain Step. So, how do we connect those two? Or is there a connection?
Josh Seibert: Well, actually there is and there should be a connection. There’s a literal and there’s the reality. The reality we learned early on here is that people don’t come up with money to purchase something that they don’t really need or want. So, the Pain Step helps us define what the emotional driver is behind the reasons that they’re coming to us with their problems. If we do a good job in the Pain Step, the natural entry into the Budget Step is to go back and make sure that we summarize and review how we got here.
So, before we talk about time and money and resources that are going to be necessary to invest for that prospect to solve these issues and these problems that they brought to us, or capitalize on this opportunity that they see in us, the first step is to summarize the problems, the reasons, and the impacts or consequences of them going forward or not going forward with the solution.
We do that to make certain that we know why we’re going to make this investment. So, summary is step number one. Review why we were there: “Have I left anything out? These were the problems. The reason they’re problems in your company are X, Y, and Z. Do I understand this correctly or have I missed something? Has anything changed? The real impact of us moving forward, correcting these, or applying this strategy moving forward is going to help you this way. Has anything changed? Have I left anything out?”
Sometimes salespeople think they have it all, but the prospect is dying to give them just this one more thing that they may not have talked about. So, make sure that you summarize well, and then there’s a natural permission question that we must ask to get permission to talk about money.
Dave Mattson: Let’s just go through those real quick. Validations. How true is your statement, that we say casually because we do it so often? When you say, “Let me see if I have this right.” And you repeat back to them. First of all, that is very respectful. It’s making sure that you’ve connected with the buyer. Inevitably, because people love to edit what other people say, the buyer psychology kicks in and they tend to give you a piece of information at the end. When you say, “Have I gotten that right?”, when you’re validating, they actually update and give you additional information because there’s just a need to do that. It’s a wonderful way to continue to test, to validate, to pull people into the process because remember, people need to participate if they’re going to buy.
When they’re sold, they sit there as a non-participant. That’s what this ends up doing is pulling us in, and I love that permission question, right into the money step, once you’ve locked up the Pain Step. We’ve talked about economics in the Pain Step as well, so we’ve kind of laid the foundation for what it’s costing the organization, hard and soft costs, as we move in to the Budget Step.
Josh Seibert: That’s correct. What it does is, to your point, they’re dying to speak. We have a rule. It’s the 70/30 Rule. The prospect should be speaking 70% of the time on any sales call, and the salesperson should hold their conversation, and what I’m saying is, they’re speaking only 30% of the time. That’s a great guideline. What it tells us is that if you allow the prospect to talk, it’ll keep them okay. They’re dying to tell you anyway, so allow them to do it. They’re dying to correct you, so allow them to do it. It validates to your point. Then it allows you to ask that final question. Can we talk about budget? Can we talk about the budget, the time, and the resources right now, that would be necessary to fix this issue, to resolve and to solve the problems that we’ve outlined today?
When you ask for permission, they’re bringing you to this step, as opposed to you pushing them in to this step. When you ask permission, it allows them to feel as though they’re in control—so very important in discovery methodology of selling with the Sandler Selling System.
Dave Mattson: Josh, when you lay it out that way to a buyer, the anxiety level goes down. Because now, as a buyer, when you say, “Hey, can we talk about X?” I’ve got to tell you, I feel comfortable now because I know it’s coming. I don’t have to figure out what you’re trying to do, but it also gives me a second, five seconds, ten seconds, to get myself into that frame of mind so I can make that transition with you. I can always so, “No. I’m not ready.” That’s good news because if they’re not ready, don’t keep moving forward in that discussion. Maybe they want to talk about some more pain or maybe they’re doing X.
But I’ve got to tell you, it’s very consultative, it’s very focused on the buyer. It’s really a good thing to do for a thousand different reasons. But I think salespeople—we get worried. If it’s going well, maybe sometimes I’ll run and try to do a proposal early. Maybe I should do this. But this is the way that you should sell if you want to become effective and efficient. At the end of the day, we’ve got to know in our qualification phase, in our discovery phase, do they have some issues or pains? Are they willing to move forward with those? Are they something they want to deal with? The money is very important, and the decision is very important.
We’ve got to get very comfortable in talking about money and putting it in the right spot in our selling process, but also to lower the anxiety of our buyer as well. In our last segment with Josh Seibert, we talked about positioning it, validating the Pain Step, transitioning, asking permission to talk about the Budget Step, and it was great. The anxiety—there was none. It was very comfortable and that’s really, as he said is … I was thinking about the doctor of sales. When doctors just walk you through what’s going to happen, when we’re in that office, it’s a lot better than worrying and wondering about what the next steps are and what does this mean to me?
That full disclosure, discovery model that Sandler implements is the perfect example of what that is when Josh did that transition from Pain into the Budget Step. So, Josh, maybe we can talk a little bit about how you actually launched into it? I heard the permission step. It was great. You set the stage. Is there another phrase or two that we’re going to use? What happens? Because now our part’s done; now the buyer kicks in. Take us down those roads.
Josh Seibert: Certainly. The objective, once we’ve summarized the problems, is to get the reasons that those problems exist with that prospect, and their company or themselves, and the impact, the real impact or fears that they have about it not being solved, or some of those opportunities that they see by solving them. If we finally get that permission to talk about budget, there are three specific things before we actually use the words “from that permission.” There are three things that we have to have in our mind that we’re trying to accomplish in this Budget Step.
One, finding out: is money available at all? We’re going to be talking about—certainly the Budget Step deals with time, money, and resources, but for this conversation, let’s stay on money itself. There are three things. One, is money available and when is it available? Is it available now? That’s the first thing that we want to make sure through this conversation in the Budget Step, that we find out is, do they even have it? Do they have it available to them? And when would that be available?
Second, we want to find out: how much money is available? Thirdly, where’s it going to come from? If we know what we’re going to get to, the only way that we’re going to get there is if they trust us enough to share that with us.
We can get one of three answers with this. We can get a “No. There’s not money available or no budget set aside.” We could get a “Yes. There is money available. There is money set aside.” Or we could get a “Maybe.” Save that maybe for later because maybe really gets to the issue of, “I don’t trust you.” Let’s deal with the first two and how we get them to share with us that yes there is money available, no there’s not, or get to that distrust of maybe because sometimes they don’t tell us that in the Pain Step. We uncover that they really don’t trust us yet well enough in this step. It may be because of things that we’ve done, or maybe because of things that others have done before we even got to this point.
So, a simple question about the money step would be, “Do you suppose that you could share that number or that budget with me?” We’ve gotten permission to get there. “Can we talk about budget? Is it a good time that we should talk about it now?” If we get a “yes,” and it’s okay to talk about it, it could be as simple as, “Tom, is there any way you could give me any idea of how much we’ll have to work with?” As opposed to, “How much money you got? How much are you going to spend?” We’re not worried about what they’re going to spend. How much do they have to work with, so we can position it directly by simply asking them a professional question? “Thank you for the money step. Thank you for permission to talk about it. What were you hoping that that investment might be?” That’s a direct way, but I believe, in a professional way, to open the conversation.
Dave Mattson: Yeah. I think if we’re going to position it that way, absolutely. I believe that this is where the trust level … Now you’ll start to have this trust meter. Have I done a good job developing trust and communicating properly in forming relationships? You should very easily, smoothly move in to this step, and quite frankly, you’re not going to get resistance. I think we fantasize sometimes that, as professional salespeople, oh my gosh, you can’t answer that. Well, maybe you can’t, if you’re non-Sandler trained because you’re not doing all the things that you just talked about, Josh. But if you’re doing the things that we’re talking about, it’s very natural and it moves right in to the process. They’re going to talk openly. They might not have the budget, but when you’re saying, “Hey, could you share with that?”, that’s a very engaging word. There may even be some other words like, “Hey, in round numbers, can you share with me?” That’s another non-threatening approach.
Everything that we’ve done up until this part in the conversational model at Sandler is non-threatening to the buyer. My parents always used to say, “It’s not what you said. It’s the way that you said it.” You used two different ways, right, to talk about the money. One was threatening because we said, hey, that’s not what we do. The other one was very conversational. Again, your mindset was there. You were comfortable and it comes across that way. That’s so important for people to catch—that nuance is so important.
Josh Seibert: In fact, when you use it in a sharing method, you’re actually … If you envision yourself sitting alongside your prospect, as opposed to across the table—if you can’t literally do it, which you should, then visually do it and it’ll help you with positioning the questions in a manner to allow the conversation to flow. Things like, “Do you suppose that you might share that with me?” That’s a little softer than, “What’s your number that you’ve got to hit?” Those are the pressure questions that maybe the prospect is anticipating. When you don’t use the pressure type of approach, you don’t get the defense, back off it, the stalls and objections.
Here’s what I would caution you. Beware of those aloof answers, ones that might be a put-off or a stall, and it sounds something like this: “Oh, no worry. Money is no object.” Or it could be, “We’ll spend whatever it takes,” which really means, “I’m not comfortable yet.” That’s really a “maybe.” Know that your little alarm flag should be flying very high right at that point. That is not permission to skip through this step and get to the next one.
Dave Mattson: You also have to look at it from their perspective as well. We want to stay third party in the selling process. When they say, “Hey, money’s no object,” they may not have thought about the budget. They may not clearly have moved through the internal workings of an organization. I think that, to your point, we can’t mind read. We can’t make assumptions based on that. We’ve got to make sure that we understand really what that means. Oftentimes, it’s a discovery process for the person sitting across from us. It doesn’t necessarily only mean they’re trying to hide something. I find that a lot of lightbulbs go off using the Sandler methodology for buyers because you’re asking good questions and you’re doing it in such a way that’s very safe for them. They self-discover areas that they may not have thought about or they have to go and find out as well.
But your job is to ask the questions and follow up like you just indicated.
Josh Seibert: What we’re getting to here is no mind reading. When we hear these things, if we’re too excited about that, that opportunity, then we translate that “money’s no object” or “we’ll spend whatever it takes” into what we believe that we could get, as opposed to, professionally asking what that really means. So, getting some clear definition around what does “money is no object” really mean? And what are the boundaries?
At some point, money can be an object and it will be at some point in time. We need to get down deeper. Not only what’s available, but also when it’s available, how much is available, and what is involved with that decision-making process and making it available? Where’s it going to come from? Those are some things we’ve got to get to.
The first response is typically not the last response that we need. We need to make sure that we understand what that response is. Is it a “Yes, money’s available”? What does that really mean? Get to the definition. Or is it a “no”? Sometimes “no” isn’t bad. It’s just simply, “I’ve never put a budget together for one of these things.” What they’re saying is, “I don’t know how to do this.” They might need some guidance as to how to get through that.
Our questioning in that Budget Step, even if we get a “no,” David, I would propose to you, doesn’t mean it’s over. It means, “Help me. Help me to understand. Help me to create. Guide me as to where I might think about getting the resources necessary to solve my problems.”
Dave Mattson: Yeah. I think you’re going to do yourself a disservice and the buyer a disservice too if you ask the questions and then you get one those lofty answers, “money’s no object.” You just don’t check off the budget phase. You just started the process, my friend. You’re not done with the budget phase to your point.
How do you help them get comfortable? We can use third-party stories, can we not?
Josh Seibert: Certainly. One of the things that’s most valuable is to take the problem out of the room, as I would call it.
Dave Mattson: Right.
Josh Seibert: Using those third-party stories by creating examples of similar types of situations and budgets that were used for similar resolve. You’re in your industry and you’re selling. You do this all the time. You have examples for which you’ve sold in the past or maybe someone in your organization has sold in the past that offers a range of budgets. You may use a third-party story. It doesn’t have to be specific to reveal the customer or the client that you used it with, but using a third-party story gives it an opportunity for the prospect to sit back, and to look at how that was done, and evaluate, “Am I in that story? Do I relate to that one? Or maybe I relate to something a little dissimilar.” It gives them a benchmark to begin the process of budget.
Something like, “You know, Joan, I was working with a client a few months ago. They were facing some of the same challenges, and like you, they were committed to eliminating all those costly post-production inspection delays that we’ve discussed. They invested close to $15,000 to have us put together a program for them that would take care of these. I don’t suppose that you would be comfortable investing $15,000.” So now, what we’ve done with something like that is position it out there, and you’re asking them, can they can relate to that, in that form of budget? That’s safe for them. Wouldn’t you agree?
Dave Mattson: Absolutely. Which really helps the customers, our prospects, leave the room—as Josh Seibert says, our guest today—and to insert themselves into a story, if it fits. If it doesn’t, they’ll help shape a story that’s closer to what is reality for them. But it gives them context sometimes, if they’re searching for “help me co-create a budget here.” That’s really what you were driving at, Josh.
Josh Seibert: Certainly. Before the break, we talked about putting it out there in context and making them feel safe so that they don’t feel as though they’re making a decision right now yet. In truth, they don’t have the solution that we’ve presented yet. Remember, we’re presenting two steps later. They don’t have our solution yet. For us to ask them to invest dollars or make a decision to invest with us at this particular point is unrealistic.
It puts that context. It puts it out that others have done it. Others have invested various sums with us, and here’s an example of one that we can relate to or not relate to. If it doesn’t happen in that way, we can move on to other techniques that might help them put it in another perspective. We might get a negative response to that. No way. There’s no way that we’ll spend that kind of money on a project like this.
We simply transition from, that’s fair, and move then, to maybe another example or to your point, David, it will allow them to share with us what they were really thinking by using that example as a context.
Dave Mattson: Even in the third-party stories, when you’re doing it that way, regardless of the answer, the other subtlety is that we’re establishing credibility. Third-party stories show that, you know, you’re working with other companies similar to them with similar issues, and you’re building credibility along the way. That’s a great benefit.
Josh Seibert: Certainly. Many salespeople are asked for references, or worse, they provide a book full of references of companies and organizations they’ve dealt with in their presentation before they’re even asked for them. Third-party stories, oftentimes, just the stories themselves, even without identifying companies or people, offer enough credibility through that technique that references aren’t asked for as much anymore. We don’t need to present all of our customers. The value and trust by utilizing just that simple technique leverages it to raise the trust value and the value proposition within the prospect’s mind.
Dave Mattson: Absolutely. Are there others? If I ask the question, the prospect says to me, “No. We don’t have a budget set aside.” Or they give me a different response. We can use third-party stories. Are there some other things we can pull out of our toolbox? Because everything’s situational, right, depending on where we are. It’s fluid. It’s happening in real time. Are there other concepts we could use that will help us navigate through this process?
Josh Seibert: Certainly. There’s a couple more that we use and we train to because you’ve got to have tools in your bag. So if it’s always third-party stories, they don’t always work and you might have to go to another methodology. We have different people. Everyone processes information differently. Third-party stories work very well for a lot of folks, but sometimes it doesn’t. If someone’s a little bit more technical, we use a technique called bracketing.
Bracketing kind of puts things in context. Let me give you an example of maybe a bracketing technique, to be able to allow the prospect to put them in a range of what they might be speaking. So here it is. We know what we sell. We know based upon what we’ve been told by that prospect what the problems are. We’ve got some scope in our mind as to what it would take and what range it would take to approach this issue.
Now to solve it completely, we’ve got a high-end range that we might know. To do it from the very best solution, it would be in that range. We also have an entry level range, possibly, that we could enter for very low and maybe step by step move in to it. So, it might sound something like this: “Dave, most of the time I work on a project like this, the total investment falls somewhere in the range of $5,000 to $8,000. Do you think the amount that you would be available to invest would fall within that range?”
In bracketing, you’re putting a range so that they don’t have to nail down a number. For those that need to think more clearly, more definitively with themselves, bracketing helps them define where they would fall. Think about the range. When you’re thinking ranges and lay them out there, here’s the caution. Make sure that for the low end, you can do something for that low end. And the high end isn’t so far out of range that it dilutes your product value.
Dave Mattson: Josh, the scare always is when … Because that is the right tool to pull out of the toolbox. You’ve combined a third-party story. You’ve put in a range so they can actually insert, and then they get to respond because they’re going to have to end up responding one way or the other: “Yes, it’s within that range,” or, “Oh my gosh, it’s not within that range.” The fear always is with the traditional selling model, the salespeople who are not necessarily acclimated into the Sandler process is, what happens if they say, “No”, Josh? Aren’t you setting yourself up for trouble? How do we respond?
Josh Seibert: Certainly. In responding to a “no,” which it is set up, but we have to get somewhere with this. If there’s no money available ever, or no money could be available, we know the rule: No money, no sell. But we have to get a little deeper. If they’re going to give you a “no” to that particular piece, there’s a number of other techniques that you can use that’ll move you from that “no.”
One of the first things that we must do is not cause conflict, but continue the conversation. Always respond to a “no” with a softening statement, something like, “That’s not unusual,” or, “Not a problem. Not yet,” or, something like, “I wasn’t sure you would be within that range.” And then move to: “Did you have another range in mind? Would you mind sharing with me what you did have in mind?”
When they’re telling you, “no,” more often than not, after you bracketed or used a third-party story, they have something on their mind that they want to share with you. Once again, if you just get out of the way and allow them to tell you, sometimes they’ll turn that “no” into a “yes.” It’s within a totally different scope than what you had envisioned.
Dave Mattson: That is so true. I think we’re right back to the opening segment about mindset, right? You go in looking for and seeking information and not necessarily pushing toward a “yes,” but seeking reality in the information that’s there and having the mindset of being able to respond one way or the other. I think that is … You are so far ahead of the process at that point because it’s a very engaging way that you’ve asked that. They will respond. We know buying psychology that the buyer will respond when you say, “Not a problem,” or, “That’s fine.” However, we’re going to do it in a non-threatening way because there’s a lot of different softening statements that we could use. But you’ve got to feel comfortable, and don’t panic, right? It’s okay.
By the way, you’re going to get to a point where they will respond and then you can mutually decide whether that number fits in to what the true cost would be for you to go back and fulfill the solutions that you’ve uncovered in the Pain Step when it comes to your solution. It’s a conversational selling model that, if you keep pushing down towards a “yes,” then you don’t want to do that. But at the end of the day, we know that’s not how it’s done. We want to mutually get to an end result and if it’s “yes,” great. If it’s not, that’s okay too, but at least we know that we’ve gotten there properly. That takes some self-esteem. That takes some training. It also takes the fact that you’re going to trust the system.
You have to have a selling methodology. Trust the system. It works. Use the tools at the appropriate times as you pull them out of your toolbox. That’s really what we have to make sure that we pay attention to.
Josh Seibert: Certainly, in a skilled manner. Using these tools and understanding the words is one thing, but you mentioned something early on, Dave, that we need to go back to for just a moment. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. The tonality—using the proper tool at the proper time with the proper tonality and methodology and how you utilize that tool, how you pick it up. A softening statement is really the way that you pick up that tool to use it. Remember, if you’re going to do this, always hone your skills. Use them constantly to reinforce so that it’s just habitual for you. It becomes habit. Master your profession and treat it as a profession, and you’ll always succeed.
Dave Mattson: Josh, another great program. I think if … For those in the Foundations Program, getting their hands around the Budget Step—where does it fit within the Sandler methodology? Understanding why I need to ask those questions and peeling back the onion piece by piece, not accepting some of these lofty statements of, “Hey, money’s no object,” or, “Just tell me how much it is and I’ll run and get it for you.” All the things that we’ve probably have heard over time has really helped us today because I think there are little bits and pieces.
As we’ve talked, we’re pulling tools out of our toolbox and that’s really what we’re … That’s the message. They aren’t scripts that are going to fit in every circumstance every time because our buyers are different. What you’ve given us today is the ability to react and to engage in the discovery process. I really do appreciate you coming on today.
Josh Seibert: Hey. It’s been fun. It’s always a pleasure. Remember this rule: When you’re thinking about budget, you can’t lose anything you don’t have. Make sure that you’re defining specifically what you have to work with before moving forward. Hey, good selling to everyone.
Dave, thanks for inviting me on the show.
Dave Mattson: It’s our pleasure as usual, Josh. It is true. Everyone’s not going to be a buyer. We know that. In professional sales, we hear more “noes” than we do “yeses.” That’s just the way it is. That’s the business that we’re in. But if you go in, in the discovery process, especially in the qualification stages of the Sandler Selling System, which is pain, budget and decision, these are areas that you’re going to have to mutually discover with your buyer.
What we’ve learned today is that sometimes we’re in our own way, using these scripts: “Don’t talk about money,” or “Money’s no object.” You’ve got to make sure that you take all those little demons, all those voices that you’ve heard as you’ve grown up, and put them in the closet and leave them off to the side for today. Because when we’re talking about money, we have to be the doctor of sales. Make sure that you can see that X-ray. Look behind. Look to the skeleton of what’s going on, and they may not even know. You’ve got to help them discover it through your toolbox—third-party stories, bracketing, softening statements. You’ve got to figure out: Is money available? How much is available? And when is it available? Those are the things that we’re driving towards as professional salespeople.
You’ve been listening to Selling the Sandler Way with Dave Mattson. This podcast and its contents are the property of Sandler Training. Unauthorized duplication or rebroadcast is prohibited and unlawful under the U.S. Copyright Law. Sandler Training is the worldwide leader in sales management and customer service training for individuals to fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations. For more information on Sandler training, including free white papers, webinars, and more, visit www.sandler.com.
Download our free ebook: Why Salespeople Fail And What You Can Do About It!