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In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler training explores the top causes of stress for salespeople and how to overcome them.

Welcome to a special program presented by Sandler Training. Today's show is designed to deal with the hardest situation that you as a salesperson are experiencing, or you as a leader, or some of the most common issues that you're facing day to day. It's really the stuff that gives you stress. What we're going to talk about today are some tactics and strategies to help you progress either your sale from one step to the next, or your organization, your company. We've got two different types of groups listening today. We've got leaders/managers, and we also have some sales professionals. We're going to go back and forth throughout the day. Regardless, if you've got to progress your organization or progress your sale, I think being stuck—as an example, in the sales process—is not a healthy place to be.

If you think about it, in today's environment with the economy, indecision of the buyers is killing us—killing us as a company and killing us as sales professionals. We've got to make sure that we do everything humanly possible to move from where we are today to the next step in your process, even if that's with an employee or with a buyer. They're circling the airport here. I always think that your largest competitor in a selling situation isn't the company down the road, but it's really what I'm going to call "buyer complacency." It's really difficult. What things are happening today?  We've got to figure out what we're going to do as far as how to deal with those.

This program is really a problem-solving format that we're in today. We're going to do a lot of questions and answers. This process that we're following actually happens every single day in our training centers around the world. There's 250 of them. What you'll find is that it's really … if you think about it, it's a unique ability to have your toughest leadership questions/challenges, or your sales challenges, solved through best practices with a trainer, a Sandler trainer, who sells and manages every day. That sounds like, "Yeah, of course," but if you think about it, finding trainers who sell and lead every day is very unique. Often times you've got trainers who have never managed a group, never managed or led an organization, or have never sold a day in their life. It's total credibility. At the training centers, we teach tactics and strategies on things like how to get an appointment, how to get to that senior executive, how to negotiate. How do you figure out how to progress and get what's good for you, but also have the buyer still love you? How do you close?

On the leadership side, how do you manage? How do you manage people? If you think about it, I always thought that sales managers were probably the most under-trained group of people in any company, and that's not a dig. Here's what happens though. If you came through the sales ranks, you are great at sales. The executives looked over when there was a hole in the sales management, and they said, "Hey, we'd like you to do what you do best. You've been great at sales. Why don't you become a sales manager?" And you moved into the sales management role only to find out that, "Hey, where's that six-month training program?" There is none. It's called learn by fire. You try to do the best you can, but they train a lot in sales. Certainly, the leaders of the organizations, the owners, we go offsite as often as we can to increase our skills, but that sales management role, it's really, really tough. How to be great sales managers is taught all the time.

How to be great leaders? There's a huge difference between being a sales manager and being a leader. How do you do that? How do you hire the right person? Here's what I know when it comes to hiring. People that are looking for jobs—who's going to tell you, "I'm afraid to make cold calls," if that's one of the responsibilities? Nobody. Everybody tells you they're awesome. How do you find the right person for your job? Then once they're on board, how do you coach them properly? How do you get them from step to step? There's a ton of stuff that they cover, but here's what we do know. In the last 40 years, we've learned that teaching tactics and strategies isn't really enough. You could teach people what to say to an employee, what to say to a customer, but the real magic is showing them how to do it, how to use it. There's a huge difference.

If you could pick it up by just learning what to say, we would all read a book, or we would all watch a video, and then we would be instantly fixed. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. You've got to let people come back. And we let them come back to the training centers to get debriefed and debriefed, and keep talking, and really ask, "Okay, what's going to happen next? What do I do from here?" That's really important. As a leader in your company, think about when you teach any tactic or strategy, whether it's to the sales group or to any other person in your company. Just don't give them what to say. Show them how to do it and practice amongst your group. People learn by illustration and imitation. I think most sales leaders drop the ball when it comes to this; they go only so far in the process. What they do is, they send a memo out, or they say, "Okay, here's what I'd like you to do." Often times we don't show people, "and here's how it's done." That's the real beauty of the training centers. It's really reinforcement. It's feedback.

Without reinforcement, you don't have learning that's sustainable. You'll find that if you keep reinforcing your sales culture and your themes internally at your company, you're going to see huge progress. The same holds true in personal development. Let me give you a two-second commercial. Today's broadcast is really different. We've got a lot of Sandler customers, and we also have people who have never experienced Sandler in the past. For that second group that has never experienced us, if you go on the left-hand column of that broadcast center, you're going to see a coupon. Just download the coupon if you're a leader or if you're a salesperson, and go find a training center. I'm going to tell you that what you're going to hear today is the tip of the iceberg. These guys at the training centers are fantastic. Be my guest. Print it out, go find somebody and say, "I listened to Dave. He says I can come for free." And just sit in and experience it. I think you'll enjoy it.

Let's set the stage for today. We've got two different groups. We've got sales professionals on the line, and we also have leaders/managers. Let me talk to you first, leaders. In today's environment, if you think about it, we are juggling so many different balls in the air. It's almost like a circus act if you think about it. We're juggling corporate initiatives, we're juggling customers, we're trying to get deep into the customer situations, even if we haven't done it in the past. The presence of you as a leader in that process is so important. Also, we're focusing on employees. If you think about it, we're expected, as leaders, as managers, to do more and more in today's environment with less and less resources. If you had a sales force of 100, you may be down to 60. If you had a sales force of 25, you may be down to 20. That's in the front end. What about the back end of the house?

You've got less people supporting you in front of the customer. We're expected to do more and more, as the sales force is as well, but for leaders it's a stressful time. Sleep is a luxury if you think about it. Our job as leaders is to get productivity from our teams. That's what we do. There is no way that we could get our revenue targets on our own. It's impossible. We've got to get it through our team members. Sounds pretty simple. Here's the concept. You only can get productivity through your teams if you make them self-sufficient. Each individual team member has to be self-sufficient. Take a look at your team and ask yourself, "Are they self-sufficient? Are they? Are they progressing from step one to step two to step three on their own? Are they doing all those things?" They should, especially if you have less of them out touching customers.

Often times, if we don't have the confidence that we've got the processes in place and we've got the right people in place, we become as leaders, the stop gap. We don't even know we're doing it, but we're forcing our people to come to us to get sign off, to do this and to do that. We actually cause them not to be self-sufficient. We actually cause them to become what I'm even going to call learned helplessness. It's counterproductive. Take a quick review of how you're working because you've got to have confidence so you're not putting up those road blocks. You've got to figure out. You need, as I said, that whole team because of the 80/20 rule; although we've accepted it for many years, that's fine, but 20% of our sales force producing in today's environment cannot happen.

We have less of them not working. We probably have some people that may be paralyzed in today's economy. You think about it—they may be stuck in yesterday's success patterns. They were very successful, but what worked yesterday may not work today. Those people that have 25 years of experience on our teams maybe had one year of experience 25 times. Here is the question that you have to ask yourself: "Do I have the right people doing the right things for today's economy?" If you haven't really looked in the last six months, which is the magic number, and asked yourself, "What does it take to be successful?," then chances are you do not know what it takes to be successful in today's economy. Do an inventory. It's huge.

Second thing—do people have the skills to succeed? If you know what it takes to succeed in today's economy, do they have the skills? What's the gap? How do you identify the gap? You could do this intuitively, or you could use an assessment—either one, but you've got to figure it out. Then give them the tools to succeed. Everyone in our company has a tool box. You've got a sales tool box; you've got a management tool box. If you don't have a tool box, you should create one. All the Sandler trainers obviously know what's in it, but you should create a tool box for yourselves.

Salespeople, let me talk to you for a second. We've trained millions of salespeople worldwide on how to be productive. I've got to tell you we are working harder today just to keep our head above water than we ever have in the past. If you think about it, sales group, profits are not jumping in the boat as they once did. Marketing used to be pumping in, people used to be calling us, but now our sales funnel's light, and so people are moving from month to month. We've got to figure out what are we going to do to progress those sales and have the mindset in order for us to ask the tough questions and do those tough things.

I talked about the comfort zone. I do believe it's true. We've got to make sure that we break out of the comfort zone and do all the things that we did when we first entered into the world of sales—things that we hated to do. When we got to the top we said, "Oh, excellent. I made it. I don't have to do all those terrible things anymore." You're going to have to go backwards to move forward. I know it's difficult, but we're going to have to do it.

Let's go over the rules for today because we've got over 1,000 people joining us today, all listening in on the phones. We were hoping to have people be able to just voice out their questions, and we could do an instantaneous Q&A, but the numbers are just too great. It would be total chaos. Earlier in the week as you registered, we sent you an email saying, "Hey, email me your questions," and you can still do that if you haven't had the opportunity. At the break, we just got 15 more. Email me. It's in the upper right-hand corner. It says, "Email Dave." Just email me your questions, and what we'll do is the best we can to get through some of these. We're not going to get through all of them. I've got over 500 of the emails that have come in thus far, but there are themes and we're going to answer all of those.

Obviously, if you're a Sandler client or have been, then you can go to your training center and they'll answer them very quickly. Let's try to get some of these. As I said, we've got leaders and salespeople on the line, so I'll go back and forth. Here is the first question that comes out and it says, "Listen, I'm a leader. I'm a sales manager. I've got new salespeople starting throughout the year, and they're finding it difficult to continue to run sales training classes or product training classes of any kind just for one or two people. The classes that they used to have, it was more effective evidently to run them for 10 or 15 people. They can't run them as often, and it's taking too long for people to get up to speed. Any ideas?"

This one was from Texas. Here's the thing. If you think about it, and I'm going to talk to you as a leader—but actually salespeople, if you pay attention to this, you'll actually increase your productivity as well—first of all, onboarding people, new employees, is probably one of the most important things that you can do in the lifecycle of an employee, especially in the first five years. They've got to start well. If you think about, they're a little anxious joining the company; you're a little anxious. And what we do is spend so much time hiring and interviewing and doing all those things. Once they're on board, for some reason, managers say, "Okay, they're on board. What I'd like you to do is to watch a set of videos and read the manual, and then next week you're going to ride with the top producer, and blah blah blah." What a waste of time. There are other ways to do it though that are far more productive.  

I think it'll blow your mind, if you as an organization, figure out what the cost of hire is. Most of us hopefully know what it costs us to lead. If somebody leads the organization, we know what that costs. Actually, most leaders don't know what that costs. You figure it's about four times the amount of salary that you end up paying in commissions for this individual, if it's a salesperson, to be on your team. There's a lot of soft costs that you're going to have to invest as well, which is your time, your team's time. There should be a process, and this is the part that helps both the leaders and the salespeople.  

Here's what I would suggest to you, to increase your productivity. Number one, list all the things that a salesperson should be great at to succeed at their job. What is it? Is it the 30-second commercials? Is it the top five sales questions? Is it product descriptions? Whatever it is, create a list, and you can probably zip through 50 items very quickly that a salesperson would have to master to become an expert. Think of the best of the best in your company. What is that list of things? It could be product oriented. It could be internal and external, but chances are the company policy on insurance is not listed. We're talking what do they need to become productive in the selling process, in a selling situation? List all the items. Salespeople, you do the same thing.

Here's the next thing. Create a six-month calendar. Just print it out. What I'd like you to do is that on the Friday, every Friday, make a list in order of the things that they should know. By week one, they should know what? By week two, what should they know? And so on. What you'll find is that in the beginning it may be, "Hey, I should be able to explain the mission of my organization. I also should be able to do my elevator pitch, and maybe one product description at the end of week one. At the end of week two, maybe I've got two more products, I've got my top five sales questions down. I've got the beginning of my prospecting calls down, locked and loaded." Whatever it is, but put it at the end of each week. What that says is, "These are the important things that you have to know by when." That sets the benchmarks, and that tells people what's important.

Then what I'd like you to do, the third thing, is test it. As a leader and individual salesperson, say, "Okay, if I'm supposed to know this and become an expert, do I really know it?" If you're a leader, I want you to call your salespeople. I do it. On Friday I'll call up and say, "Hey, how's it going? Great. Blah blah blah. All right, today you're supposed to become an expert on your 30-second commercial. Let me hear it." Then they have to give it to me. If they stutter it through me, I know I'm in trouble because they're going to be stuttering it through my buyers, my prospects. Yes, some people say, "Well that's a lot of pressure." What? That's not a lot of pressure. It shouldn't be if they have rehearsed it, rehearsed it, and know it. If you surprise them, yeah, it's a lot of pressure. If you document it like, "This is what you should know by when," it should be a lot of pressure.

Then here's the other thing though. You've got to make sure that you give people the tools to be able to do what's on the list. If the thing on the list is a great prospecting call or a great negotiating session, then you should have the tools. What are they supposed to be saying? What's the reference? What's the tool kit for that? Everything on your list should be backed up by a script, or an audio file, or something. What you'll find is—and we find it all the time, I don't care where you are in the world—that there's a list of demands made on the sales group, but yet there's no back up. They don't know what the optimal call should look like. List the items, tell them when they should know it, test it—you've got to test it, and I like the live stuff—and then give them the tools to succeed.

Salespeople, here's what you should do. Go find the best person in your company, and then make a list of stuff that they're doing. You can do this intuitively, but just become an absolute machine in all the things that you've listed. That's key. This will shorten your gap to success. It'll allow you to emulate the best of the best, and you can take little bits and pieces from everybody. For those leaders, here's what I know. If it took you nine months to get a person productive on your organization, if you follow this process, you can get it down to three to four months. That's huge.

You also give them confidence because if I know all my stuff after week one and week two, I'm feeling confident as a salesperson. Think about what happens to the top producers. If you gave me a four-month calendar or six-month calendar, what is the top producer actually doing? Of course, they're ahead of schedule. They probably know the first month after the first week. That's awesome. You're setting culture, expectations, and accountability, and they are looking for the stroke. They love to be ahead. If you're in week four and the person still hasn't figured out week one, it's probably a good indication you're hiring process isn't so good. Either way, it's a positive.

What's this next question? Let's try. Here's a sales one. It says, "Prospecting for a new business isn't happening enough for me and some of the people on my team. What do I need to do, or what should I focus in on?" Prospecting, look, is stressful to begin with. Prospecting in good times or prospecting in bad times is always something that people hate to do. The rule out of the new Sandler book, The Sandler Rules for Sales Leaders, says that, "You don't have to like prospecting, you just have to do it." That is true. Who likes prospecting? If you're raising your hand, you probably haven't done it. Remember, your parents raised you not to talk to strangers. I know when I walked out the door my parents kept saying, "Hey, don't talk to strangers, don't talk to strangers."

When I became a salesperson, all of a sudden people give me a briefcase and said, "Hey, go talk to every stranger that you can." That's a total disconnect, especially for me, since I'm introverted. I don't like it, but here's what you've got to figure out. Number one, feed the funnel. You've got to feed the funnel. What does that mean? As a salesperson, you probably can tell me immediately what your quota is. "Hey, my quota's $10 million." Okay, great, but if you invert your sales funnel, here's what I want to ask you—I've got to tell you, 85% of the salespeople cannot tell me this. Take note of this, leaders—how many new conversations do you need every single month or week, or however you determine it, to be successful? What's that number? How many new conversations do you need in order to feed the funnel?

If you've got to talk to 100 new people, and I don't care if they're existing customers or new prospects, but you've got to have 100 new conversations in order to have, what, one pop out as a sale, you need to know that number. That drives everything. Most leaders, most salespeople, make the huge mistake of focusing on the revenue. That's a bad, bad no. Yes, of course we have to know the revenue targets, but you need to figure out: "How do I feed the funnel?" I'm going to give you a three-step process.

Number one, figure out the number of conversations that you need. I just said that, but you've got to figure it out. It's probably twice as much as you just wrote down. You need more, and it's new conversations. That doesn't mean you're showing up for the third time with donuts and that's counting. That's not what I'm talking about. How many new face-to-face meetings or on the phone, do you need every single month or day, whatever the number is, in order to feed the funnel to start the process?

Here's the second thing that you need to know. Where are they coming from? If I say 20 is my number, here's the question: Where are the 20 coming from? What I want you to do is, you have to figure out your sources of prospects. "My account development plan says that I need 20," you say. Okay, but list all the areas that you could find prospects. Maybe it's from referrals, maybe it's from alliances, maybe it's from marketing, maybe it's from cold calling—who knows? But make the list. Then what I'd like you to do is write a little number next to the list. That is, "My expectations from referrals out of 20 would be five. If I go do networking, I need one." Therefore, you've got to add up to 20. Here's what you're going to find out. If you spread it out to something that's realistic that you can base on history, then it'll help you dissipate all just going to cold calls, which is probably the least productive. Then you can have focus and accountability.

If it's the 15th of the month, sales group, and I don't have my five referrals, then I can giddy on up. I've got to go get some referrals because the alternative is that I've got to go and just make outbound calls. The other thing it does is, it allows me to say I need X amount and I can break it up into smaller chunks. Every single week, I know what it takes to be successful.

We've got questions coming in from all different types of perspectives, and it would be chaos today if we were to just say, "Hey, shout out your questions." Everybody's been emailing them and we'll get to as many as we can. Here's one that just came in during the break. It's relatively quick and I think it helps a lot of people.  It said that, "I've had a couple great meetings with prospects. I've presented them with a proposal," which evidently it hit the mark I guess, they didn't say that. Here's the question—he says, "I've had some great meetings with prospects. I've given them a proposal, and now I can't get back in front of them. What do I do?" First of all, you've got to follow the Sandler process, which they're not following. Chances are you may have suffered from premature presentation syndrome. You may have just given this stuff too quick, and one of the rules out of The Sandler Rules for Sales Leaders book is: "Don't spill your candy in the lobby."

Let's move past that because I can't help you fix things that have already happened. Here's what you do have to remember. There's a difference between willing and able. When you're in front of a prospect, willing and able mean two different things. The prospect may be willing to move forward, but unable. You've got to make sure that they're qualified. In the Sandler world, here's what qualification means. They've got to have pain. Without going through that explanation right now, they've got to have a need, or a pain. We call it pain. You have to have a clear understanding of what the budget is that they have. You've got to tie in their problems with economics. How much are the problems costing them? What does it mean to that person? Then you've got to tie in budget.

You've got to have what we call an Up-Front Contract, which is an agreement prior to this presentation about what's going to happen after this presentation. I've just given you a five-day course in less than 30 seconds, but here's the thing. You've got to make sure that they're qualified before you just start coughing up your proposal. Here's what most salespeople have stamped to their forehead: Free Consultant. How many times have we gotten dragged through the mud by giving up all of our stuff, only to have our buyers take this document, go to their existing company and say, "Look what I can do without you." Then of course they use your document to negotiate a better position. We've all fallen into the trap. It's certainly easy in today's economy to get into that trap, especially if you're trying to get in front of companies and it's the first time in 15 years they're willing to see you. Then you just got really excited and moved way too quick through the sales process.

You think, "What do I do now that I'm sitting here? They've got my document and they're not calling me back." I'm going to say that you're in voicemail jail. What I mean by that is you're leaving messages and they're not returning them. Jot down voicemail jail. I'll do this as all the trainers do, worldwide. They'll do this as a two-day seminar. We give this challenge to you at the first break. Everyone runs out to try to do it because we have a contest. You would be amazed how many people get a call back by the end of day one, and shocked how many people get a call back on day two from people who have not responded in weeks or months. Voicemail jail—it's called the "I got a feeling" technique.

Here's what it sounds like. You'll leave a voicemail because chances are if you could be in front of them you would be, so I'm making an assumption. You leave a voicemail and it says, "Hi, it's Dave from Sandler. I know we had a couple meetings, and here's what we talked about." You talk about the problems and what your solution was, but keep it short because they're going to hit delete if you don't. Keep it under five to ten seconds. Say what you can in a short amount of time, but here's the move because that's not the move part: "I know I left you a couple messages and I haven't heard back. I got the feeling you may have decided to go in a different direction. That's okay, if it makes sense, but would you be nice enough just to leave me a voicemail after hours, confirming that?" That's all you have to say: "I had left you a couple messages, haven't heard back, I got the feeling," which is non-threatening, "that you may have gone in a different direction."

That's a slightly negative question. When you ask slightly negative questions to prospects, they tend to jump in with a positive response. They tend to say to themselves, "No, no, no. That's not true," or, "Yeah, you're right." If they say, "Yeah, you're right," they're not going to call you back, but if there's another reason why they're not calling you back, they tend to react—slightly negative because the alternative is you go positive.

It's "Hey, it's Dave Mattson. I've left you a couple messages. Here's my phone number: 555-1212. Please give me a call immediately." Your next message is, "Hey, it's Dave! I'm only going to be here for another 30 minutes. Please call quickly." Then at the end of the day you call and say, "Hey, it's Dave! Here's my cell phone number: 666-1212." At the end of the day you call back and say, "Oh, here's my number at home! Please call." Then you're begging. You're just moving forward. You're on a wire; you're like a buzzard waiting for roadkill. It's just ugh. When you push, people resist. People hate to be sold, but they love to buy. You've got to slightly move back. You'll say, "I got the feeling you may have gone in a different direction"—you can even feel yourself intuitively saying, "Ugh." You want to respond—"That's okay, if it makes sense. Would you be nice enough just to leave me a voicemail after hours, confirming that?"

What does that do? That is so low risk. You're not saying, "I'm sitting here with bated breath, waiting for you to call." You're not saying any of that. If you try that as a professional salesperson, or you have your team do that, you'll find that you get a ton of call backs. Have a contest if you're a leader. Let's do the voicemail jail phone call. Have a contest with your people. If you've got people that are in that indecision-not-calling-you-back mode, as a professional salesperson, make this call. Here's why. You don't like surprises. You want to know where people are. "Yes" is great, "no" is okay, but the in-between is death. That's what this stops, but you've got to stop it. Given the choice, they're not going to call you until they absolutely must. Who knows when that is?

Here's the next question. It says, "I am a strategic account manager and I need to be more strategic in protecting my accounts in today's economy. What do I do?" First of all, you're using the wrong word. "Protecting my account." Shame, shame, shame. Yes, you've got to protect but you've got to grow. Think about it. You only have two jobs as an account manager. You've got to protect the relationships that you have, and you've got to plunder somebody else's relationships. Simple, right? Protect and grow. You've got to do both. You just can't do one. Most times we're stuck in our comfort zones. We're going to service, service, service our existing customers, which is great, but you've got to grow. How do you do that? Let me give you some tactics and strategies really quickly.  

First thing that I want you to do is wallet size. I want you to figure out the total spend of your customer. What does that mean? If you're selling software, I want to know how much your customer buys in your space. Of all the things that you sell, how much are they spending? In my world as an example, if I sell to a worldwide company and they gave me $1 million, I may be pretty excited except that if they spent $35 million worldwide, that's not so great. It's a good start but it's not so great. I want you to figure out what they spend globally for what you sell—not what you sold them but what your company sells, the total suite of your products and services. That's key. Now you know what the number is. Now you know what your target is.

Based in that, you're either going to have a growth strategy or you're going to have a maintenance strategy. They're two different things, two different things. That's huge. Based on that, if you are going to go deep and wide within an organization, which you should be doing, you need to have as many products and services sold to your customers as possible so they're not buying it from your competitors. You're going to want to do some things. We have four major things that you should be doing. Sandler clients, excuse me for one second; you've heard this a thousand times—you need a relationship chart.

Where's my relationship to this person? You can figure out your relationships, if they're A relationships, or B, or C. That means value. You can do gold, silver, bronze. A lot of our trainers, very successful ones, use that one. You could do whatever you want, but put a value on your relationship. Of course, you want gold relationships, or A relationships. That's what you want. Take your clients and figure out how they see you. Then figure out what their potential is because if you have a client that doesn't view you as an A type relationship or a gold relationship, you better giddy on up. The whole process is that your customer is somebody else's prospect. You've got to figure out: "Where am I? How does my customer view me?" Then within that, you may want to do some relationship mapping.

Take your decision makers and say, "What are the top six things that I should know about my decision makers?" Of course, you want to know tons of things, but you really want to focus in on the six big ones. They could be anything, but let's just pick some. You could say out of the decision makers—number one, you put a name to it. I don't know the names of your buyers, but here are their pains. That's good. Maybe you want to track that. Maybe you want to track: here are their goals, professionally and personally. You may say, "Here's how they're judged or compensated." That's huge because people buy for their own reasons, not yours. You may want to know things like, here's their DISC profile. That's huge. The more you know about buyers, the better off you are. You also may want to know things like what committees they sit on, internally. There's a ton of things that you want to know about your customers. The point is you've got to figure out what those are, whether it's an account mapping process or even strategy.

Here's the thing about strategy. Make sure that when you're an account manager, or you're a leader managing people, that all the goals for your customer are in 90-day increments. Don't do annual plans. Waste of time. Why? Because it's too far out. Do 90-day plans. These are the four things that I want to do to progress this relationship in the next 90 days. Who do you need internally to help you? What's your plan on doing that? If you will focus in on 90-day increments per customer, you'll be amazed how far you progress the sale at the end of the year. You'll look back and say, "Oh my gosh, look what we've done."

We've got a ton of emails popping in. Let me do some trends that are coming in. I'm going to answer one that has to do with up-front contracts, and obviously, this question is based from clients, but there's an awful lot of them coming in saying, "Hey, I think I've set an up-front contract and people aren't honoring them. What do I do?" We're getting tons of those. Let me cover those. First, the up-front contract—for those who do not know that term—is a buzzword Sandler uses, and it really means mutual expectations. On every single sales call, when you're in front of a buyer, you should set the stage before the call.

Here's when you know, as an example. Have you ever been on a call where you thought you had an hour, and 20 minutes into it they look at their watch and say, "Hey, this is really interesting, but if you would put this in writing and send it to me, I'd really appreciate it. It's really busy today and I can't finish our meeting," and then you're out? You're out after 20 minutes. Or you thought you were there for the close today. You did your presentation, and they say, "That was awesome, and what we need now to do is to really form a committee to start a study to see how we're going to implement what you've taught us today." You may have heard a lot of those different things. What you want to do is set the stage for a meeting, a sales meeting. In particular what we're talking about is, there are five things that you want to cover. Here's what they are.

You want to cover the purpose of the meeting. Why are we here? Sounds pretty simple, but I've got to tell you, especially on the buying side, that there's multiple people there. Some of them invited to the meeting have no idea why they're there. What's the purpose? We're here today to do what? Number two, how much time do you have? Even though you set the appointment for 60 minutes, ask up front, "Hey, how much time do we have for today? I know we talked about 60 minutes. Is that still good?" If they have that, "Hey, I have to leave in 20 minutes" thing pop up, you'll know before you start. On the flip side, they're less likely to pull that on you if in fact they hadn't said it to you up front. Time.

Here's the next thing. You want to talk about the top two or three things that the buyer wants to cover during today's meeting. What's their agenda? That's key. Most salespeople—I don't care how experienced you are—tend to show up with their agenda and just, blah, start talking. If you ask, "Hey, what are the two or three things you want to make sure I cover during our 60 minutes today?," they love that. Why? They're engaged, and buyer psychology says that they're probably not listening to you anyway until their questions get answered. Pull them in. That also tells you what's important to them. It's very respectful. Sandler is "you-focused" selling. It focuses on the buyer. That's key. Make sure you understand what their issues are.

Here's the next thing. Tell the buyer, "Here are the two or three things that I want to cover." Now you're setting the stage: "Here's what's important to me." That's called pre-sell. You're telling the buyer, "This is what's coming. Here are the questions that I'm asking," so they're not shocked. That's very important, very important—their agenda and your agenda, as a sales professional. Don't assume that just because you showed up today with the proposal that you or they thought you were there to close. Maybe you were there to share in their mind. Who knows? But get it clarified.

Here's the huge one. Circle this. It's called next steps—outcome. You've got to determine, prior to starting the meeting, that "at the end of the 60 minutes here's what I'm hoping we can decide." Boom. Throw it out there. Tell them what it is, and ask, "Are you comfortable with that?" I want you to validate your outcome statement, whatever it is. It may not be to close. It may be to share enough information to invite you back, whatever it is, but tell them in the first five to ten minutes of the meeting, whenever you're doing your up-front contract. If you're trying to close, hypothetically, and you sneak in the close 48 minutes into the 60-minute meeting, inevitably you're going to hear, "Wow, that sounds really good, but let me think it over." That's terrible.

That's the stage of up-front contracts. Somebody says, and there's a ton of them, "What happens if they don't honor their up-front contracts?" First of all, here's what typically happens. Just because you set an up-front contract once, it doesn't necessarily mean that they remember it. There's some basic rules. Number one, make sure that you set the up-front contract at the start of every meeting and at the end of every meeting. Review it. Even halfway through your call, you can just say, "Hey, let's just take a quick time out. I think here's where we are, here's what we've got to cover in the next 15 minutes, and here's what we're trying to decide. Are we still good?" That's an okay thing. If you think about it, you're the air traffic controller. It's all right. People don't mind that, and you're also testing if they're offline. It's okay to make sure that you review. Keep doing it.

Often times, when I talk to salespeople and they say, "Well, they're not honoring their up-front contract." I'll say, "What is it?" It actually sounds pretty good, what they tell me, but here's the downside. They did it three meetings ago. No! If in fact you've done it properly, you've started, you've ended, and they're still not honoring it, guess what? That's probably symptomatic of something else maybe, which is (a) there's no trust in conviction, the relationship may not be there, or (b) you're presenting too low down the hierarchy. You may assume that you're in front of the decision maker, and unfortunately, they just can't tell you that they're sitting there, just accepting all 37 bids, and they don't know what to do.

Often, what I find is people love to play CEO for the day. If you don't do a good job in your Pain Step, Decision Step, and Budget Step, it's going to come back and bite you because they can't honor it. If this is the first time, you can always say things like, "Well, I don't understand. I thought here's what we're doing. I must have made a mistake." You set it up in the third party. You take the blame. It's okay. Those are very subtle comments, yet so powerful.

If this is a pattern where people are breaking the up-front contracts, here's what you have to remember. Never listen to what somebody says; watch what they do. I don't care if they told you they're the ultimate decision maker. They may be, but there's something else going on, or there's no reason for them to move forward. There's something previous in your sales methodology that is not buttoned up. That's what you've got to figure out. I don't know what it is, but you've got to figure it out. If you find that you've set really good up-front contracts and they're 0 for 10 on following them up, chances are they're not buying. Here's the phrase that you have to have embedded in your brain: "Some will, some won't, who cares, move on." That's key. Just got to keep moving.

I've got some sales management topics and here's the theme. The theme is that, "In today's environment I'm getting very frustrated that I'm covering the same type of stuff with my people, and I don't have enough time and energy to continue to reinforce what I've taught them every time I'm visiting people in the field." I'm going to gear my response to leaders in the first minute or two, but, salespeople, pay attention because I'm going to give you some golden nuggets.

Here's the deal, sales managers. You've got to make sure that your field visits are not events, that they're actually planned. You've got to make sure the touch points are all there. You've got to plan it. You've got to execute it. You've got to reinforce what you're doing in the field. Prior to you going, you should tell your sales force what types of calls that you want to go on. Just don't show up and say, "What have we got today?" That is a nightmare, can't do it. You're wasting your time. Tell them, "I want to see these types of calls. I want to talk to these types of clients when I'm visiting you." You get to see how they're doing, but also you get to add value.

Second thing I want you to do is make sure that you're focusing on the employee. Listen, don't multitask. I'm reading this email and I see a bunch of stuff, and I hear from salespeople, and here's what happens. You tend to multitask. Don't answer emails and make tons of calls between sales call one and two when you're in the field. Focus on the person. Make sure that you've got that done. The next thing that I would do is determine roles and responsibilities. Here's what happens. Adults learn by observing. You're either going to do one of two things as a leader. You're either going to observe them, or you're going to illustrate, which is to show them how to do it. Simple, right? You're either observing or you're illustrating. That's all you're doing. Figure out your roles and responsibilities. You say, "Hey, I'm just going to watch you on this one," and if you want to say, "I'm going to lead the next one," or, "I'm going to lead this portion of it," make sure it's clean.

Otherwise, as a leader you'll show up and you'll get the hot potato. You know what that is, right? The salesperson just throws it to you like, "and here's my executive manager! Blah blah blah!" You're looking like, "Oh my gosh." Now you're running the call. If you're running the call, you're not helping your person. I also want you to do a curbside critique. When you're there, I want you to make sure that you give them coaching, you do your stuff, but I want you to do what's called role-play. I can't teach you role-play in the next three minutes that we have left today, but I've got to say if you're not role-playing you're making a serious mistake.

Salespeople, you've got to role-play with yourself. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. It's key, because role-playing allows you to take the future event and bring it into the current situation. That's magical. That's what you've got to make sure that you have the ability to do. Listen, there's tons of stuff that I know today we may not get to, but if you can make sure that you go back and role-play and start to rehearse, that's key. Even if you do pre-call planning as an example, that is rehearsal if you think about it. Pre-call planning—I bet you 75% of your sales force or you as a professional do not pre-call plan. You do it and it's haphazard. You've got to make sure that you spend appropriate time planning those calls. There's not enough calls in today's environment for you to mess up on. Pre-call, pre-call, pre-call.

You've been reading the transcript of Selling the Sandler Way with Dave Mattson. Sandler Training is the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals to Fortune 500 companies, with over 250 locations.

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Posted May 19, 2017

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