• February 2014

Get Ready to Take Your Sales Skills to the Next Level

Sandler Training is a global training organization based in Baltimore, MD, with more than three decades of experience and proven results. Annually, the company spends more than 92,000 hours teaching its “against-the-grain” sales principles to small, mid-sized, and Fortune-ranked companies to effectively sell and communicate—and grow.

Sitting at the helm is David Mattson, Sandler’s CEO and president, who oversees the organization’s more than 225 locations around the globe. Since 1986, he has been a trainer and business consultant for management, sales, interpersonal communication, corporate team-building and strategic planning throughout the United States and Europe.

We sat down with Mattson to talk about how small-business owners can improve their sales techniques and help their businesses grow.

  • Scroll down to read our Q&A—and find out more about Sandler’s 11 insights that will change the way you think and sell.

Success The Sandler Way

Be Inkandescent: What is the goal of sales—and how does sales differ from PR, marketing, and advertising?

David Mattson: The goal of sales is to find a need for a product or service and then sell for a profit. Ultimately, sales is the result of marketing communications initiatives, as the goal is to close the leads that come in from firsthand promotions (marketing and advertising) and third-party endorsements (PR). Sales has more of a one-to-one messaging strategy, with the others focused on a one-to-many approach.

Be Inkandescent: What makes so many people uncomfortable about doing sales—even when they feel passionate about their business product or service?

David Mattson: One part of sales that many people have a hard time coming to terms with is “talking to strangers.” After a lifetime of society telling us not to talk to strangers, sales insists you power through your discomfort. Start by scripting out hypothetical conversations and prepare yourself to answer dreaded and more challenging questions.

Another reason people often don’t like doing sales could be that salespeople earned some unfortunate adjectives, like “slimy” and “pushy.” The best way to regain confidence is to reverse the stereotypes by not pushing your message or product, but instead viewing your role as a problem-solver. By asking questions and understanding the problem, you’ll find a solution.

Be Inkandescent: How do you measure success in sales? Is it as straightforward as the number at the bottom of the “product sold” ledger?

David Mattson: Not everyone believes that success in sales should be measured only by the number of products sold. Another way to measure sales success is by measuring behaviors, which is what we can control.

Be Inkandescent: What can salespeople do to generate sales leads?

David Mattson: With the help of technology, sales leads can be generated from a variety of both active and passive ways. Social media (including LinkedIn and Twitter) has changed the prospecting game for many sales professionals, as the platforms that can help target potential customers.

Other more classic examples include cold-calling, email outreach, and requesting referrals. Though many sales people are timid about asking for referrals, they’re a great way to drum up new business since they serve as a strong third-party endorsement of a company’s service and product.

Be Inkandescent: How do you overcome customer resistance, and the stereotype of the pushy salesperson?

David Mattson: A case of customer resistance likely stems from past experiences with pushy salespeople. The best way to disarm your customer and to be treated differently is for salespeople to act differently.

Check your ego at the door and focus on the customer and not the product or service you’re selling. People buy emotionally, so the best approach is to build a genuine relationship with the customer that’s focused on providing solutions.

Be Inkandescent: What are some sales strategies to avoid?

David Mattson: Giving away too much information too soon. In the early stages of your customer-seller relationship, it’s important to ask questions and fact-find, not educate or show off your knowledge.

Be Inkandescent: What is the most important trait of successful salespeople?

David Mattson: Successful salespeople listen more than they talk. To truly understand the needs of a customer, salespeople need to listen.

Be Inkandescent: What advice do you have for firms about how to sell their products or services?

David Mattson: The best advice for firms is to have a new business system, know their strengths and point of differentiation, create an activity plan, and practice their “selling.”

Be Inkandescent: In the prologue to your book, you say that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. What do you mean by that?

David Mattson: The company’s founder Dave Sandler was fond of the old saying, “If you want to succeed you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.” Yes, that’s definitely important. But you also had to know what you want. Otherwise, you might be in the right place at the right time … and never even know it. So the clearer the picture you have in your mind, the “luckier” you will be when you encounter the opportunities that support your goals. The key is to have as much clarity around what you have pictured for yourself one year from now, two years from now, five years from now, etc.

*Be Inkandescent: In fact, the “11 Success Principles” outlined in your book are designed to help people eliminate internal obstacles so they can get closer to their goals. We want them to think about what they have been doing to keep themselves from accomplishing their ultimate goals — be it sales, or other ambitions.

David Mattson: Right. As we say in the book, most people have wimpy goals or no goals at all. I believe, in part, it’s because they’ve convinced themselves over a period of years that goal setting is pointless, useless, and a boring exercise. It becomes the operating reality of their lives. But once you master the 11 insights in the book and complete the activities, I believe readers will be able to create a life-plan that makes sense.

  • Principle 1: There is no growth without pain.
  • Principle 2: Keep your belly button covered.
  • Principle 3: No one can enter your castle without your permission.
  • Principle 4: Avoid reach-back and after-burn.
  • Principle 5: There’s a difference between who you “I” and what you “R.”
  • Principle 6: People make buying decisions emotionally and justify those decisions intellectually.
  • Principle 7: 70 percent of your selling behavior comes from your Nurturing Parent.
  • Principle 8: Zero percent of your selling behavior comes from your Critical Parent.
  • Principle 9: 30 percent of your selling behavior comes from your Adult.
  • Principle 10: Zero percent of your selling behavior comes from your Child.
  • Principle 11: If you are only what you were told you could be, you are less than what you can be.

For more information, visit www.Sandler.com.