So… what’s the deal with the Sandler selling system? How does it work?
You’ve come to the right place 😃
Here’s everything you need to know about the Sandler selling system.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Sandler Selling System?
- 8 Key Elements of the Sandler Selling Method
- 7 Phases of the Sandler Selling System + Examples
What Is the Sandler Selling System?
The Sandler selling system was founded by David Sandler in 1967, and remains the focal point of “Sandler Training” today.
The whole idea behind this sales methodology is to abandon the “games” that buyers and sellers typically play with each other.
In the traditional sales method, buyers and sellers are pitted against each other as antagonists, in a way.
A seller’s job is to persuade the buyer to purchase a product, which could mean pressuring them, convincing them with facts and demonstrations, and cornering them into a position where they’re more likely to buy.
The buyer’s job is to either resist the temptation to buy or negotiate a better price so they can end up better off. Sellers are aggressive and buyers are defensive.
But the Sandler selling method attempts to turn this on its head.
Instead of being the aggressor, the salesperson is meant merely to function as an informer. A consultant. A partner.
They work to qualify prospects, build relationships with them, and ultimately guide them to a sale that works in the buyer’s favor.
Sandler selling has a long track record of success. In fact, 88 percent of people who have undergone Sandler’s official training claim it improved their sales strategy.
8 Key Elements of the Sandler Selling Method
To further refine our definition, Sandler selling is distinguished by the following characteristics:
1. An emphasis on qualification.
There’s a strong emphasis on qualification in the Sandler selling method.
Think of it this way. No matter what, you’re going to spend some time evaluating prospects and “qualifying” them to see if they’re a good fit. Then, you’ll move onto the selling process and try to close the deal.
In an ideal scenario, where the prospect is a near-perfect fit, the selling phase will go extremely quickly.
If you front-load the sales queue with prospects who fit the mold perfectly, the rest of your job will be easy.
2. Mutual trust.
Get rid of those old-school notions that buyers and sellers are opposing forces, or that they’re in an antagonistic dance with one another.
Instead, you’ll need to spend time building mutual trust. You need to make sure that your prospect trusts everything that you’re saying – otherwise, they’re going to be skeptical of your claims when it’s time to pitch your product.
You also need to establish trust in the prospect. Prospects have a tendency to lie. Not because they’re manipulators, but because they’re rationally self-interested.
You’ll need to break through those barriers if you want to have a mutually successful exchange.
3. Abolition of persuasion.
Listen. I love the idea of persuasion. I’ve studied persuasion techniques. I like analyzing rhetoric. I even like debates (as long as they’re not on Twitter).
But the Sandler selling method makes a strong case that we need to abandon our old-school notions of sales as a persuasive game.
If you adopt the mindset that you need to convince your prospect of some important truth, you’re naturally going to adopt an aggressive or intrusive stance.
If, instead, you approach the situation as an adviser and someone interested in a mutually beneficial exchange, you’ll be much more successful.
4. Clarification and expectations.
In the Sandler selling system, it’s important to set proactive expectations and provide clarification wherever necessary.
Your goal is to create a mutually trusting, open, transparent environment.
If you have specific requests or goals for your prospect, tell them. If you have a certain goal in mind for yourself, express it.
Provide honest, thorough answers whenever possible and define your role in the transaction.
Also, don’t let assumptions and ambiguities interfere with your process.
5. Closing intelligently.
Traditional sales methodologies put heavy emphasis on the importance of closing – including pushing someone to close a deal even if they don’t seem ready.
In the Sandler model, closing is still important, but it needs to be handled with care.
Your goal is to get the prospect to be so convinced that they’re happy to close the deal on their own – not to push them into something they aren’t really comfortable with yet.
That means guiding your prospect through a series of realizations and conclusions.
6. The 49 rules.
In The Sandler Rules, Dave Mattson and Sandler Training cover 49 “rules” and principles for effective sales.
For example, rule 7 is “You don’t have to like prospecting, but you do have to do it.”
And rule 35 is “If your competition is doing it, stop doing it right away.”
I can’t cover all 49 rules here, but if the idea interests you, I highly recommend that you read the book.
7. Expecting lies.
The Sandler method is built on a foundation of mutual trust, but there’s a problem; most prospects are going to lie to you.
This is partially because your prospects are rationally self-interested. They want to ensure they walk away in the best possible position, so they may exaggerate the length of time necessary to make a decision or understate their budget.
If you want to be successful, you’ll need to anticipate these lies, overcome them when possible, and most importantly, give your prospect enough trust that they feel comfortable telling you the full truth.
8. Consistency and replicability.
Much of the power of the Sandler selling method comes from its consistency when properly applied.
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That often means using scripts, step-by-step processes, and formulas.
7 Phases of the Sandler Selling System + Examples
The phases of the Sandler method of selling are often illustrated in the form of a submarine.
Stick with me on this.
Submarines tend to be stealthy, and they operate in deep water. Compare them to a battleship, which in this analogy functions more like a traditional salesperson.
Battleships are obvious, aggressive, and shallow.
As a salesperson in the Sandler sales system, you’ll be like a sailor in a submarine. You’ll follow a set process with no deviations, you’ll work meticulously to move through each phase, and you’ll operate as dispassionately as possible.
The submarine analogy is also effective because of the way submarines are designed.
Most submarines contain multiple segmented chambers, which can be closed off in an emergency. That way, if there’s a leak in the submarine, the compartment containing the leak can be closed off completely.
The phases of the Sandler selling method of selling function like compartments of a submarine. You’ll have to close off each one before moving to the next, ultimately securing the entire vessel.
These phases, complete with examples of the phases in action, are:
1. Build a relationship.
Everything starts with bonding and building rapport. You might discover prospects through networking, active prospecting, or a combination of other methods.
Whatever your approach, you’ll need to spend some time getting to know your prospect and building trust. There are many options for this.
For example, you could serve as a consultant or adviser to help them better understand their industry – or you could provide them with a steady stream of content so they can see your expertise firsthand.
Example: You start a relationship with your latest prospect by reaching out to them on LinkedIn and giving them a free consultation to help solve a problem you’re qualified to solve.
2. Set upfront expectations.
The next phase is all about setting expectations with your prospect.
Who are you, what are your goals, and what is your approach? Who is your prospect, what are their goals, and what is their role in their organization?
This phase is important because it helps to build trust – but also because it helps you understand your prospect better.
Example: “I’m an account executive with [Company]. It’s my job to help people find the best tools for their sales and marketing needs. I spend most of my time consulting with clients to get to know their needs so I can make better recommendations for them.
3. Qualify and discover pain points.
Remember how important qualification is to the Sandler methodology? Here’s your chance to practice it.
You’ll use open-ended sales questions and conversations to get to know your prospects well. You’ll find out more about their company, their current problems and solutions, and what their goals are.
Relatively soon, you’ll figure out whether this person is a good fit for your organization or not. If not, you can stop wasting time and move on. If they are, you can move onto the next phase.
This is also a great opportunity to discover and talk about the main pain points that will lead your prospect to make a purchase.
Example: “Our best customers tend to be businesses with 100+ employees. How many employees currently work for your organization?”
4. Talk money.
Time to talk numbers. If you’ve thoroughly qualified the prospect and you know your product is a good fit for them, the next major obstacle you have to overcome is financing.
What is this prospect’s budget? And what’s the best way to get them to reveal it?
Hopefully, you’ve built a lot of trust leading up to this point, so your client won’t mind being open with you.
Example: “What are you currently spending on email marketing software? Is there room for your department to spend a little more on a more robust solution?
5. Find out the decision-making process.
Now it’s your time to figure out exactly what the decision making process is (and how you’re going to navigate it).
You’ll want to figure out who’s in charge of making the decision, what the timeline for a decision is, and the possible obstacles that could stand in your way.
Example: “Who’s responsible for choosing software solutions for your team? What’s the remaining length of your current contract?
6. Send the proposal.
At this point, you’ll have a ton of information about your prospect, including what it’s going to take to convince them to close the deal.
You’ll also have an abundance of trust and a good relationship with your prospect (if you’ve done things right).
That can only mean it’s time for the proposal.
When you’re ready, start introducing your prospect to your core product or service. Give them a demo, talk to them about integration, explain why you think it’s the best solution, and give them a breakdown of pricing.
Ideally, your prospect will be such a good fit and your mutual trust levels will be so high that the proposal practically sells itself.
Example: “We’ve talked a lot about how your current CRM wastes time. It looks like we can improve efficiency by 20 percent with our product – and it’s only going to cost you $100 a month more than your current software. We even have a signup discount of $1,000 right now.”
7. Maintain the post-sale relationship.
The last phase of the process is mostly a follow-up. Much of the Sandler selling methodology is about building relationships and finding good fits.
So, this is your chance to make sure the fit is as good as you think it is. It’s also an opportunity to prevent the loss of the sale to buyer’s remorse or a competitive offer from someone else.
Nurture your prospect through the final stages of the sales process and make sure they’re using your products or services effectively.
You can also continue serving as an adviser and account representative.
Example: “Hey! I just want to make sure we’re doing everything to exceed expectations. How do you like the new system? Is there anything you need help with or that you have questions about?”
The Sandler selling system feels good because it’s all about building genuine relationships with your prospects so you can truly help them.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.