Introducing Sandler: what is the Sandler Sales Methodology & how to do it right
The process of sales has evolved and continues to do so. With modern marketing tools and access to customer profiles, sales reps are in a better position than ever. Some methods, however, stand the test of time.
One such sales method that’s been around since the ‘60s is the Sandler Sales Methodology. Sandler’s model endures because it gets to the core of what sales is about - customer satisfaction.
When you start an online store, it can be difficult to know your market. How do you attract customers, how do you encourage them to return? Your sales style and attitude can make a big difference to your reputation.
Who is David H. Sandler?
David Sandler was a sales rep. After a particularly bad run of consecutive rejections, he had had enough. He identified three key issues that were draining sales time:
- Wasting time on cold prospects with no intentions of buying
- Spending time answering questions for non-customers who were looking for free advice
- A premature “no” or a very slow “yes"
He decided to focus on a sales method that would eliminate these concerns. His first discovery was that focusing on relationship building and qualification eased conversions.
A problem we often face in direct sales is an adversarial relationship with buyers. It’s common for buyers to assume a sales rep is trying to manipulate them. It’s also common for sales reps to assume that buyers want something for nothing.
In truth, both sides are just looking to get the best deal for their business. When both sides acknowledge this, it’s much easier to find a middle ground that suits everyone.
The Sandler Sales Methodology
The Sandler selling system aims to take the games that sellers play with buyers out of the equation. Rather than going in with a mindset of “making” the customer buy, you aim to meet the buyer's needs.
The emphasis of the sales method is on building a relationship—establishing communications and introducing yourself in a no-pressure environment. Then, Sandler pre-qualifies customers. Do they need what you’re selling? How can it help them?
It’s only after these stages have been completed that you move on to closing the deal. With Sandler’s method, closing is a low-pressure step. By this point, if you’ve done things correctly, the buyer should have made their decision. They only need guidance.
Sandler vs. traditional sales: key differences
If you’re new to sales, you’ve probably had some advice from senior reps and managers. Often, new sellers will hear phrases like “don’t take no for an answer” or “ABC” (always be closing). This is fine if you’re trying to instill persistence in a new rep.
However, once you’ve moved up to the account manager level, these methods need to change. When you’re dealing with B2B clients especially, mutual respect becomes very important. B2B consulting and high-velocity sales are two very different disciplines.
Sellers working at this level and using Sandler’s technique will often act more like advisers or consultants. This will require them to have a client focus. The key difference in implementing this in a sales team is freedom.
These kinds of reps will need the ability to work directly with clients. Often, the smaller the pool of established clients they can service, the better their conversion rates will be. According to the Sandler training program, 50% more reps hit their quotas with Sandler than without.
Make sure your reps can focus on one task. They can’t be efficient if they’re also worried about how to attract customers online.
Sandler’s Method step by step
At this stage you probably have questions. How do I use Sandler’s method? What are the techniques? Maybe you’re even wanting to know more in-depth answers like how to avoid groupthink when implementing?
Let's look at the Sandler process step by step, then see how you can implement this method within your sales team.
1. Build rapport
The first step is building a relationship with your clients. Sandler emphasizes open communication. Being honest about your objectives and services is the best policy. Listen to your clients and find out how you can help them.
2. Set expectations
Next, you establish ground rules that work for both parties. Depending on your business area, this could mean pre-contracts. It could also just mean clarifying your business’s role, establishing a low-pressure sales environment, or managing your client’s expectations.
3. Identify pain
Now, we move on to the qualification phase. This is about finding out your customer's pain points. This means the problems your client’s business is currently experiencing. Common pain points include bottlenecks, training difficulties, and supply issues.
Then, you need to drill down on these areas with more penetrative questions. Find out what solutions your client has already tried. Also, establish what the impact of these problems is for the client’s business.
Reps often struggle with this second part as these more detailed questions can feel rude or intrusive. Rebecca Schmidt, Sandler’s VP of sales addresses this concern succinctly;
“By asking 2nd and 3rd level questions I'm showing the prospect I'm invested in their success and want to make sure I understand the whole situation”
Part of Sandler’s methodology is teaching reps to believe in the selling system they're using. Schmidt also suggests reps trial these questions on their next couple of sales calls and record the results. This helps establish new patterns.
4. Establish budget
There’s no point trying to sell a client a product or service they can’t afford. No amount of persuasion can increase a set budget. Yet, many sales methods leave budget discussions until the final phase.
Sandler’s method establishes the client’s budget requirements at an early stage. This avoids wasted sales time if we’re well out of the client’s price range. Remember that time and resource allocation could be additional factors on top of spending.
5. Clear a path to decision
Now, we move on to figuring out the client’s decision-making procedure. Are there multiple stages of approval involved? What is required for approval? Can you help with the process?
All of these questions have to be answered at this stage. Once you establish the process, you can then help your client move through to a decision.
6. Fulfill your promises
You now have all the information you need to make your proposal and close the deal. This might be the point where you would launch into a rehearsed presentation. If so, make sure it’s tailored with your client’s answers in mind.
Remember that this process is all about fulfilling the client’s needs. The previous steps were all making sure you know those needs and how to service them.
7. Communicate post-sale
Deals can still be lost post-close. All sales reps should know this. Make sure the lines of communication between you and your client are clear. If they know who to contact with any queries, then you’re less likely to lose them to either competitors or cold feet.
Implementing the Sandler method for your sales team
As we briefly mentioned above, Sandler’s method led to the establishment of the Sandler training program. This is the official source for training in Sandler’s methodology. Courses can be completed online, so it’s a viable option for training your reps.
Schmidt recommends that businesses incorporate the new method into their existing sales process. For example, you might have a four-step process or a sales pitch script set out for your reps. Identify which of Sandler’s steps fit into which stage.
Instead of making established reps start from scratch, reps can then incorporate these methods into their existing skillset.
You need to ensure that your managers and trainers understand the process, too. As we all know, it’s very difficult to effectively teach a method you don’t fully understand yourself.
3 Steps to Implement the Sandler method
You can break down how to establish this method in your company in three simple steps.
The first step is teaching the new techniques found in Sandler’s methodology. First, get your senior reps, trainers, or managers trained up on the Sandler technique. Then, these senior staff members can work on tailoring the methods and passing them on to new hires.
Make room for Sandler’s method in your sales process. Maybe your process can neatly dovetail with Sandler’s style. You might need significant changes, though. It just depends on your business’s own circumstances.
Once the methods have been taught to your team, it’s time to reinforce them. One tactic is to have your reps practice questions on upcoming calls and record the results. When reps start to see conversions improve with these methods, they’ll quickly adopt them full time.
Sandler’s method was first established in 1967. That means it’s been around for more than 50 years. It hasn’t always been the hot topic in sales but its enduring usefulness is undeniable. The reason behind this is that there are no manipulative tricks in Sandler’s method.
Psychological manipulation of clients can only work for so long. Over time, these processes become so widely used that buyers become apathetic, or even hostile, towards them. This is never more true than in B2B sales, where your buyers know all the same tricks you do.
Sandler’s methodology gives sales reps a framework to build on. The big advantage of this framework is that it can be scaled to any level of business or client. Even if you choose not to follow Sandler’s method, it’s useful knowledge for anyone in sales.
About the Author: Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform and cloud PBX solutions for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn. She has also written for Landing Cube and Crypto Totem.