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  • Writer's pictureDominic Testo


***GUEST AUTHOR***David Mattson


The Sandler strategy known as “reversing” is a simple, powerful technique that helps salespeople avoid the all-too-common problem of mutual mystification, wherein your client says one thing and you interpret it as something else -- or perhaps you answer a question that wasn’t asked. Mutual mystification stands in the way of you making an accurate diagnosis of the person’s problem. Reversing makes an accurate diagnosis much more likely. Let me share a quick story that will illustrate how this works.

Suppose a Vice President of Sales said to me, “We really need to work on our presentation skills. Do you guys handle that?” How should I respond?

My immediate temptation might be to interpret the VP’s words at face value. But is that going to uncover the real issue? If I just respond by saying “Yes, absolutely, we've got the best presentation skills program,” I will never know. I might even sell the program to the VP if I say that … but unfortunately, I would still have no idea if I had actually addressed the real problem raised by the VP.

But suppose I responded a little differently? Suppose I said, “We get that question a lot. Many teams we work with experience gaps in terms of their presentation skills -- but I’m curious, why do you think that your team has a skill gap in that area?”

And suppose the VP said in response, “Well, because we're only closing 20% of our presentations, and that’s way below where we want to be.”

I could then say, “Oh, really? Tell me more about that,” thereby encouraging him to open up further.

And he might say, “Yes, our top groups are at 60%. That’s really where we want everyone to be.”

At that point, I’d be in a position to respond much more effectively. I could say, “I'm happy to share some information about our presentation skills program--but let me first ask a quick question. What's the qualification criteria needed prior to the presentation, so that you know you have a willing and able prospect to present to?”

Now I’m having a meaningful conversation about the real problem, the problem that sparked the question in the first place. Without further exploring the issues, I was all set to solve the wrong problem. But a couple of reverses -- a couple of strategic decisions on my part to answer a question with a question -- helped me get a much clearer picture of what was really going on.

Here’s a different example. Suppose the prospect asks me if I am working with any of his competitors in a given market. I might be tempted to say, “Sure, we've worked with a lot of people in your space. We really know your industry, and we've got loads of processes that are tried and true that you will definitely want to take advantage of.” But look what happens when I try a reverse instead.

The prospect says, “Do you currently work with anyone in our space?”

I say, “Well, that's a good question. There must be a reason you asked me that. Would you mind telling me? Are you trying to gauge experience, or exclusivity, or perhaps something else?”

Their response - “Actually, it's important because my CEO just told me that we don't want to do the same things that any of our competitors are doing in this area. We are supposed to come up with an entirely new approach.”

Again, I’ve uncovered the real issue. Wouldn’t I be glad I asked? Wouldn’t I be glad I used a reverse, instead of assuming that I already knew what the real problem was?

Lesson Learned From This Tale Of The Sale:

Be like a doctor. Ask the patient what hurts. Then ask some more questions, based on what you hear, and run some tests before you make an educated recommendation. By doing this, you’ll avoid problems with malpractice down the line – and so will the prospect!

DAVID MATTSON is CEO and President of Sandler. He oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company's global operations including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support. His key areas of focus are sales leadership, strategy, and client satisfaction. He is a best-selling author, sales and management leader, keynote speaker, and leader for sales training seminars around the world. For more information visit

For those of you in my local Albany area market you can contact Matt Scarchilli to learn more about Sandler Training in our area.

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