Don’t take sales training too literal….You’ll never make it out alive

We all have those moments in our careers that we look back on and think, “What the heck was I thinking?”  When I have those moments of reflection, or when talking with a group, there is one particular story that comes to mind.

I was just a few weeks into my Sandler Sales training and loving every minute of it.  I had never been in formal business to business sales before coming to this company let alone had any type of formal sales training.  To this point, I had been running fitness facilities and selling personal training and gym memberships.  For some reason, this isn’t looked at as professional selling, so training is extremely lacking.  Since coming to my new company, I had been out in the field getting my teeth kicked in.  I would cold call, set meetings and then leave without any business.  This sales training would be the difference.  I now had the tools and skills needed to be a killer….. or so I thought.

I had set a meeting after completing my first few weeks of training with a bottle closure company in East Tennessee and was ready to dominate.  Sitting in the parking lot, I reviewed all of my training material and began writing down all of the questions I wanted to ask.  My quiver was beginning to fill up, but I wasn’t done.  I was going to shove every question, reverse, up front contract and clear future I could into my arsenal.  I had no doubt that I would walk away with a PO for everything.  NO DOUBT!

I walked into the meeting with a swagger unlike ever before.  Picking up the phone, my confidence oozed and I called Gary.  He had no idea what was about to happen to him.  He had never met a salesman like me….. I still don’t think he has.

The meeting started and Gary asked an associate to join him.  We were going to be discussing his janitorial supplies and maybe some packaging products.  I however, planned to not discuss a single thing about my company.  You see, according to my training, it’s not about me, it’s about the customer.  I started unleashing my barrage of questions.

“How many employees do you guys have?”

“How often are you placing orders for these supplies?”

“If there was one thing you could have your current supplier do better, what would that be?”

I was rolling.  I have never asked such great, in depth questions.  Up to this point, I was a rock star.  Then, Gary started asking me questions.  I was prepared though.  You see, Sandler teaches a great strategy called reversing and negative reversing.  Time to unleash the Sandler beast.

“So Jonathan, do you work with a lot of companies like ours in the area?”

” We work with a lot of companies Gary, is there one in particular you are wanting to ask about?”

“Not really, just curious.  Do you guys only do janitorial supplies or anything else?”

“That’s a great question Gary, is there something else you were hoping we did?”

By now, you can see where this is heading.  I was holding strong.  I wasn’t going to answer a single question that could potentially disqualify me.  Gary wasn’t going to trick me.  I was in control.

After about 10 minutes of this.  It began to get a little more aggressive.

“Jonathan, do you even know what your company does?”

” Gary, is there something you hoped I knew about my company that I haven’t told you?”

“Well Jonathan, you haven’t told me anything about your company.  I’m not even sure why you are here”

“That’s a great point Gary, if I remember correctly, you invited me in for this meeting.  Why am I here?”

“Are you kidding me Jonathan?  I think this meeting is over.  It has been a complete waste of time.”

You see, any normal person would have given up by now or caved.  Not me.  I’m committed.  You see, in Sandler, they teach you that when someone says the meeting is over, this is your chance to start selling.

“Oh man Gary, I’m so glad you said that.  Now that the meeting is over (perfect Sandler set up), do you mind if I ask you a question?”


“Why am I here?”


“Why did you agree to schedule this meeting?  Was there something you were hoping to get out of it?”

“Are you s**tting me man?  Please leave.  Seriously man, get out!”

As I was being escorted out of the building, I couldn’t help but wonder where I went wrong.  I had used every technique I had learned during Sandler training perfectly.  I reversed, negative reversed, used up front contracts and didn’t spill my candy in the lobby.  How did this not work out perfectly.

I went back and sat in my car and called my manager and explained everything that just happened.  Half way through the story, I could here him laughing hysterically.  He was amazed at how I had taken my sales training so literally and continued to stick with it even after Gary said the meeting was over.

What I learned that day proved to be invaluable.  I have been through several sales trainings, read several books and even developed my own way of doing things, but I always tell anyone I work with, that you can’t take sales training to literal.  There are going to be bits and pieces that stick and others that might not fit with the natural order of the person using the training, or the environment in which you sell.  We all have our own personalities and we have to take away what best fits our situations from everything we learn and then apply it.  I realized that I couldn’t take everything from Sandler literal and at some point, had to answer a question.  Today, I still use reversing, even negative reversing, but typically in context with the flow of the conversation.

I was right about one thing however.  To this day, I’m not sure if Gary has ever met a salesman quite like me….. (face to palm)

Don’t just be a sales professional.  Be a professional at sales!


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