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You stood in line for twenty-five minutes to buy your ticket. You spent another eight minutes in line at the candy counter. Finally, with two minutes to spare, clutching your $4 box of candy, which you just couldn't wait to open, disaster struck. You headed for the theater doors all ready to find a good seat and munch your way through the movie - but not three feet from the door, you stumbled on a ripple in the carpet. As you lurched forward so did the contents of your candy box. Now you are recovering, as gracefully as possible, from your fall. You make your way to a seat and settle in. But, with most of your candy on the floor out in the lobby, the movie experience just won't be the same. If you had only waited a few more minutes before opening that box!

What does a spilled box of candy have to do with sales? Everything! When you go on a sales call, you bring with you a "box of candy." Your box of candy is your knowledge and expertise. Many salespeople are eager to open the box as soon as possible and let all the candy spill out. As soon as the prospect expresses a concern that can be addressed by the salesperson's product or service, the salesperson moves into presentation mode, highlighting key features and benefits, and even including a third-party testimonial or two for good measure. "Candy," "candy," and more "candy!" There's a time for all that "candy," of course: during a formal presentation, demonstration, or proposal review. And even then, you only want to focus on the elements that specifically pertain to issues and concerns you and our prospect have previously identified - together.

Keep the "Candy" in the Box

During the initial phase of a sales call - the fact-finding phase - the "candy" must remain in the box. Your task now is to ask questions and gather the information you need to fully understand the prospect's situation. Your task is to take notes on the problems to be solved or goals to be achieved. Your task is to determine if your product or service is truly a best fit for the situation. Your task is not to dump "candy" on the floor! That leads, all too often, to an unfortunate state of affairs: You tell the prospect all about your products and services. After the sales call, you walk out bewildered: "Why didn't I get an order? I told them every reason why they should buy - but nothing happened!"

If you're routinely dropping off information, proposals, and marketing materials without really understanding your customer's buying motives - you are making a habit out of spilling your candy in the lobby. Ask yourself: Once they have your information and pricing, do they really need you anymore? Your prospects wouldn't shop your information to your competitors - would they? Instead, gather enough facts to qualify the opportunity fully. If you get far enough along in the development cycle to make a presentation, then you can open the candy box. Yes - you can and should help the prospect. The best way to help early on in the game, however, is by asking questions. Say as little as possible and get the prospect to talk as much as possible. Your job is to get information not give it. Save your goodies for later.

Excerpted from: The Sandler Rules by Dave Mattson


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