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Sales Meeting Minute

Are you asking the right questions?

Have you ever had this happen to you?

You are in the middle of your second or third good discussion with a prospect and everything seems to be going great. The prospect seems engaged and happy to work with you. 

Then prospect poses an innocent sounding question, "So, how big is your company?"

Without hesitation, you answer that question. You recite, more or less verbatim, the standard reply you were trained to recite when people ask you about the size of your company. The answer laid out for you in your orientation workshops, promotion materials, and brochures: 500 employees, one headquarters location, three regional offices, and six assembly facilities in three states. 

The prospect nods and the conversation continues.

Although there are plenty of smiles, pleasantries, and earnest promises to be in touch as you wrap up your meeting, the oddest thing takes place once you leave the building... All forward motion stops. 

The prospect no longer returns your calls. Your emails receive ambiguous replies and weeks pass by. You're off the prospect's radar screen. You find that no one else in the company seems willing to acknowledge your attempts to reach out. It's like the prospect has ordered everyone in the enterprise to deny your company's existence.

What happened?!? You answered all the prospect's questions!

David Sandler advises that you should only answer your prospects' questions if doing so can help you... or at least it can't hurt you.

Since prospects tend to "smokescreen" their questions - meaning that they tend to ask questions whose true purposes aren't likely to be clear to you at first - you must make sure, first and foremost, that you're answering the real question.

Guess what? When that prospect so innocently asked, "How big is your company?" the real question was: "Will you be able to handle an 11-state distribution schedule?"

As it happens, you can handle an 11-state distribution schedule. But the answer your company taught you to repeat only mentions three states. And that was enough (non)information for this prospect to tune you out... without telling you why. 

In most cases, and especially in the early going, you have to assume that every question you hear from a prospect is a smokescreen question. 

So the question, "How soon can you get shipment to us?" may mean, "Can you get shipment to us by 10:30 Thursday morning?" The question, "How strict are you with quantity discounts?" may mean, "Can I take advantage of the quantity discount and arrange for a 14-day split-shipment?"

If you make a habit of answering the first question you hear, you'll never understand the real question!

You must discover why the prospect asked you the question you just heard. You must identify the underlying intent. 

Intent: The importance and true relevance of the question to the topic of discussion.

If you don't know the intent you cannot respond intelligently. 

How do you identify the intent? By Reversing. 

Reversing is the strategy of responding to your prospect's questions and statements with a question. It puts the verbal ball back in the prospect's court. 

Reversing prevents you from attempting to mind-read. It adds clarity and completeness to the prospect's smokescreen questions and statements. It helps you uncover the underlying intent of those questions and statements. 

Some reversing questions include:

  • Why do you ask?
  • Why is that important?
  • What are you hoping I'll tell you?
  • Why did you bring that up just now?
  • What are you really asking?
  • What are you really saying?

Reversing must be done with caution. Firing back with questions in response to the prospect's questions may sound harsh. So in most cases, you will want to precede your questions with softening statements. 

  • That's a good question. And you're asking me that because...?
  • I'm glad you asked me that. What are you hoping I'll tell you?
  • Many people ask me that. And that's important to you because...?
  • That's an interesting question. Why do you ask? (What brought that up?)
  • Good point. And you brought that up now because...?
  • I appreciate you sharing that. I can't help wondering, what are you really saying?

Often it takes three or more reverses to get the prospect's real question. 

In this case, if you had asked effective Reversing questions, you could have gotten to the prospect's true question and confirmed that an 11-state roll-out was no problem. 

And you would still be in the game. 


Copyright 2015 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit


Don't tolerate weak links

When business is slow, weak sales reps can be more easily exposed. But if your company is doing well presently, you may have salespeople who appear to be stronger than they really are. No matter how well your team performs as a whole, it’s important to be able to find the team’s weak links to strengthen them. A few factors to consider when looking to decipher whether or not your sales force is full of weeds:

  1. They rely heavily on call-in business, or leads from marketing.
  2. They always have full pipelines and fail to actually close any of those deals.
  3. They spend more time calling current accounts than they do calling on new prospects.
  4. They need to offer discounts to close deals.
  5. They need to bring someone else from the sales team in on “big opportunities” to help close the sale.
  6. They view coaching as criticism.
  7. They continue to require coaching on the same sales issues again and again.
  8. They do a lot of networking and have very little to show for it.
  9. They rarely call on accounts your competitors have locked up.
  10. They always have an external reason why business didn’t close, rather than taking responsibility and looking to grow from failure.

Many companies fall into the bad habit of justifying poor results from bad sales reps, rather than doing something about it. Whether it’s the sunk cost already invested in them, or not wanting to go through the hiring process again, or believing they are the only ones who could “handle” the accounts they have, a lot of businesses make the mistake of holding onto weak reps.

Think of it this way: if you took away the book of business from one of your reps and dropped him or her in a new territory with little to no marketing would they succeed? If your answer is yes, you most likely don’t have challenges with any of these 10 factors. If not, though, the challenges above will ring true. And if so, it may be time to weed your garden and plant a stronger seed with better genetics. If you do this, your harvest will be plentiful on a consistent basis.


Copyright 2014 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit

Service fit makes happy employees

Finding the right employees for the front lines of your company is key to developing a great service attitude within your company. It is just as important as hiring the right accountant, manager, salesperson or CEO. In fact, it may be more important, as customer-facing employees have the power to directly affect your top line revenue.

Too often employers give little thought to the kind of employee who will be the best fit in their customer service department. They hire ‘nice’ people or people who talk easily with clients. There are actually four kinds of customer service jobs and countless environments that tweak the kind of person that will fit well into an organization and, although an employee may perform well in one service situation, they may not be able to make the move easily to another.

Finding the right customer service employee is a matter of process – from understanding the role, to assessing candidates to fit that role, interviewing to uncover strengths and weaknesses and managing to grow an employee’s competencies. A good fit makes for a comfortable and profitable working environment for both employee and employer.


Copyright 2014 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit

Is this service?

Recently, I came across a letter of complaint to the head of a huge international furniture organization from a dad buying his daughter a bed. He had ordered over the internet, followed instructions and the wrong parts had been delivered. When he called the ‘helpline’, a recording told him there would be a two-hour wait and he should try the ‘live chat’ on their website to solve his problem. On the website he got an automated voice that informed him it would be faster if he called the ‘helpline’. This went on for many months and now, six months later, he still doesn’t have his daughter’s bed and he is caught in customer care hell.

So many organizations spend millions on advertising, only to lose customers in the execution of the sale. Is a two-hour wait time on hold reasonable? How about inviting people to a ‘live chat’ that is actually automated and difficult to navigate? It’s obvious that people want to connect with a live person who can quickly and directly solve their problems.

Unfortunately, the man’s letter ended the way many complaints do: With a frustrated, "I will never do business with your company again!"

If it isn’t easy for people to deal with your company, they won’t. They’ll find another place to do business and post their dissatisfaction over the internet for thousands to read. Bad customer service catches up with everyone eventually.


Copyright 2014 Sandler Training and Insight Sales Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

John Glennon is the owner of Insight Sales Consulting Inc, the authorized Sandler Training Licensee for the Interior of British Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected], toll free at 1-866-645-2047 or visit

Read more Sales Meeting Minute articles

About the Author

John Glennon is an authorized licensee of Sandler TrainingSM in the Interior of British Columbia.

John is an accomplished sales person and manager with over 17 years sales and sales management experience. Beginning in sales in 1990 as a sales representative, he progressed to territory manager, sales manager, division manager and national sales and marketing manager roles throughout his career.

In 1997, John became a student of the Sandler Selling System. This introduction changed his sales career and over time propelled John and his career to new heights.

Successful in accelerating growth through strategic leadership, John knows firsthand the value of a sales training approach that follows a learning philosophy of ongoing reinforcement. He is experienced in driving the behaviours, attitudes and techniques required of an effective sales team.

Sandler Training is offered on a regular basis from their Kelowna, BC training center and through innovative distance learning programs to the rest of the BC Interior.

[email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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