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AGT and Associates Inc. | Monmouth Junction, NJ

You may have heard of the popular Sandler selling rule known as “reversing” and wondered what it was all about. No, it has nothing to do with backing your car up. Reversing simply means you answer every question from a prospective buyer with a question of your own.

For a lot of salespeople, this can be a difficult rule to follow, at least at first. Why? Because salespeople are like everyone else. We are all taught from childhood to answer questions we hear from authority figures, and to answer them quickly. And think about it. When you were in school, didn’t you feel good about yourself if you could answer a teacher’s questions before another student in class could?

That was then. This is now.

Once you become a professional salesperson, you need to be a little more careful. That’s why Sandler suggests that when a prospect asks you a question, you should know what the intent is before you try to answer.

For instance: Someone who asks you whether you can guarantee delivery within the next 30 days may be asking for any number of different reasons. Is there a particular event on the calendar mandating that the delivery has to happen within that timeframe? If so, what is it? Has a competitor promised a 30-day delivery standard as the normal turnaround time, and you have to meet or exceed that in order to be considered as a vendor? Or is a key person about to leave the organization a month from now, meaning that the purchasing process will begin all over from scratch with someone new? All of these are possibilities -- and there dozens more. You won’t know what intent lies behind the question unless you say something like, “That’s obviously an important issue. I’m just curious -- why do you ask?”

When a prospect asks you a question, set aside the urge to respond quickly. Instead, pose a question of your own that will help you to get a clearer fix on the motive that is driving the person who’s talking to you. It’s very rare for prospects to ask a question without some unspoken purpose. Usually, there is some other, deeper question lurking beneath the surface of the one you’ve heard. If you aren’t certain about what that underlying question is, then you need to reverse the direction of the conversation, push back a little bit, and ask a question of your own.

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