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How to Master Negative Reverse Sell


Ever been in a conversation with someone and you really weren’t sure if they wanted to do something they just said? Or, have they said something and you needed deeper clarification but didn’t know how to ask? How about when someone says they liked something about your product or service (or about you) and you didn’t dive deeper with a question, and they stayed using the same old product or service? Happens all the time doesn’t it? Maybe not for you, but for many salespeople who get caught with “happy ears” - the dilemma where we hear something to our favor or liking and we take what the prospect says at face value. Later we find no change was made and no sale was established.

Want to change and have a better outcome? Really? Will you do something out of your comfort zone? Even if it means you might not hear what you’re hoping? The beauty about Sandler and the principles is they are based on being authentic and getting to the real truth, but it is risky. Meaning you may hear NO, and you have to be OK with this. Would you rather hear some variation of think it over? If you’re honest with yourself, I don’t think so. I like simplicity with this in mind and David Sandler taught us three universal selling truths and rules to follow. They are- there are three types of prospects: positive, neutral and negative. The following rules apply:

  1. When you have a positive prospect stripline easy (lesson coming).
  2. When you have a neutral prospect you must get them moving (don’t sell them).
  3. When you have a negative prospect stripline hard.

This is easier said than done. Another great Sandler rule is “I must be one step behind the prospect at all times.” So here’s the lesson, stripline (or one step behind the prospect) means I want to reduce slack and pressure from the prospect. I’m not trying to sell the prospect. I want them to sell and convince themselves to buy. People buy for their own reasons not because of a salesperson’s convincing presentation or features and benefits of what they sell.

So how do I apply? Let’s take each one as an example.

Positive prospect: “hey I like the fact that your paint lasts longer.”

Your response could be “I appreciate that but it will be more expensive. Not sure if you’re willing to pay more.” Wow, that gets to the truth quick (neutral with no emotion)! Prospect: “you know, I’d like to think this over.”

Your response: “fair enough, you know when most people tell me they want to think it over, it’s usually NO, but they want to be nice to me. That’s not the case here is it?” Again, you are not selling or convincing. Stay one step behind them and yes a little more negative than they are!

Negative prospect: ”you know I’m really happy with our present provider and I don’t see us changing.”

Your response: “I thank you for your honesty, sounds like I should give up and never call you again as I’m hearing you’ll probably never change. Is that right?”

Prospects don’t like absolutes like never and what will probably happen is that the prospect will redefine their question or statement. This helps you gain leverage with perhaps another question. Think about it, how many salespeople give up when they hear these types of questions?

Last point: to me stripline is a method that I, as the salesperson, can validate the following:

  1. What the prospect really wants to do
  2. What the prospect liked
  3. Redefine a statement for better understanding.

After all, isn’t sales about gaining trust and learning how to get to the real issues? Once you both know the real issues, isn’t our job then to help the prospect make a decision, even if it’s a NO?

Good Selling,

Jim Dunn

Sandler Trainer

Jim Dunn

Jim Dunn

Jim Dunn has been a regional franchise owner of Sandler Training since 1992. Dunn Enterprises' Mission is to help people and companies realize their full potential and to train and coach business professionals who believe in growth achieved through on-going reinforcement.