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Don't Spill Your Candy in the Lobby!


One of David Sandler’s critical selling rules – “Don’t spill your candy in the lobby” – can sound a little confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with the Sandler Selling System® methodology. What does a spilled box of candy have to do with a sales call? Everything.

You’re a salesperson. When you go on a sales call, you're a little like a moviegoer in the theater lobby, clutching a big box of candy. Of course, you want to take your box of candy in with you, so you can enjoy it during the picture.

Your box of candy is your knowledge, your expertise. And here’s the point: too many salespeople are way too anxious to open -- and spill -- their candy all over the floor of the lobby, before they even get into the theater!

When you first meet with a prospect, and that prospect shares a concern that might be able to be addressed by your product or service, what is your first instinct? Well, if you immediately launch into presentation mode, highlighting your features and benefits … if you stop asking questions and start talking about how great your stuff works … if you throw in a third-party testimonial or two for good measure … guess what? That’s the sound of your candy spilling all over the floor of the theater lobby.

While there is a time and place for you to share your candy, that time is during a formal presentation. And you’re only going to get there if you and the prospect have worked together to a) fully understand all the issues that need to be resolved, b) identify the budget, and c) get a crystal-clear picture of the decision-making process.

You’re not there yet! In the initial phase of the sales call, the best course of action is to leave the candy in the box. Your task is to fully understand the prospect's situation. Make sure that you uncover all the prospect's issues, figure out the budget, and clarify the decision-making process before you make your presentation. Ask questions that uncover the problems that need to be addressed and the goals that need to be achieved. First and foremost, figure out for yourself whether your products and/or services really will address the issues, solve the problems, and help the prospect. (They may not!)

If you're routinely data-dumping – and yes, that includes sending people spec sheets, pricing lists, and promotional information instead of having a one-on-one conversation – you should be aware that you’re doing all that at the expense of truly understanding the prospect's buying motives. Don’t do what most salespeople do. Don’t make a habit of spilling your candy in the lobby. Wait for the movie to start!

Ask yourself: If they already have your information, if they already have your pricing, do they ever really need to talk to you again? What’s to stop them from taking your information and shopping your competitors? What would you do in that situation if you were the prospect? Be honest. You’d shop around, wouldn’t you?

Your job as a professional salesperson is to get enough hard facts to understand this opportunity fully. If you get far enough through the development cycle to make a presentation, then you can open your box of candy. Yes, you can and should help the prospect … but the best way to help them early in the game is to ask them questions, talk as little as possible, and get them to talk as much as possible. Your task is to gather information, not dispense it.

Save the candy for the show!

Brett Baker

Brett Baker

TrustPoint offers sales, management and customer service training to companies and individuals focusing on the personal development of each client. We work with company owners and leaders to build a culture of communication and trust. TrustPoint has carved a coaching niche by teaching the Sandler process to professionals who have the desire to put the pressure on the process, not on the individual. Our mission is simple: Grow and coach professionals to become better versions of themselves. Our specialties include: Define and develop sales cultures, sales force development, business development, management consulting, strength and weakness assessments through Divine Inventory and Extended DISC.