The Reverse Sell, Per David Sandler

Andrew Neitlich
Andrew Neitlich

A good intro book to sales is David Sandler’s, You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bicycle at a Seminar. Sandler launched a franchise system that teaches people to sell. It’s a very expensive system, but many professionals say good things about it. Personally, I found it a bit “salesy” when I took it, and not as geared to building professional relationships as I would have liked. It was better for product sales or one-time sales, in my judgment.

However, the system includes some terrific ideas that make sales easier. One of them, which may come across as a bit gimmicky when you read it in his book, focuses on what he calls the reverse sell. The reverse sell is all about stepping back and not being too anxious to sell your services. At its best, it even means encouraging the prospect NOT to buy. For instance, “Well, it sounds like you aren’t interested in moving forward with me…”

I’ve found that this reverse sell works excellently when it happens naturally (not as a gimmick or technique). It lets the prospect believe they are in the driver’s seat, and also sets you up to be on equal footing with them (because you don’t need the work, although you are happy to have it).

On Friday, a long-time client called to ask me to do some work for them. The work is not particularly compelling to me, nor did I find it to be worth it for the client to pay my fees for the service.

I told them that I didn’t want to do the work, and that there’s no way they could get the kind of value I want to provide at the fees I’d need to charge.

Guess what happened?

They tried to sell ME on working for them. They asked me what it would take to get me to give them a few days of my time (and travel, which I hate to do). They proposed ways to make the work more interesting for me, and more valuable for them.

So by the end of the call, I had a proposal going for 3 (three!) times the price initially on the table, and much more interesting work.

I don’t necessarily advise that you make this kind of approach part of your “technique.” You should read Sandler’s book if you want to learn more about doing that. Sometimes I say something like “I can’t tell if you are interested in moving forward or not” or “You don’t seem to be serious about spending money to solve your problem” to test how serious the prospect really is.

But in general those types of statements work best when I really feel that way, can say them authentically without feeling like I’m acting, and have a really solid relationship already in place.

Anyway, the reverse sell can be a valuable strategy to use when the timing is right and the relationship is solid.