Interview with CEO of Sandler Sales Training

Dave Mattson is the CEO sales trianing company Sandler Systems, Inc. which is a leader in international sales training and sales consulting.

Dave first met David H. Sandler, the founder of Sandler Training, in 1986. He fell in love with the training material and methodologies right away and began working for Mr. Sandler in 1988. In his various training sessions and seminars since then, Dave noticed that when he says to the class, “Here’s a Sandler Rule,” students and participants listen with rapt attention.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dave on a variety of inside sales topics, including what sets the Sandler System apart, the evolution of sales management and key inside sales trends for 2013.

How would you summarize Sandler’s methodology for high-tech sales?

The Sandler methodology reflects a conversational sales mode, with a “pull” process instead of a “push” process. Most salespeople throw a great deal of product knowledge at their potential customers, while the Sandler Methodology focuses on pulling people in, using their knowledge of the product throughout the buying process.

The Sandler Methodology also gives salespeople the ability to receive a “No” when and if there is no clear ROI – if the numbers don’t add up, then it’s okay to accept that there is no fit. Finally, the Sandler Methodology stresses the importance of knowing exactly where you are in the sales process at all times and what you need to do to get to the next stage.

Why is Sandler different?

The Sandler Methodology combines three aspects – tactical and strategic components overlaid with consistent sales management. Other selling methods do not; they provide great strategy, but don’t teach you how to obtain the necessary information.

Sandler understands the high-tech market and knows how easy it is to fall into the trap of following up on leads that are not qualified. Sometimes with high-tech opportunities, the proof of concept comes too early. The Sandler Method trains students to qualify prospects correctly so that the proof of concept is the icing on the cake, and not the beginning of the conversation.

How do you explain the Sandler Submarine? How are its stages in a sales cycle different from other traditional stage taxonomies, such as Prospecting – Discovery – Qualifying – Validating – Closing?

The Sandler Submarine is different because the system combines the “What” and the “How” to provide a clearer roadmap for the salesperson. Developing rapport and making up-front contacts are important, as long as the fulfillment phase is at the back end of the sales process. Other systems have that step too soon in the process.



The Sandler System is very analytical and quickly proves that if you focus on the front end, the back end will work itself out. While it does provide a GPS on how to conduct a call, the Sandler System is NOT script-based.  A lot of systems teach scripts that sound great, but Sandler teaches a salesperson how to think and become self-sufficient.

Sandler has a great reputation for training reps. What about its sales management training – what is it like? What is the methodology? How is training sales managers different from training reps?

Sales Management training courses are a critical support for Sales Training. You need to train managers to speak a common language across the sales force. If sales reps are trained on one system and managers are trained on another, there could be a disconnect and the systems won’t work.

You have to teach sales managers how to be sales managers. Most sales managers were successful sales reps who were promoted but never received formal training in sales management. They have to be trained to:

– Increase personal productivity – what are the skills necessary to improve this

– Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their sales team

– Identify hire and onboard new sales reps

How do you define what “sales management” is in the context of managing inside sales?

Sales management is the business of people development. The objective – to make your sales team self-sufficient – can be accomplished by following these four steps:

1) Create the roadmap you want your team to follow.

2) Understand the skills and experiences needed to navigate that roadmap.

3) Clearly communicate these skills and experiences.

4) Coach and train your reps to succeed based upon this roadmap.

What are the keys to be a highly successful sales manager?

  • Be accountable.

  • Don’t have an ego.

  • Focus on your people.

  • Be a great communicator.

  • Give your reps permission to fail so they always tell you the truth.

  • Create a cookbook – a list of activities and behaviors that you should do every day and every week to be successful.

What do you view as a challenge to becoming a highly successful sales manager?

The challenge is that there is no formal on-boarding process for sales managers and often no clear expectations for performance, other than they want revenue. But there is so much more to the job: coaching, recruiting, development, etc. There is also a growing need to be more analytical and data-driven. Without the numbers, you are flying blind.

How do you recommend coaching new inside sales reps after they’ve gone through Sandler training?

Hold expectations meetings with goals in mind before the training – what are the basics you want your reps to learn. Going in with goals will help make reps more productive.

After they return from the training, sit down with your reps and ask about the top things that they got took away from the program. Sales managers should understand that this is the beginning of the journey and they should engage in role-play using the concepts that were taught to reinforce them. Sales managers should make the rep take the next step from knowing the concepts to owning them.

What do you see as a trend for sales training in 2013?

More and more companies are seeking sales certification to track the progression of their employees and create accountability. In 2009, many companies destroyed their bench, and those companies now need to restart and increase the “movable middle” 60% [of reps] to hit their numbers.

Reinforcement will also rise as a trend in 2013. One-day seminars will not create sustainable change, so the teachings at these seminars have to be reinforced regularly, not just with reps but also with managers. Look for the ROI in sales training.

Finally, data-driven sales management and sales reps will be one of the biggest trends. Everyone wants to benchmark success for individuals and for the company as a whole. Companies want to see the numbers, track them, move the dial and hold employees accountable. Sales is a science and not an art form, and you can dial up results if you analyze more.

Do you train reps and managers to be data-driven and analytical? In today’s Sales 2.0 and Inside Sales world, it’s all about running business by the numbers. Does your training allocate a portion of time in the session to the “numbers” discussion and how reps can use data to improve their performance?

Our training sessions include an entire section on the analyticals you should be tracking and monitoring daily as well as a whole section on knowing your numbers. Without numbers, you’re flying an airplane without reading the dials. Sales managers need to look at the numbers. It’s not black magic, it’s a science! Reps should measure themselves and know their own numbers in order to improve themselves.

More about Dave Mattson

Dave Mattson is the CEO of Sandler Systems, Inc., an international training and consulting organization headquartered in the United States. Since 1986, he has been a trainer and business consultant for management, sales, interpersonal communication, corporate team building and strategic planning throughout the United States and Europe. Clients often describe his creative enthusiasm, problem-solving and curriculum design as particular strengths that he uses to increase their company’s’ productivity and efficiency.

Connect with Dave on LinkedIn