On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, we’re joined by Dave Trapani, the CEO of AGT and Associates, an authorized Sandler Training center. Dave has over 25 years of sales, marketing, and management experience, and helps business owners and leaders gain an edge to move their business development efforts to the next level. He firmly believes that many sales challenges can be fixed by attitude, behavior, and technique, and as a longtime client of Dave’s, I can say firsthand that it works.

“I think the real game-changer is that we do things 180 degrees differently than all other salespeople out there. So most salespeople think we should be headed in a certain direction, or taking certain actions to move a deal forward, but at Sandler, most of the techniques and approaches that we use are actually counterintuitive to what that person thinks they should be doing,” says Dave.

We chat about the Sandler methodology and what makes it unique, as well as:

  • Why the best sales results come from using “the trifecta”
  • The importance of ongoing training
  • Why salespeople are often frightened by new techniques
  • His biggest successes and challenges
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:



Nancy Calabrese: Hi everybody and welcome to Conversational Selling. It’s the podcast where sales leaders, business experts will share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it all starts with the human conversation. I’m your host, Nancy Calabrese, and joining me today is Dave Trapani, CEO of AGT and Associates, an authorized Sandler sales training center. He has over 25 years of sales, marketing and management experience and helps business owners and leaders gain an edge to move their business development efforts to the next level.

His clients come from a range of industries, including professional services, IT, financial services, healthcare and more. Dave firmly believes that many sales challenges can be fixed by attitude, behavior, and technique. And I can speak firsthand, it works. I’ve been a client of Dave’s for many years. My team loves him. He’s a great coach. And Dave, I’m just so excited to have you on the show. Welcome.

David Trapani: Hey, Nancy. Thanks for having me here. And I appreciate being onboard with you.

Nancy: I am totally excited. And, you know, I think it makes sense to just start with what is Sandler Methodology and what makes it so unique?

What’s Unique About the Sandler Methodology?

Dave: Yeah, so I think, you know, the first thing is, when you look at Sandler, it is a methodology. And I know that that may sound pretty, you know, basic. I think most people don’t have a sales process or methodology. So Sandler gives you those steps to follow when you’re working on a piece of business, regardless of size. What makes Sandler unique is really a couple of things. I think one is, we really believe in the process.

So if you’re following that process, there’s no doubt you’re gonna have better results. But I think the real game-changer is we do things 180 degrees different than all other salespeople out there. So most salespeople think we should be headed in a certain direction, take certain actions. This is how you move a deal forward. But at Sandler, most of the techniques and approaches that we use are actually counterintuitive to what a salesperson thinks they should be doing.

Nancy: Well, you know, that’s really intriguing. And, you know, is there any example or can share with the audience about what 180 degrees looks like?

Dave: Yeah, I think one of my favorite examples, and I teach this early on in the training, and I consistently reinforce it, is we will tell prospects early on in the sales process that we can disqualify them. Now, we would say it in a nice way. We might say something like, hey, at the end of our conversation, we could tell you no because we don’t think we can help you with your situation. So the first thing we’re often telling prospects is that we can tell them no. And it blows salespeople’s minds to think that why would you ever put negativity out there to a prospect? And what we’ve found is, again, better positive results by using that approach.

Nancy: Well, it really, it almost puts you in equal stature, right? With the prospect by making a statement like that, giving them the option to also say no thank you. But we also as salespeople have the opportunity to do the same. Wouldn’t you say it gives us equal stature?

Dave: Absolutely and I think it’s a great term. Equal business stature is something that we’re always fighting for in sales. And most salespeople view the prospect as the person asking control, the person that calls the shots. But again, by creating that equal business stature, what we’re trying to do is balance the playing field.

It actually disarms the buyer and makes them feel even a little bit more in control when we’re actually balancing the scale. So it is a real game-changer. What it takes though, is someone that have the guts to go out and try that one or two times to actually see that it does work.

Nancy: Yep. And it does, folks. It definitely does. So, Dave, you and I speak on a regular basis and you often mentioned the word trifecta in conversation. What are you referring to? Tell my audience.

The Trifecta

Dave: Yeah. You know, sales training is a challenging world, because it’s one of the, it’s probably the number one issue for business owners and CEOs. But often, they don’t make a large investment of time and of dollars into training. So training is often, we’re going to read a book, we’re going to attend a class, but what we’ve seen in our results, the best results come from the trifecta. And what’s the trifecta?

If people show up for training on a regular basis, so Nancy, you and your team know you’re showing up every week, for some of our clients it’s every other week, but they’re attending training. The second piece is we do assign reading a book or reading a chapter of a book or listening to a podcast. So I call that part two of the trifecta is do the homework. Go out and practice, do what’s expected of you.

And the third thing is, and I think that this is a game-changer for our business here, we offer all of our clients coaching. There a correlation between the top salespeople who call me for coaching. Our top clients that work with sales results are doing the trifecta. They’re attending the training, they’re doing the homework and doing the practice and they’re calling in for coaching no matter how long they’ve been a client with us.

Nancy: Yep. Yep. And, you know, I love that, what you just said about taking advantage of the coaching, you know, and really making yourself visible to you being the coach and working together with the team. I mean, I’ve seen it even with my team members, the ones that have sought you out individually, tend to be the better performers. You know, kind of in line with what you just said, many companies invest in sales and management training. And that’s a good thing. Many do it for short periods of time, some don’t do it at all. Why is ongoing training so important? What’re the benefits?

The Benefits of an Ongoing Training Process

Dave: Yeah. So tremendous benefits on the backside. You know, there’s data that suggests, and don’t hold me accountable to this, that if you attend, like a one-day training class, after 30 days, you’re only gonna retain about 7%. But when Sandler developed this process and this methodology, and looked at training, he looked at it actually, from the view of how do we educate individuals? How do we educate adults?

And the only way to make significant change in somebody is to consistently reinforce the lessons learned and then add new education to that. And really, the best way to do that is what I call small bite-sized chunks. So as we do with your team, once a week for an hour, or maybe it’s bi-weekly with some of our other clients, small bite-sized chunks so that we can learn the tactic, the behavior or the attitudes, put it into play, and then come back and report on those results and then add another element to it. I think there’s a second piece there that there are belief systems on how to sell. There’s, you know, a ton of books out there.

There’s belief systems on how to sell, but attitudinally, we have to make a shift that we will try it a different way. And the only way to make that change between the ears that I’ll try things that are a little bit different, is to consistently reinforce that message to the brain. It’s hard to break some old habits and some old beliefs and without reinforcement, we pretty quickly will drop that more challenging way of doing something and we’ll default to what’s the easier thing to do. So reinforcement’s key.

Nancy: Yeah, and Dave, you know, people that join my organization have to be open to this kind of sales training. Why do you think salespeople in general have, maybe they’re challenged with new techniques? What is it about a new technique that frightens them away?

Dave: Well, I think if you ask every sale person about their expertise in sales, they are all experts when we know that the data suggests otherwise. So, I think it’s a lot of ego. You know, my ego gets in the way so we’ve got to make that easier for folks. The other thing is, this is difficult. I always use the term that Sandler is not rocket science, but it’s rocket fuel, Easy to understand, hard to execute. So this notion, let’s go back to where we started, the notion of telling a prospect that you can disqualify them during a sales meeting.

When I train that, let’s say there’s 50 people in the room, there are at least 25 to 35 that are going he’s out of his mind because it doesn’t feel good. Now, educationally they understand to do that, but now put them out into the field and that’s a hard tactic to execute. And like most human beings, we default to what’s easy. Nancy you guys do cold calling. How many salespeople should be doing cold calling, but have a hard time picking up the phone? It’s tough

Nancy: Yeah. It is tough stuff. But like, you’ve been talking about, it gets easier and easier over time if you’re committed to practicing it and role-playing it and having documents in place to help. And we know it can be successful. Speaking of success, why don’t you share with the audience a success story in how implementing the Sandler technique has helped an organization?

Dave: Yeah, so, you know, I’ll look at actually an individual sale that took place a couple of years ago because I think it speaks to what we’re doing. We have a client who was working on a significantly large deal into the near $100 million opportunity. And, you know, the folks that were working on the deal are good Sandler are people, they understand the process. But what we did is we partnered with them alongside and navigated each step of the sales process with them. So, you know, meeting one, we followed Sandler Methodology, meeting two, we followed, now, I wasn’t participating, but I was coaching them along.

But at the conclusion of the sale, when they won this piece of business which was significant, what we saw was the execution of the Sandler process in real-time. And, you know, you see that so you see how the methodology plays itself out and that’s an individual piece of business that we’re looking at. That cascades through the sales team. You know, that type of methodology, just everybody goes, Okay, that works.

Let’s all do that. So then we see better results with the sales throughout the sales team. One of the other things that we’re seeing right now is for some of our newer clients who are super open-minded, right now might be a little bit more of a challenging sale time. They are, we’re seeing our newest clients truly adopt the Sandler Methodology and we are just watching their sales click up every month. The last few months we’re seeing 30%, 40%, 30% increase month over month in sales results because of open-mindedness.

Nancy: Awesome. You know, I think you’re beating me to my question. So speaking of the crazy times we’re in right now, I know that you have worked hard at staying in front of your audience. I’m curious to know what’s been your biggest challenge and what’s been your client’s biggest challenge?

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Dave: I think our biggest challenge is making sure we stayed ahead of the curve. I think we’re pretty lucky being part of the Sandler organization. Sandler, right from the get-go, put out kind of a phased approach of we’re going to get ahead of this, we’re going to build programs that are stepped ahead of where our clients are. So I think we’ve done a good job there. But that is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is how do we stay ahead of the curve here. For our clients, what I’m seeing right now is slow sales cycles.

Sales cycles have slowed down so we’ve got to be super diligent, better than we were six months ago, make sure our methodologies are in place. With that slowdown, what I’m also seeing is less meaningful conversations are taking place right now. So for example, because of the challenges we have, more buyers, I think are leaning on that, I won’t say as an excuse because I think that that’s unfair, but as maybe a little bit of a stall.

Hey, based on today’s time, we’re going to have to hold off on this decision. So I think that’s making it much more challenging. So we have, our clients are having more conversations and I think they got to be super prepared to ask better questions and to follow that methodology to try to minimize those stalls that are occurring.

Nancy: Yeah. How does attitude play into what’s going on right now?

Dave: I think right now, that is, especially early on, that was the biggest driver. We’ve had clients who said, hey, look, this is the hand that we were dealt, we’re going to move forward. We’re going to double down on what we’re doing. Training is important. Our prospecting has to get better, our technique has to get better. We’ve called some prospects and we’ve had prospects say to us, how can anybody sell in this environment?

I need to hit the pause button. That is total, now listen, there are some businesses that are going to struggle, there’s no doubt about it. I’m a restaurant, I’m a retail shop. But if that’s my attitude, you are absolutely putting yourself behind the eight ball. So you got to think what can I do to get better to use this time to be the best business, best salesperson, best leader that I can be? And that’s all driven between the ears. Absolutely an attitude driven belief system.

Nancy: Yup. So tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Oftentimes, Salespeople are Oblivious to Their Own Mistakes

Dave: I would go with the idea that salespeople have no idea that they’re making mistakes. I throw out numbers. Now they are more observational. I think that 80 to 85% of salespeople really are not that good. And that’s kind of a high number. Now, there’s some data that might support that. But when I’m talking to a group, or maybe even talking to other people, when you share with a salesperson that they’re doing something wrong or that maybe they could do it this way, I’m often met with well, I’ll keep doing it my way.

My way works just fine, when we know that they’re struggling. So there’s this, you know, there’s this cognitive dissonance, this breakdown on the actual results versus what my belief system is from the salesperson, their head is just in two different spaces. The real versus what their beliefs are.

Nancy: Yeah. Two final questions as we’re wrapping it up. What’s the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with?

Dave: You know, sales training is a tough business. And there’s, Sandler has great techniques, great methodology, but really, what it comes down to is the attitude of the client. So does the client believe that they can get better? So I have no doubt that what we’re going to train is going to work. It’s going to make that sales team, that company better. There’s no, I have no question. The question really should be on the business owner, on the salesperson, do they have the belief in themselves that they can actually execute what we’re teaching here?

Nancy: Yep. And the patience to allow it to happen, correct?

Dave: No immediate results. We’re not going to get immediate results. But if you start to implement what we’re doing, you will see early change, and then dramatic change over time.

Nancy: Yep. So how can my audience find you?

Dave: Easiest way to find me is by emailing me at D Trapani, TRAPANI @sandler.com, or our website is agt.sandler.com.

Nancy: Awesome. And just, you know, and I’m thinking of this right now, the workforce looks different. A lot of us are working remotely. Is virtual training an option that’s been incorporated into your business?

Dave: That’s a great question. So prior to us all moving into a remote workplace, we were running about 65 to 70% virtual. We’ve got some national clients. Now we are 100%, virtual, at least for the time being. That’s how we’re delivering right now. And based on the feedback we’re getting, and some of the results we’re seeing is it’s working. I mean, there was a little bit of fear of how good is virtual, and we’re finding it’s actually, it’s working real well.

Nancy: Yep, yeah. And I want everybody here to know that he is an awesome trainer. If you and your team are committed to grow professionally and sharpen your skills, he’s a great vote to take advantage and email him. Dave, I’m so thankful you came on the show. I can never get enough of this stuff. So happy selling to everyone, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

Dave: Thanks, Nancy. It was great being on.