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What to do When Your Prospect’s Priorities, Budget or Timeline Changes – Sandler Training

Sandler Training



Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada

Creating accountable, sales focused organizations in Calgary



David Sandler said, “the sale is closed when the cheque is in the bank and the cheque clears.”

Salespeople (myself included) have an unfortunate tendency to presume a close, especially after a “good” meeting with a prospect.

Attitudes shift from emotionally unattached scientist to “this proposal is a formality. I’ll draft up an agreement for our meeting as well so we don’t slow this deal with paperwork.”

Then, when we return to our prospect, proposal in hand, we are shocked (shocked!) that our prospect’s priorities, budget or timelines changed since our last meeting. What we forget is that, while this prospect may be (one of) the most important parts of our world we aren’t one of the most important parts of theirs. They have 1,000 other competing demands on their mental and emotional energy.

To support your salespeople in reducing (preferably eliminating) the number of original proposals they deliver to prospects with changes coach them on the following attitudes, behaviors and techniques.

Attitudes (Mindsets)

  • Their current proposal is irrelevant  when their prospect’s circumstances change, your salespeople will fall into the “sunk cost fallacy” with their proposals. That prompts them to deliver what is now irrelevant information to their prospect, who will gladly accept the free consulting.
  • Be emotionally unattached from the outcome  sales is tough enough without it being a place for your salespeople to get their emotional needs met. It’s easier to be emotionally unattached when your salesperson’s opportunity report looks like a funnel instead of a pencil.
  • You can’t lose anything you don’t have  a core Sandler Rule that many of my clients post in their offices. Until your prospect puts money in your bank account your salesperson has nothing. Having this mindset locked in prior to meeting with a prospect will enable your salespeople to stay present and emotionally unattached so they can execute the following behaviors and techniques.


  • Maintain rapport  real prospects don’t change their circumstances because they want to see a salesperson dance. They are likely just as frustrated as you are so coach your salespeople on empathizing with your prospect while maintaining Equal Business Stature
  • Back up  what was the truth at their last meeting is no longer the truth. Coach your salespeople on going back to the beginning of your sales system when circumstances change with their prospect. Some of your salespeople will be frustrated at “starting over,” but it’s better to start over and re-qualify/disqualify than quote and hope.
  • Co-build a new solution – their prospect has already given them time to meet so coach your salespeople to co-build new solutions with their prospect using the new circumstances. Their prospect’s will have greater ownership of the proposal, which doesn’t mean they will give your salesperson their business 100% of the time, and your salesperson will have built greater rapport and credibility with their prospect.


  • Up Front Contract – the Step in the Sandler Selling System that addresses the purpose, agenda and outcomes of an interaction. Role play with your salespeople so they are comfortable using the Up Front Contract to step back are reset expectations for the “presentation” (e.g. “Prospect, thanks for sharing that your timelines have changed. Are you okay if we step back and make sure we’re on the same page? I’d hate to waste your time delivering a proposal that wasn’t relevant to your new situation.”)
  • Rule of 3 Plus – David Sandler said, “it typically takes three or more questions to get to the truth.” Because your prospect is likely just as frustrated as you about the change(s) in their situation they are likely feeling a little embarrassed and won’t be immediately forthcoming with the truth behind their new situation. Coach your salespeople to ask clarifying questions instead of making assumptions about a prospect’s answers (e.g. “we need to get going soon.” “’Soon’ must mean ‘immediately.’ I’d better alert Ops.”) or expecting that they can ask a magic “silver bullet” question that will cause their prospect to immediately share what’s changed and how that will affect your salesperson’s chances of earning that prospect’s business.
  • Third party stories – telling stories takes pressure of your salesperson and their prospect while creating an opportunity for your salesperson to get to the truth with their prospect. Create a playbook of stories for your salespeople to practice and include in their pre-call plans so when they need to tell a story it sounds conversational.

Amateur salespeople take the pressure of the changes to their prospect’s situation on them and say or do things not in their best interest (e.g. offering a discount when none was requested) because they’re emotionally attached to the sale.

Even when your salespeople become experts are having the attitudes, doing the behaviors and executing the techniques described in this article they still won’t get a cheque 100% of the time, but when they don’t they can say that they were beaten instead of that they lost.

Until next time… go lead.


Upcoming Workshop:

Revised & Updated Cold Call Bootcamp

An interactive sales workshop designed to produce results, learn effective cold calling techniques, and overcome call reluctance.

Thursday March 1, 2018 from 8.30AM-3.00PM

Click to register online or register by phone on 403-457-1507.

Most sales people hate making cold calls for one of two reasons: They don’t have a system, or the system they have doesn’t work. If this sounds like you or your team, this boot camp may be for you.

Are you…

  • Anxious about making Cold Calls?
  • Tired of not getting past the Gate Keeper?
  • Sick of hearing “Email me some info”?
  • Struggling to hit your numbers?
  • Frustrated because you don’t have enough appointments in your calendar?
  • Irritated because you keep getting stuck in voice mail?

You’ll leave with the tools to…

  • Make a no-pressure prospecting call
  • Ensure you maintain control during the call
  • Develop a customized approach, geared to your business
  • Know when and how to leave voice mails
  • Understand how to eliminate stalls and objections

Click to register online or call (403) 457-1507 to register by phone.

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