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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH


“What’s the first piece of advice that’s given to every child by its mother?” asked Steve, the sales trainer.

After a few moments of silence, someone from the back of the room yelled out, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

“That’s right,” responded Steve.  “And what did Mom teach you to do when you meet someone for the first time?”

The same voice yelled out, “Be polite, introduce yourself and don’t ask a lot of questions.”

“Now think about this,” said Steve, “every one of you was taught to not talk to strangers, and if for some strange reason you did, you had to give your name and not ask questions.”

Steve looked around the room and went on.  “I’ve got to ask you something . . . seriously . . . was Mom in sales?”  Pausing for a few moments, he could see some smiles of recognition.

“What’s the first thing a salesperson has to do?  Talk to strangers.  So right off, you’re in trouble with Mom.  So how do 90% of the salespeople make up for ignoring Mom’s first rule?  They don’t ask any questions of the stranger, and they hold a one-sided lecture.  They bore the prospect to death and occasionally make a sale.  What about the other 10% of the salespeople?  Well, not only do they talk to strangers, they also ignore what Mom said about asking questions.”

“Now here’s the dilemma.  Those 10% that ignore what Mom said make 90% of the sales.  So, do you make money or pay attention to Mom?”


Mom’s not to blame for whether salespeople are successful or not.  The success or failure of a salesperson depends on how well a salesperson can change his behavior in a sales situation.  Recognizing situations that automatically make a person react in a certain way is the first step to becoming a consistently successful sales professional.


Any psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you that the first five or six years of a child’s life are the most formative.  During this time, Mom and, to a lesser extent, Dad lay down all sorts of rules to follow.  Not talking to strangers is Rule Number One.  In fact, you see this rule being advertised on afternoon kids’ TV.  If a stranger approaches you, don’t talk to him.  Leave.

Not only did salespeople learn not to talk to strangers at a young age, so did every prospect you will ever approach.  Nobody is raised with the rule, “Talk to every stranger you meet.”  So what is the result?

Salespeople have this conflict in their heads about needing to talk to strangers to make money and, at the same time, remembering what Mom said.  Prospects are in the same situation.  They may need what you are selling, but they were also trained not to talk to strangers.

So how do you both deal with the conflict you both have?  By getting it out of the way right from the start.


One method that you can try, if you are bold enough, is walk up to a prospect and say, “When I was little, Mom told me never to talk to strangers, is there any way we could get around that?”

If you can mentally get past the look you’ll receive, put out your hand.  Nine times out of ten you’ll get a handshake, and the person will introduce himself.

Then go right ahead and ask, “The other rule she raised me with is never ask questions of someone I just met . . . would you mind if I ignored that one?”

Again, if you can deal with the look you’ll get, the person will say, “It’s OK -- go ahead, ask.”

Then respond with, “Whatever brought you in here?”

Granted, this approach doesn’t play at all when you keep an appointment to see someone.  But it does work amazingly well when you call to make an appointment.


Spending your time talking to strangers and asking them questions is what sales is all about.

©1992, 2007 Sandler Systems, Inc and TEM Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.  S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Professionals are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.

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