Ep 30 – Get your Sales a Checklist – Matt Nettleton

Presentation of the episode

On the 30th episode of the Virtual Selling podcast, our guest is Matt Nettleton, Sales Trainer and Coach at Sandler Training DTB.

He tells us why every sales person need a good checklist. Plus, he gives us his best tips on how to make your own.

About Matt Nettleton

To learn more about Matt Nettleton click on the links below :


With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal? We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organization’s KPIs. Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast we address these issues in depth twice a week with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablements of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared.
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Hi, everybody. I’m very happy to be with Matt Nettleton who is president of DTB training, which is a similar licensee. Hi, how you are you doing Matt?

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I’m good. How are you?

Fine. Thank you. Can you told us a little bit about what you do and also about Sandler?

Yeah. So since 2003, I’ve been a sales and a sales management trainer. With Sandler, we’re the largest sales training organization in the world. We help people identify and engage and advance their best prospects, you know. And that requires preparation and planning and training. We work with local market companies, you know, small, independent business people, all the way up to the world’s largest companies like Salesforce and Microsoft and all the tech giants.

So great.

In my business, I’ve worked in about 175 different industries over the years.

Wow. That’s make almost all the industry in the US.

Well, it always [00:02:00] amazes me. I think I’ve done it all. And then I get a phone call and somebody says : « Hey, could you help me with this ? » And I’m like : « I never thought of that. »

And what is the last surprise you have ?

One of my favorites last surprise was a company that does parking lot striping for property management. So the office building all the stripes in the parking lot, their entire business for the last 30 years has been painting stripes and parking lots.

Whoa, that’s a strange job. I agree with you. You learn thing every day.

When we prepare this discussion, I introduced you to Salesdeck and you answered me that in fact salesdeck is not new, and checklist always have existed into sales. It’s part of

what you have taught to your customers since the 2003.

Can you tell us a little bit more about checklist and how is it important to have checklists ?

Right, So listen. Under pressure, we’re all terrible. Under pressure, we all crumble. We don’t come up with good questions. We don’t do the right thing. And so, the real purpose of training is preparation.

I’m a sports guy. I’ve played American football in college, my son played rugby, my daughters played soccer. You know, all these games that we grow up playing require preparation. And then, you know, if this happens, then I do that. Well, at Sandler. Since, as long as Sandler has been around, which is 1967, we’ve had playbooks. And the playbooks are really, you know, they’re nothing but flashcards.

And if this happens, do this, go to this card. And it’s really just preparation and how do you get your mind right. So, rather than thinking on a sales call, you can engage your prospect in a [00:04:00] conversation that is meaningful to you and valuable to them.

Yeah. That, that’s really important that you need to prepare and to know what to do in situation where you, you are intentioned.

Yeah.You have to be prepared to ask questions that are meaningful. You have to be prepared to have an agenda that’s mutually beneficial. You have to be prepared as a salesperson. I believe to be able to say to a prospect : « Hey, you know what?

I appreciate you reached out, but based on our conversation, I don’t think I can help you. » « I don’t think I’m your best resource. » « I don’t think that we’re a fit » And,the trouble is for most sales people, if they don’t prepare, they don’t know what questions to ask. They don’t know when they should say no. They don’t really have an agenda that benefits the buyer.
They just wanna make a sale.

– Yeah, sure.

– And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get our clients to prepare.

And you told me about checklists and the importance of checklists.

Yeah. what I referenced early on, there’s a, there’s a book called the checklist manifesto.
it’s by a guy named Atul Gawande, it’s a great book. And he went around the world and studied why people get sick and die when they’re in hospitals. And he found the number one cause of death, regardless of country, was doctors don’t wash their hands. It wasn’t something advanced or magical. It was just the basics.

Because when doctors get super involved, they get busy, they forget. Well, sales is just like that. You get into a sales call and you forget what you’re trying to do. You forget the fundamentals, you forget the purpose of the call or the questions that you’re supposed to ask or the things that you need to know.

And so a checklist, it’s not something that you can just read and it’s not something that’s static. But it’s a series of cards [00:06:00] and if this happens, go to this card, take this action and see what the other person does. You know, I play a lot of cards, I like to gamble and cards are a great example of making decisions with incomplete information, to the best of your ability.

But to make the best of your ability decisions, you have to prepare and you have to have played out what happens. And it’s another « then » situation. If this happens, then I do this. checklists or a way to formal.

Yeah, I totally agree with you and that is the real philosophy of the product salesdeck that I’m launching. And how do you prepare your checklist ? Or do you create this checklist ? Do you have a format or do you adapt it to your customers ?

So, all of my customers a have a sales process they’re trying to run. In order to be an effective salesperson, you have to know who’s an acceptable prospect, who’s a typical prospect, who’s an ideal prospect. You have to understand what series of events somebody has to go through to buy from you. One of the things that shifted in the world is, you know, there are products that people can buy without ever speaking to a salesperson.

And that universe is expanding. There are more and more things that people can buy without sales, but I don’t really work with those companies. If you can go online and buy something and never talk to anybody, you’re probably not a prospect for me. But there’s a lot of the world that doesn’t buy that way and can’t be sold that way.

When the product is complex, when the product need [00:08:00] to be negotiated.

There’s the negotiation, but there’s also just do people get the right product. You know, in middle of America, we have a lot of farms here. Nothing simpler than put a seed in the ground and grow a plant, eat the plant, put the seed in the ground next year.

But the reality is that’s a super complex business. And you take any crop and the trait that you’re trying to grow in the soil, based on the moisture, that’s expected, you have three variables and all of a sudden, you need a human to be involved in that process. And so, you know, that’s a sale that’s never gonna be : click the button on the internet, buy the product.

That salesperson, they need to have a checklist. They need to know, you know, who am I meeting with ? And what is the size of their farm and what is their soil type ? And what are they trying to grow and what trait’s important based on where we’re at ? And so, I’ve gotta have a checklist of questions and answers and things that I’m looking for.

And so, how do you create this checklist ? Or do you find the question or express the question to have the checklist and then prepare to the objection. Is it by, discussing with top performer by understanding the business and makes them express ? What are the steps to create those playbook ?

So early on it’s, it’s a conversation, we say, if you have an ideal client, what are the steps you go through?

And then once we have that baseline, then we start to AB test. So, what if you did this instead of that, let’s try it for 30 days and see what the results are and pick the better option.

And then what if you did that instead of this, and then, well, let’s try [00:10:00] that for 30 days. Really, a checklist that’s well done or a, a series of cards, whatever technology you use, it doesn’t really matter as much as the mindset of there are things that I can do in common, but not robotically.
Because, if you can do it robotically, if it’s the same every time, well, you don’t need a person to do that true. Right. But the reality is most sales, it is something that takes human interaction. And we’ve gotta be able to frame the problem and frame the question and frame the solution.

We’ve gotta be able to qualify and disqualify. You know, Google only answers the question you ask. Google never says, Hey Matt, that’s a terrible question. Let me tell you why you shouldn’t be asking that, you should be asking this. Just type the question in Google gives you the answer.

It’s not a search engine, it’s an answer engine

Yeah. As a human I’ve gotta be able to say : « hey, maybe you should be asking this question ». Other people who buy this, they’re looking at this, but you haven’t brought that up. And, and those things have to be loaded into my, I refer to them as battle cards.

So, if I’m playing a card, man, this they say this, well, I better ask this question or they want to do this. Well, I better have this agenda ready.

And I can’t do that on the fly. I’m not smart, I guess. But what research has shown us is nobody’s actually that smart. I mean, doctors are pretty much the smartest of all of us and they forget to wash their hands.

Yeah. So it might be best to have a checklist that we can work from that covers. What we want to have happen and what we should do when that doesn’t happen.

And you discussed about AB test, which is very [00:12:00] digital way of comparing, email campaigns and stuff like that. Or do you apply AB test to playbook, checklist, conver sales conversation ?

Well, AB testing is really simple in theory. In practice, it’s tougher. But the reality is, you know, if I’m gonna have a playbook, one of my playbook items might be, you know, I’m going to make calls to strangers. I’m gonna make cold calls. Well, an AB test and cold calling is, you know, 95% of all B2B sales calls go to voicemail.

So in my playbook, I should have a voicemail scripted out. Right? Well, that’s voicemail one. I need to leave that for a week. See how many people call me back then I try voicemail two. Leave that for weeks. True. See how many people call me back, stick to the better one. By the way, most people aren’t gonna call you back on the first voicemail.

So I better have a second set of voicemails. So when I call you the second time I leave a different voicemail. And then I might have a third and each time I’m leaving a voicemail, it has to be relevant and different. And for the love of God, it cannot be seat of the pants, just like I’m gonna make it up as I go.

I wanna have that prepared. And each time I put something in my playbook, I wanna be able to measure the outcome and change to the optimal outcome.

And you do the same with discovery cast question with the real customer meeting and not before the meeting ?

So, I walk into every sales call personally, with the list of 30 questions that I know, over the course of my career, will take 80% of the call and automate it, because 80% of my sales calls are identical.

I believe that’s true of every sales person. And so I have these questions are written down. [00:14:00] I don’t have to think about them. I can just ask them as needed off a list printed and written in front of me. Which allows me to listen to what’s actually said. So I don’t wear myself out trying to think of the next great question.

I’ve already got most of the questions here, but for that 20% that I actually have to think I’ve got all my energy saved up. I haven’t had to think yet. Right.

And, is the AB test this question too ?

I’m on version 17 of my question set to keep track of complete versions.

Okay, great.

And so, or you compare the, because for email or for voicemail is easy to say this one is answering and this one is not answering. But for real question, with real interaction of human being. How do you measure that a question is efficient and that another question is less efficient ?

So it’s not whether it’s efficient or not. It’s whether or not it got me relevant information that allowed me to qualify or disqualify a prospect.

Okay. So, it’s about the information you have collected.


And so the questions that I keep are the questions that generate better conversations, that are more relevant, more meaningful. The questions I get rid of are questions. Or, you know, Hey, it’s a nice question, but it doesn’t really help me understand whether or not I can help this person.

And could you give me an example of good questions and an even better question ?

So, I’ll give you an example of a bad question. And then I’ll give you an example of a question that’s actually turned out surprisingly to be good. So a bad question is : how would you like your sales people to sell, going forward ? What would you like them to do differently? [00:16:00]
It’s a terrible question, right? Doesn’t help buyer to help me. Nobody learns anything. Here’s a question that I stumbled on and it’s turned out to be the best question that I ever asked a business owner : « Would you buy from your sales people ? »

Excellent. And what is the answer ?

It’s amazing because the answer unlocks so many different things. It unlocks whether or not they believe their salespeople are knowledgeable or competent or professional. It gets them to talk about : yeah, I would but the our process is terrible. You know, that they’ll say things that I never thought I would’ve heard from a business owner. It’s a question that starts a conversation because it puts them into the situation they want their prospects to be in, stumbled on it. The first time I asked it, i had a great reaction, wrote it down and just kept asking it.

And after, you know, 17 versions, it’s been in 15th of the versions, it’s the best question I ask.

Yeah, it’s excellent. I love it. So, we are getting to the end of our recording and our podcast. Could you give us some way to contact you ? If people in our audience are interested to meet you and to discuss with you.

Yeah. So you can find me on social media at Sandler DTB, ind. So Sandler, DTB indie on Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn, you can find me there. You can search me on LinkedIn, Matt Nettleton. I think I’m the only Matt Nettleton that does sales training on LinkedIn. There are a couple other Matt Nettletons. Or you can find me on the internet at [00:18:00]

And this episode was really interesting about checklist and the way you create your own checklist. And really, I love the ideas that you introduce AB test to create your playbook, to AB test the voice messages that you left, to AB test the questions that you ask, and the way you have discovered your best questions, which is : « would you buy from your sales people ? Which is a great question and I love it. So this episode of the virtual selling podcast is over. Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode, with new stories and challenge of giants in the field. If you enjoy today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback, share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. So you don’t miss any episode. This episode was brought to you by, the virtual selling platforms that increase your sales team efficiency and sales readiness, enable remote management and advance sales operational excellence. Book your demo today to discover, or you can close modules with engaging and better prep customer meetings.

Thanks a lot, Matt. It was really your pleasure and it was really interesting. Thank you.


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