Push to the left, for the pendulum to move to the right…

Devon-McDonald by

Yesterday, I attended Sandler Selling Bootcamp led by Trainer Frank Garza in Philadelphia with Kareo, one of OpenView’s expansion stage portfolio companies. There was a LOT to take in during the 9-hour course, but I thought I’d regurgitate a concept that I found to be particularly interesting:


Selling with Negative Grammar.

Such a strange concept, but at the root of it — it makes so much sense because it plays into the psyche of the buyer.

Imagine a pendulum. To the far right is your client who wants to buy your product and is ecstatic about the entire engagement. To the far left, your client thinks you and your product are rubbish.

According to Sandler, you need to push your clients a little bit to the left with negative grammar before they get enough momentum to swing back over to the right where you want them to be… that much closer to buying.

Okay, for all of you who flunked physics, let’s look at this concept through some examples.

Example 1: Prospect starts talking about another product, comparing it to yours, and making it seem like your offer is less appealing. “We are also looking at Company X, they are less expensive.”

  • “Mr. Prospect, it sounds like you have already made the decision to go with Company X. Shall we end the conversation now? Is there anything else that I can help you with?

Bam. Momentum swings to the right… the prospect is confused and doesn’t understand why you aren’t selling to them. They want to be sold to. They stop you, and explain that they haven’t chosen them and they want to hear about your product.

Example 2: The prospect seems interested, but seems a bit reluctant to move to the next step:

  • “Based on what I’ve heard so far, Mr. Prospect, it sounds like you have some needs, but my sense is that they’re probably not important enough to justify taking a close look at our solution. Is that a fair statement?”

Negative… push to the left. But wait — shwoosh. They head over to the right and start explaining to you why it actually is that important. The prospect starts selling themselves to you! Bingo.

A few more negative grammar lines:

  • “Should we not pursue this?”
  • “Does this mean that there’s no way we can work together?”
  • “Let’s pretend you were convinced that you’d get a better return per invested dollar with our solution, you wouldn’t be willing to pay more?”

So why is negative grammar so effective? a.) your prospect feels less threatened — it seems like you aren’t pushing something on them and b.) it seems like you are pulling away — this confuses the buyer and puts them in a position where they begin selling to you why they need your product to bring you back in.

Verbiage and tonality is SO incredibly important in sales. Practice makes perfect – test out the negative grammar approach with your team in a role playing session, or with low priority opportunities that you are trying to push to the next stage of the process.

On a final note — only your grammar should be negative, not your overall tone and attitude! Don’t get the two confused because that could be disastrous.