Dave Mattson of Sandler Training

Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training and best-selling author, shares with Franchise Business Review how his company makes the process of starting a franchise a different experience than other brands and what the future of the business looks like.

Listen to the full interview here or download the mp3 version.


Did you know? Dave Mattson is one of Franchise Business Review's Top Franchise Leaders of 2017!

Learn more about the Sandler Training franchise opportunity at or call 410-559-2033.

What does Sandler Training do?

We began franchising in 1984. We provide sales training, not for a specific industry, but anyone that's in sales. If you think about sales for a second, it's unique because most of us didn't go to college to learn how to be salespeople. There are educational tracks for engineers, doctors, and attorneys, but there's really nothing for salespeople. You have to learn by the road of hard knocks as they say – almost failing so you can learn how to win.

Sandler provides sales leadership training, leadership in itself. Then we have customer service and some other personal programs. We have the small to medium size companies that are probably in each and every one of our backyards. They have five sales people. Maybe it's just the owner of the company who's the sales person. All the way up to, let's say, 30 or 40 sales people.

That small to medium size market is where we've lived since day one. We don't really have competition in that marketplace. They come to our training centers because they want to come to a central location. They may be sitting next to an engineer or an insurance person, but they're learning the Sandler selling system. We provide them with coaching, training, and mentoring.

If you think about it, it's almost like we have students from all different walks of life, different businesses coming to our "university." We have classes every single week at all the topics that I talked about. That's one marketplace.

The second marketplace is the Fortune 2000. They don't come to our centers. We tend to go to them and they may have 100, 200 people in the audience and we're doing a one or two-day boot camp for them. It's tailored and personalized for them.

So, just how large is your target market?

I think the last count on the training industry was that it is a $52 billion industry and it's changing as technology changes. We offer facilitative training. We're going to live trainers where we can role play and challenge you, and you can challenge us as well, which is still the number one way to train salespeople and sales managers.

It's a big industry. As I said, technology is changing it. We have about 31,000 new people a year. That new people come through our system every year.

With the ability to offer one-off training programs and also ongoing training, do you offer your franchisees multiple revenue sources?

We do. The thing that makes us unique is we'll sell an annual membership to the small to medium size businesses, and we have set training days. We know on Monday from, let's say 8:00 to 9:30 we're going to be training. On Tuesday, we would train let's say 9:30 to 12:00 with our managers. We have very finite training calendars which allows you to scale.

For us, we sell assessments. We sell training. We sell coaching. We sell consulting. Your clients and your background will what you sell. If you came from a technology background, and they're looking for some help on designing the best way to attack the marketplace, like what type of salespeople do I need, maybe you're going to do some consulting.

You get to pick and choose, and that's really the beauty of it. You also get to pick and choose if you're going to be on an airplane. If you're going to do the corporate boot camps, you're going to be on an airplane. You're going to be flying to the location that they have their national meeting, whereas if you stay in the local business, you never have to leave. That's the beauty what attracts franchisees to us.

Are there other things that differentiate Sandler from others in this industry?

Sure. From the end user, from the marketplace, we offer local reinforcement training where our competitors don't have local offices. If an office had salespeople in multiple cities, they can come to our training center and get consistent training. No one else can do that.

I also think that for us, the ability to control what happens in your own franchise is a differentiator. I almost look at it as we have a business concept franchise where we attract people who are creative and want the ability to be able to operate within their franchise.

They also love the ability to grow. I always tell people who are sitting across the desk from me when they're here at Discovery Day, “You will not outgrow Sandler.” We have so much material. We've added three new programs this year alone.

We also allow our franchisees to reduce revenue streams with us. We have 18 franchisees who've written books of which they're getting royalties. The ability to self‑actualize and to become even bigger than that in the market that you're currently in, is really appealing to them.

There is no limit and we don't have a royalty franchise. David Sandler, really, made a brilliant move in 1984. He did not set up the franchisee and franchiser as a us/them relationship like the IRS where I get a percentage of your revenue. That's really not how it works.

He was a salesperson, he wanted salespeople who really own our franchise. If you think you're a franchisee, your number one goal is to generate revenue. He wanted you to make as much money as you can. Of course, in an ethical and honest way.

What support do you provide for new franchisees who come on board to ensure that their business grows quickly?

We want to make sure that you have everything necessary to succeed. We have buckets. We give you all the marketing materials. We have portals that have all the marketing stuff pre‑done for you, so you don't have to think about it.

Most people coming into our industry have no training background and they'd never run a business before, so we're teaching them how to be entrepreneurs and how to think differently. We're teaching them how to sell our products and services, and how to deal with customers and prospects.

We're teaching them how to be trainers, so we give them leader's guides. We give them online programs that watch others do the program so they can mimic that.

We have initial training where we immerse them into the Sandler stuff as quickly as possible. We have conferences where we get all our franchisees together three times a year, we run a four‑day intensive “train the trainer” program.

We also have calls every single week on specific topics, for instance, how to use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool. That's a 45‑minute webinar just for our trainers. We give them very specific topics that they can pick and choose, and they can pick and choose who in their company they're going to send to that.

Finally, we have internal mentoring groups. The franchisees have many groups of people who want to jump from one income level to another, who are brand new, to people that have been with us for 15 years. I'm mentoring people who have been with us for 15 months. The majority of our franchisees have been here way over 20 years.

Our culture is the first thing people see when they come and visit us, because our franchisees don't look at each other as competitors. They want to make sure that each and every one of us are strong as possible, so they could share business with each other which is the key.

People come to me and say, "David, honestly, I've been in corporate America for 30 years. I am blown away that people will take my call at nine o'clock at night who will invite me to their training center, who'd let me talk to their customers. It just doesn't exist in corporate America. It doesn't exist."

So, do brand new franchisees get paired up with a seasoned franchisee?

You're initially going to be paired up with the people who went through initial training with you. We're going to pod you together, so you can share the experiences, because you're in real time at the same place. We then hook you up with somebody that's 18 months ahead of you, because they're still remembering all the things that you went through.

What do franchisees say they enjoy most about the business?

They enjoy the fact that everyday's different, because you're going to be training and consulting with different companies. Even if I train the same topic in six different companies, it's different six times.

I also think that because the market is changing we have to change. Example here at home office, we've shot 1,200 videos in the last nine months, because the millennial audience wants shorter videos.

They like even more that they have the option to pick up those new programs. We don't require them to build another wing on their building, or they have to pick this. If they see value and let's say a presentation's program, they get to add it. We don't force them to do it.

The other thing that they like is the flexibility. I have four franchisees this year that took the summer off to take their family to Europe. What other business allows you to do that?

What is your vision? What are the future steps for the brand?

Well, we're going to add verticals. We naturally fit into certain verticals, so we have separated our support to do that.

We've had huge amount of investment into our technology, our platform where people can go and access our podcasts, our videos, our work books, anytime they want. It's important for the flexibility of the salesperson to get a podcast that they could download into their iPad or whatever device they're using. Millennials aren't necessarily wanting a work book. They want to watch a video. We have completely re‑done our platform and digitized everything. We will start selling to the B-to-C marketplace.

We’re also providing content to colleges. Why would I give universities my content? I want them to use it. First of all, no one's teaching kids how to be managers and how to be salespeople.

Let's give them the tools versus waiting until they're 30 and they don't even know if they like the profession. Why not start them strong? Also, my future buyers are sitting in that classroom.