30 Best Leaders To Watch 2020

‘I Want to Establish Sandler as the First Place People Go When They Want Sustainable Results’: David H. Mattson


“Salespeople and sales managers are made, not born. Sandler provides the framework of best practices to help individuals succeed more quickly and avoid decades of trial and error.”

In today’s extremely competitive business environment, having any edge over the competition is advantageous. An empowered, effective sales leader is a crucial component in the success of any company or business. One of the most important tools that a company can have to ensure they stay one step ahead is a strong leadership and sales team. It is extremely important that your company is making the right training investments.

Sandler is a world leader in innovative sales, leadership and management training. For more than 50 years, Sandler has taught its distinctive, non-traditional selling system and highly effective sales training methodology, which has helped salespeople and sales managers take charge of the process.Sandler’s training is designed to create lasting improvement rather than the motivational “quick fix” typical of many seminar-based training programs. To help clients accomplish their goals, Sandler provides “reinforcement training,” a system that combines quality materials along with access to ongoing training workshops and individual coaching sessions.

The company was founded in 1967 and is headquartered in Owings Mills, MD.

David H. Mattson: Interview Highlights

Can you brief us about the history of your company?

In 1967, David Sandler, founder of Sandler Training, realized that the traditional sales model was broken. Feature and benefit selling, discounting, and high-pressure tactics had led to a downward spiral, and sales people were one of the most hated professions, alongside lawyers and politicians. That is when he realized both sales people and prospects, too, deserve respect. So he set out to design a better methodology based on behavioral psychology that worked for both parties. That is how Sandler, a revolutionary sales training program for businesses of every size, was started.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

The two biggest business hurdles we faced in the early years were changing our image in the marketplace and unifying the channel. Early on, our channel helped us reach a certain point of recognition and a certain point of success. But that channel also proved to be a potential Achilles’ heel, because a group of disconnected franchisees could not be united in its messaging, or totally efficient in converting opportunities. We were like a bunch of lifeboats drifting on the ocean. But consider how a school of fish escapes a shark: they all band together. They leverage the power of united action. And that’s what we had to do as well – leverage the power of our network.

We decided to create a unified business strategy and guide the channel to act more effectively as a brand ambassador. Once we acted on that, we attained more prominence via social media and gained more power in our promotional efforts. We now have a single web site, a single voice, and a single strategy that we pursue in support of our franchisee network. But to get there, we realized that the ‘we’ had to be greater than the ‘I’.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

The pace of technological change is beyond anyone’s control, and that can sometimes be a little daunting. Our traditional competitors are really non-issues for me. But I am now competing against platforms that do not incorporate any human contact and are strictly technology-driven.

You need to be ready to think creatively and to establish different contingency plans for responding to what is happening in the marketplace– to identify the most likely scenarios, even the scary ones. You put a plan into action and if a bad scenario turns out to be accurate, you’re prepared. And if it doesn’t come to pass, you’re pleasantly surprised.

What other leaders do you look up to and why?

Tom Schodorf and Bart Fanelli– each of whom was part of the extraordinary success story at Splunk. I also look up to Mark Roberge, who helped lead HubSpot to where it is today. He currently teaches at Harvard.

The leaders I admire are the ones who are the real scientists of this industry, the ones who have the discipline and the focus to put their process into action in an uncompromising way — and without being arrogant. These three delivered, and the results speak for themselves. Tom took a company from $30 million to $1.2 billion in five years. Extraordinary! And it happened because he is one of those people who leaves absolutely nothing to chance and simultaneously inspires others on a very deep level.

What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

We hold an annual user conference, the Sandler Sales and Leadership Summit. Every year, without exception, that experience brings me to a new personal level of amazement about the power and impact of what we do. Our Summit connects us with people who are deeply impacted by Sandler– professionally and personally – and to hear them speaking about us and the impact of Sandler in their lives is an incredible experience.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

If you’re leading the company, you need to have enough self-awareness to know when you should get out of the way. Recognize the things you’re not good at, and don’t pretend that you are. Sure, you can try to do everything, but it’s going to take a lot of energy, and you’ll inevitably find that there are important areas where you really need help. Stick to what you do best and hire for those areas where you need help.

What do you hope to accomplish in the long run?

I want Sandler to be seen by any and every revenue-facing individual as the most innovative and effective training and development company in the world, by virtue of its tools, guidance, and training.  I want to establish Sandler as the first place people go when they want sustainable results.

Currently, our industry is fragmented and in flux because of continued buyouts. No one has stepped up to say: “This is my space.” But we’re doing that. As of now, we pretty much own the SMB marketplace – and I want to own the enterprise marketplace, as well. So that’s the goal.

The Ardent Visionary Behind the Triumph of Sandler: David H. Mattson

David H. Mattson serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sandler. He has a 30+ year history of success with the Sandler organization. Mr. Mattson is a best-selling author, sales and management visionary, and leader of the world’s largest professional development organization. He is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in sales and leadership, contributing to books, blogs, podcasts, conferences, round tables, and research around the globe. He is a powerful writer and an engaging keynote speaker. For more information visit

“I want Sandler to be seen by any and every revenue-facing individual as the most innovative and effective training and development company in the world, by virtue of its tools, guidance, and training.”