Selling and Poker

In the movie Forest Gump, his mother always said, “life is like a box of chocolates.” Well, in business, selling is like playing poker. Here’s why.

In the movie Forest Gump, his mother always said, “life is like a box of chocolates.” Well, in business, selling is like playing poker.

Consider this:
There are 52 cards in a deck, the same as number of weeks in a year. There are four suits in a deck, the same as seasons in a year. There are 13 cards in a suit, the same as number of weeks in a quarter. There are 12 picture cards, the same as months in a year. And there are 365 spots on the cards in the deck, the same as days in a year.

Selling is like poker.

  1. When you play poker the money on the table is not yours. Suckers throw good money after bad by betting more because they have $x on the table. Same with selling. Talking to users is throwing money on the table with no assurance of a win. Talking to decision makers will improve your chances of winning.
  2. In poker you should drop out six out of seven hands (in stud, after the first cards are dealt; in draw, after looking at your initial hand). However, you should also win six out of seven hands in which you stay. So the odds are in your favor. Same holds true in selling. Drop out of the deal if you can’t reach the decision makers. Not all deals are for you.
  3. Poker is a game of strategy, not luck. You need to know your opponent, learn their strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on that knowledge. Same with selling. Most sales people give up after three calls, yet most prospects are not reached until the fifth or sixth call.

I strongly believe that sales should be an industry of its own. A good closer should be able to sell anything to anybody. There may be slight differences selling a product (tangible) vs service (intangible), but otherwise, selling is selling.

Selling Is Easy
All you need to do is qualify your prospect and go after those sales where you have the best chance of closing. A colleague, Jacques Werth, authored High Probability Selling which defines the sales process, and will improve your closing ratio. What was interesting is that I never read Jacques’ book, yet we have the same ideas on selling. Better yet, we have something else in common – we were both professional or quasi-professional poker players!

What are you selling? Comfort. The prospect needs to be comfortable that you can solve his problems, have credibility, have the strength to carry out the deal and know what you are doing.

My simple rules:

  1. Get in front of the prospect with a blank writing pad.
  2. Listen to what they need.
  3. Identify three to six issues that need to be resolved.
  4. Go back to the office and prepare a presentation.
  5. Meet with the client and start with “I heard you say…” and identify the issues to resolve
  6. Do the presentation.
  7. Summarize and explain how the presentation satisfies those issues.
  8. Pick up the check 😉

If the prospect identifies the issues, and you can solve the issues (and make them comfortable), how can they not go with you?

Poker anybody? 😉

Author’s note: A special tribute to Wink Martindale and the song “Deck of Cards.” It was supposedly a true story about a man in WWII who related a deck of cards to the bible. He identifies each card in the deck and how it relates to the bible. I find it fascinating that it fits well in the business world also, especially the strategy of poker.

George Matyjewicz, PhD is Global Strategist of GAP Enterprises, Ltd. His dissertation “Just In Time Payments And The New Global Currency For Conducting Business In A Global Economy” was compiled from 3+ decades experience in the business world. He was formerly President/General Manager of a global digital currency company with customers in 190 countries and Chief E-Commerce Officer for a global giftware company. He was a Principal/Partner at a top 20 U.S. CPA/Consulting firm. He is regularly published as an expert on global business, finance, technology and implementation.

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