Playing a Powerful Sales Game

Have you ever owned a sales quota or monthly sales goal? Whether you were in account management, a killer closer, or responsible for deploying a new sales strategy, you know that feeling of closing a big deal or losing a big client. Unfortunately, knowing how each side of the coin feels, we sometimes convince ourselves that there are only two realities that the sales game falls into, short-term success and long-term gains.

But there is a third reality in the game of sales. It’s experiencing success in both the short-term and long-term by shifting our way of thinking and creating a better way to do things.

There are two different types of people in this world, rule breakers and rule followers. The perfect sales transaction is birthed when we’ve mastered the balance between the two. Does your sales structure include pairings for every customer or client? Meaning you have a designated Business Development Rep teamed with an Account Manager for every account. This is balance; a hunter teamed with a farmer. 

When we look at sales as a whole, it’s really a game of probability, not perfection. For example, imagine if you only went out with your spouse or partner once every few months. The pressure would be on to pull out all the stops in making it the best night ever because it doesn’t happen that often. If you play the game of probability at a higher frequency, then you’re going to have some nights that aren’t so great. But, that’s okay because there are more opportunities, resulting in less pressure in the actual moment.

The idea is when we’re put on the spot and have to perform perfectly, we initially get that flush feeling and the realization that we need to be flawless. It’s human nature to start thinking about what’s at stake. It’s at this point where salespeople either freeze up or stay loose.

This is the most crucial fork in the road and can make or break a salesperson and the sales process.

If we’re solely focused on the outcome or overly focused on the outcome, distraction will creep in. Fixating on a result won’t allow a salesperson to focus on how they are executing, what they are learning throughout the process, or how they are actually showing up. The ability to adjust becomes nonexistent. We can’t improve; therefore, the desired results won’t be there. 

Let’s break it down.

When we get into this mindset, think about how we are showing up first. Are we an order taker or an order maker? An order taker is someone who shows up on their heels, hoping to close something, or depends on their audience to walk them through a process. An order maker comes into a situation with the intent of understanding their audience and leading them through a process.

If we want to do it the right way, we need to put ourselves in this leadership mode and remember that sales is a game of probability and not perfection. Success shouldn’t be dependent on closing every deal or getting everything right. Instead, it should be measured by being in the moment, focusing on the audience, and keeping the buyer’s  best interests in mind.

We’re actually a pleasure to be around when we have this leadership mindset, and people tend to grant us grace when needed. Have you ever told a joke to a group of friends that fell flat? How much better is the response when you call yourself out and move on instead of fixating on the bad joke? Things don’t always go as planned in your head, and that’s sometimes the greatest part of sales because it can lead to something even better than we initially planned.

Think about this analogy from the standpoint of a musician.

  • A beginner is just trying to play the notes.
  • A pro is trying to play the right notes.
  • A master knows they’re going to sometimes play the wrong note, but it’s actually not a wrong note because they adjust and play something different than planned without skipping a beat.

Something happens in a sales presentation that creates this distance and separation. It’s the ability to improvise with the understanding that sales is all about taking what we’ve learned and adding enough of ourselves to it. That allows us to innovate, make it our own, and make it highly effective while remaining vulnerable and authentic. We become the people that others want to be around because there’s this magnanimous quality to what we’re doing. We essentially can shapeshift without losing authenticity.  

So, as we enter the game of sales (probability), consider the importance of recognizing patterns and creating a system, a predictable path to success. Going into a presentation, we will feel more prepared if we have a plan in mind. What’s beautiful about a system or recognizing patterns is that it puts us in a place where we realize those little faux pas or non-life-altering mistakes. In the greater context, mistakes like that don’t really matter if we can cultivate a relationship with our audience. Therefore, recognizing the pattern that will lead us to a high probability of success lets us off the hook when things go wrong.

Now, are we good with those little things going wrong? Of course not. We’re going to work towards improving those. Those are just the other patterns we have to focus on. In sales, there’s a pattern we can fall back on and leverage as the foundation for how we’re going to show up in any situation to improve our probability of success. We should all think about developing an understanding (a pattern) that will get us to that master level. We don’t want to stay in that beginner stage or survive and stay in the pro stage. Want more for yourself and develop in a way that will get you to master.

What does probability really mean? 

D+A=O (Decisions+Actions=Outcomes)

The difference between a beginner and a master is significant. For example, take a general person that’s a counselor. They counsel others. Then, there are certified counselors who help people from a therapeutic standpoint. As with any field or practice, the subpar people aren’t going to make it, the good ones will get by, and the top tier will be wildly successful at it because they’re that good.

So, we need to check in with ourselves and ask a few questions.

  • Are we moving through the continuum of beginner, pro, master? 
  • Are we letting ourselves off the hook, detaching from the outcome, and focusing on being in the moment and learning to get better? 
  • Are we finding ways to accelerate, stabilize, secure, and institutionalize as we move through the continuum?

Last Tip: Hold. Yourself. Accountable.

If we don’t accept responsibility for who we are, where we are, and the things that we’ve achieved, the trajectory to mastery isn’t possible. Mastering our craft comes hand-in-hand with accountability because it allows us to investigate where we could get better and what we did right along the way. People who resist accountability get stuck in that beginner or pro mode because they’re stuck in this idea that it means something about them, or they aren’t interested in being judged.

When we become the kind of person who lives it, we institutionalize it and can map it out for others. This is how we build an organization. And that’s really what it’s all about – building that team, driving predictability, and reaching repeatable growth.

Want to learn more about becoming a master in the game of sales? Continue the conversation with me on LinkedIn.


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