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What sales game are you playing?

Have you ever played the card game War? This is the simplest of simple games, in that the 52 card deck is dealt out evenly between two participants, and the object is merely to flip over your cards, one by one, with the winner of each hand being the one with the higher card. There is no strategy, no skill, and no advantage that one competitor has over the other (unless one of you gets a chance to stack the deck).

ChessHow about Chess? This is essentially the opposite of War. It involves strategy, intellect, patience, and skill. A more advanced player has a significant advantage over a novice, and will consistently beat their opponent. The premise that the game is built on is that your very first move, and all subsequent moves, sets you up for future ones. It’s all about positioning yourself early and often so it is easier to win later on.

So what does this have to do with sales? Well, only everything. These two games are a metaphor for how sales people approach their job. What I mean is that in sales we often fall into the trap of thinking that every sales activity (like a cold call) is its own solitary event (War), rather than looking at it simply as one move in a bigger game (Chess). You can’t win a chess match in the first move, but you certainly can set yourself up for future moves and, ultimately, checkmate.

War is transactional, the same way that making a bunch of cold calls every day is transactional. We leave a ton of voice mails, begging for the prospect to call us back. And when they don’t, we give up after a couple of tries and move on to the next group of calls. It’s just a bunch of isolated activities that never make it easier for us down the road. If all you do is cold call today, then you will still have to cold call one, five, ten, 20 years from now.

Chess is strategic. It's a process. The move you made 10 minutes ago has an impact on where you stand right now in the game. Position yourself well and the end of the game becomes the fun task of just chasing your opponent’s king around until they give up. You can, and should, approach sales this way too. Instead of making a bunch of cold calls, start by sending out mailings (yes, actual paper mail) to establish yourself, follow up with an email, then a phone call, then another email, then invite them to an event, etc. Treat each of these activities as just another move that positions you for making the easy sale down the road.

So which sales game will you be playing?


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