Happy New Year! Yes, it’s that time again when B2B salespeople all over the world turn over a new page. Everything is possible! Prospecting, hunting, farming, it’s all necessary as your milestone sales figures are now part of last year’s history.
Over the holiday break, I got to thinking that working in sales has a lot of similarities to playing solitaire. In sales, in solitaire and in life, you have some control over the game, but you must start by playing the hand you are dealt.
Point One: “Some days are diamonds, and some days are dust”. Sometime games are quite easy and everything falls together very quickly, winning the game with a minimum number of plays. Some sales are like this and salespeople can use their skills, their thinking and their networks to advance sales like these. I’ve found that referral sales are similar to a quick, winning solitaire game: you start off with a better hand as the referral builds your credibility and momentum faster than with a “cold” lead. We all know we should ask for referrals, and many of us intend to. How many have you already asked for in January, 2014?
Some days in sales are “dust.” I remember one GM telling me, “Emily, if the day starts out badly, you might as well go home and start tomorrow.” While I am sure every salesperson (and sales manager!) has an opinion on this, my perspective is that salespeople can’t have a bad day. Due to the roller coaster nature of our jobs and having many sales deals going at the same time (all with their own challenges, client value and revenue amounts), a salesperson should only have a bad 15 minutes! If your hands of cards are all coming up difficult to win, shuffle the deck, take a break and start again. The analogy? Shake it off and set aside time to think. Maybe ask a colleague’s advice, or pause and find a referral to pursue, and then jump back in to the difficult scenario.
Point Two: Don’t be afraid to take two steps back to get a win. In playing solitaire, sometimes if you “undo” some of the plays you’ve made when you’ve hit a dead end, you can find a way to win the game. This isn’t quick and it isn’t most salespeople’s preference. However a valuable lesson is provided here for sales: sometimes you need to go back to the client, clarify their feedback and then re-propose. You can often still win the business, though it may take a bit longer.
Point Three: “We could be Royals…” Sometimes the opening set-up has no face cards. Frequently this is a sign of a “go-nowhere” hand. This is where strategic thinking and working our networks really comes into play. Am I working “higher, wider, deeper” in this account? Or do I only know one or two people? Get senior stakeholders involved as soon as you can, after first “earning the right.”
Point Four: Lay the Foundation – When I was growing up in Boston, my grandmother loved to play solitaire (although she called it “Canfield”). One of the lessons she taught me is to always get your Aces out early. Lay a strong foundation with clients and pay your dues; don’t take shortcuts, but make sure to find the real need early on and build from there.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, it doesn’t come through in the end. But just like in solitaire, the more hands you play and the more you learn, the more you will win. Get involved, learn from your mistakes (and the “dud” hands) and keep playing, over and over again. You’ll win more games — and more business.