What I Talk About When I Talk About Playing to Win

Playing the game is not the same thing as playing to win. You can play the game, simply going through the motions, without intention, without being mindful, and without a spirit of competition (found in this book). This is nothing more than “punching the clock” and “putting in your time.”

Playing to win means intentionally doing the things that increase your chances of winning and creating a competitive advantage.

Persisting in pursuing your dream client

There are salespeople who call their dream client once and never call again. There are others who call once a quarter, just to “check in,” never calling with a real agenda worth a meeting, and so infrequently as to be meaningless. Instead of pursuing their dream clients, they look for more “hot” leads.

Those who play to win develop a professional pursuit plan and persist over time, knowing that eventually they will find an opportunity. Giving up because something is difficult is not a strategy for winning. Determined, patient, persistence is what wins.

Be known for your ideas

So, you say you want to be a trusted advisor? How then can you allow marketing to nurture your dream clients instead of doing this work yourself? There are some who refuse to read books on their craft, the news that would provide them insights, or the books and broadcasts that would help shape a better lens through which to see the world. No one believes your marketing department is their trusted advisor.

If you are going to advise others, business acumen and situational knowledge are necessary. If you want to be known for your ideas and advice, you have to develop them yourself. Winning starts with you becoming someone worth buying from in the first place.

Prepare for meetings

Because it is your job to make sales calls, you make sales calls. The fact that one makes a sales call says nothing whatsoever about the quality of that sales call. I once heard a salesperson open their first sales call with these words, “Can you tell me what your company does?” As you might have imagined, it was a very short sales call.

The time your prospective client gives you is a gift. It’s an opportunity. If you are going to play to win, you need to use that time well enough that you earn the right for more time—and greater commitments. Winners train, and winners prepare.

Control the process

If you play, you may leave a sales meeting without a next step, without something on your prospective client’s calendar. Maybe they told you they’d get back with you (what is really a non-commitment). Or maybe you didn’t want to ask because you didn’t want to risk insulting, alienating, or making your prospect uncomfortable.

Winning means gaining all the commitments (found in this book) you need to help the client move from their current state to the better future state you are going to help them achieve. It also means you have sometimes difficult, sometimes uncomfortable conversations.

Connect with people and connect the dots

One way you can tell someone is playing the game without trying to win is by looking at the number of contacts they are engaged with as they pursue the client’s business. Invariably, those who play are too comfortable being single-threaded, knowing only one nice, super-receptive, non-challenging contact who is always willing to give them time.

Those who win go vertical, moving up and down within the organization, as well as moving horizontally, bringing in people from all the areas their solution will touch. They connect with people and connect the dots. They wire the building, and in doing so, they increase their odds of winning.

Likability, caring, and thoughtfulness

Low energy, no energy, no real interest, and no follow up isn’t what you would project if you wanted to win. There are many who believe that it isn’t helpful to be known, liked, and trusted, and that relationships don’t matter. Imaging holding this view when your competitor holds the opposite.

When you play to win, you invest your emotional energy, you prove you care, and you provide your client with an idea as to what it’s going to be like to work with you.

Engineering winning solutions

People who play believe they are selling their solution. Much of the time, this means giving the client something to which they can easily refuse. The solution isn’t the client’s, and so they are not invested in it.

Those who win do their best to engineer the right solution, knowing that all is for naught unless they give the client something to which they can say “yes.”

There is no reason to play the game without a strong desire and intention to win. Do what is necessary to stack the deck in your favor.

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