One of these years, I’m going to play in the World Series of Poker. Probably not the Main Event, which had 7,319 entrants last year and required 12 full days of play just to get down to the Final Table. I can’t imagine being able to work that into my schedule. The WSOP is made up of 57 individual events, though, and most of them only take a couple of days to play.I’ve been playing poker since my college days, and I have enjoyed the “poker revolution” that’s been stimulated by televised coverage of the major tournaments, and of course, by the 24/7 opportunity to play online. Some may be troubled by the gambling aspect, but I think poker is a great game. And over the last few years, in particular, it’s given me an outlet for my competitive nature—now that I’m too old to play competitive basketball anymore!
And, it turns out, some of the lessons and strategies of poker can be applied to the challenges of printing sales. So, whether you approve of poker or gambling or not, please read on.
The most obvious similarity between poker and selling is probably the element of bluffing. In poker, that means making a big bet with a small hand in order to push an opponent out of the hand. (It’s been said that poker is not a game of cards, played with people, but rather a game of people, played with cards. Every time I hear that said, it reminds me that the most successful printers I know are not printers who open for business every day, but rather business people whose business happens to be printing!)
I have written before that I believe in a very transparent selling strategy. Does that mean that there’s no place for bluffing in printing sales? Of course not! But it’s important to understand when it’s okay to bluff, and when it’s not.
It is okay to bluff when you quote a price. In fact, the negotiation process that often follows a bid or quote is very much like the rounds of betting in a poker game. The seller starts the process by quoting a price, and the buyer has the option to accept that price (call) or simply reject it (fold). The buyer can also “raise” by voicing an objection to the price. The seller can then walk away/decline to negotiate (fold), offer a lower price (call), or “re-raise” by defending the original quote. Either the raise or the re-raise could be a bluff, and in fact, the best example of “calling the bluff” would be for the seller to push back at the buyer’s objection. If it turns out that it’s not a bluff, and that the buyer is committed to gaining a lower price, then the seller loses. If it was a bluff, though—or if the seller can present a compelling defense of his/her price—then the seller wins.
Here’s when it’s not okay to bluff: 1) when you don’t know what you’re talking about, and 2) when you’re asked for a delivery commitment that you have little chance of meeting. Both of these have more blow-up-in-your-face potential than any rational gambler would be willing to take.
The most common variation of poker being played today is no-limit hold ’em. The “no-limit” part refers to the player’s ability to bet all of his/her chips at any time. In “limit” games, you can’t bet more than the set limits, although you can raise any bet by that amount. If you’re short on chips or money relative to the limits of the game, you might be able to get all of what you have into a pot, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. In no-limit, you have a real opportunity to double up your money on any hand.
How does that apply to printing sales? I’ve been working with quite a few of my sales coaching clients to double up on their sales activities. For example, when a sales call or even a delivery takes you to ABC Company, make a prospecting call along the way. And when you’re making that sales call or delivery, try to accomplish two things with ABC Company rather than just one.