In the last 17 years I think it's safe to say that I've seen a lot …from selling to the SMB Business Market to Major Accounts to State Government to Production Sales. Prospecting, learning new technologies and of course, selling solutions. With that being said I know my way around the print sale cycle. But what most people don't know is that during a period in that time, I played high stakes blackjack across the country.
I got started by watching a documentary that most have seen telling the story of a team of MIT students who won millions in Vegas by card counting. I was hooked and I wanted in…
I started reading every book I could get my hands on, 19 in total. And of course the grueling process of learning how to count cards and the ability to keep up with the speed of the game. Not an easy task at all...no way no how. Don't let the movies fool you.
Most of the books out there are written by professionals and some by mathematicians. But what I found is that the techniques that professional blackjack players take on to become successful are the same that all salespeople should be applying in their day to day activities. Here are six of the most essential guidelines that need to be followed to become successful in both copier sales and professional blackjack.
Bankroll = Prospect: This is without a doubt at the top of the list in necessities in becoming successful in not just blackjack but gambling overall…you can't walk into a casino with $100, playing $25 a hand, and expect to win $1000. Just like you can't expect to sell 4 units with 5 units on your 30 day prospect list. Most experienced copier reps will tell you it's a 1-4 ratio. If you have 12 units in the hopper...you probably will sell 3 maybe 4. When I walked into a casino, I always had at least 400x my minimum bet available to me. Doing anything else and you will find yourself on the losing side of the coin. Sometimes we lie to our managers and we lie to ourselves. If you have the right amount of prospects/bankroll, you give yourself a fighting chance. Don't lie to yourself and don't stop prospecting until you get to the number you need to achieve quota.
Basic Strategy = Knowledge: There were 4 military mathematicians who discovered that mathematically the game of blackjack could be beaten. They created a chart that gives you the answers to every scenario that is possible in the game. The dealer has a 10...you have 15 you hit. The dealer has 9 you have 11 you double-down. It's not my opinion, it's math. Most dealerships sell 2-3 OEM's solutions. Become the master of your product lines. You need to be able to answer every question that's thrown at you regarding your product. Also, by doing so you are able to sell “why chose your product over the competition.” We all know that it's not just the product that wins the deal, but you don’t want to lose a deal over something that could have been prevented. In addition, by knowing more than your competitor, you will come off as an industry expert. Always try to help the client solve their problem with what your product or service can offer.
Time of Play = Prospecting: People always say, “The house always wins.” Why is that?
It is because of two things...one, there is a mathematical advantage built into every game. Roulette around 5%...craps anywhere between 2-11%...depending on the bet. So for a casino all the money that passes through a table, the casino will always pull back a % in their favor. And when you make stupid bets or you don't have any knowledge of the game…you increase that number for the casino!!! If you play with the proper strategy, the built in advantage for blackjack is less than 1%. Once you add card counting you push the needle in your favor anywhere between 1-3%. So over time you will pull back 1-3% of you total money wagered.
But you have to put in the time at the tables!
This holds true for our business also…no matter where you are year-to-date...no matter what big deal you are about to close…no matter how good that last appointment was, you have to put in the time to prospect. There is no way around it…you make 40 phone calls and you get nothing...then the next day you make 5 calls and the first two you set appointments. It happens. That's how it works...you have to put in the time for it to pay dividends. So many times we close a deal on Thursday and then we take off on Friday. Not! You have to put in the time prospecting so that mathematically you will keep your bankroll full.
Edge = What can you do better?: In every casino there are certain rules within each game that are there to increase or decrease the house's edge. I went to a casino and my research had told me that they offered single-deck blackjack (which is very good for the player). When I got there, there was no table to be found. I asked and the dealer and she told me that 2 guys beat the casino for over $100,000 last week and casino shut it down. Every casino has rules and they are all different...your job is to know them so that you can determine if this is a “winnable game.” If it's worth playing or if you should not even enter the building. This is no difference in our world. What does your dealership do that no one else can touch? What's different about your solutions? What is a feature that your OEM can do that is standard? But others have to add? What's different about your service department?
What is your edge? You have to know the competition in your town to know how you can beat them with your products and services. When you meet with a client, ask just as many questions about their current vendor and equipment and keep that in your memory banks. Now...when that bid hits the streets, you can read it to see if it's worth playing or not even walking in the building. This too will also present yourself as an expert, not just on what and why your are different, but understanding the edge your competition may or may not have on you.
Discipline/Mental Toughness: There is no way around it...you will have losses!!! No matter how good the rules might be, no matter how good the count is.
This is the purpose of having a strong bankroll. So that you can play through the rough times and stay in the game. But the key is this, understanding when it's time to take a break or call it a night. You have the bankroll to maintain your play…so pick yourself up, wipe yourself off and start fresh tomorrow. Don't deviate from your game plan by trying to hit a home run by making a crazy high bet just to get even. Stay focused and start again tomorrow…you have to have the mental toughness to get through it and the discipline to stick to the game plan.
Losses are apart of the game. And losing a deal is a part of this game. Many times we put all our eggs in one big deal basket. We don't prospect like we are suppose too...then, our prospect list gets low and then if we lose that deal and we fall apart. You have to have the discipline to prospect no matter what's going on to keep your bankroll healthy. By doing so when those deals that you forecast are not closing you have a fall back. Also, by not having a healthy prospect list, you starting making crazy decisions like lowering your price for no reason. Sell the value not the payment. We do this when we are trying to make it through the month with a low bankroll and we didn't put in the time needed to be successful. This is why gambling is not for everyone and sales is not for everyone. A strong bankroll/prospect list will soften those losses.
Courage: In the casino and in the boardroom you have to have it. Let's face it, you wouldn’t be in this line of work if you didn’t have it, and everyday you stay in the game, you become a little more confident and it grows a little bit more. It becomes a little easier with every win...with every deal.
But remember at some point you have to go play in the high stakes room. That is, those accounts in your territory that you might be scared to penetrate or worried that you are not ready because of the employee size or the high visibility. You can't make the bet if you don't sit at the table. And just remember the rules are the same for a $5 bet as they are for a $500 bet. And as well the rules don't change for a 2 unit deal or a 20 unit deal.
Find the problem, solve the problem with your solution and sell the value in doing business with you and your company.
The big deals just like the big bets will pay-off in the long run so continue to grow your knowledge and your bankroll so that you become the high-roller in your marketplace.
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Print Audit. Further, the analogy of gambling is used for comparison and color and is not intended as advice.