Prospects like to play games with salespeople. The purpose of games prospects play is to make a salesperson feel not-OK.
When a salesperson feels not-OK in front of a prospect, they are more likely to give up their time and information in the hope that their prospect will make them feel OK again.
Some of the games prospects play with salespeople are:
- Why Don’t You, Yes But – your prospect rejects every one of your suggestions with some version of “yes, but” (e.g. “we’d love to implement option A, but our budget was cut last week.”)
- See What You Made Me Do – your prospect gets angry with you for calling when they were in a meeting or in the middle of something
- Look How Hard I’m Trying – when working with a non-decision maker, your prospect appears to help you, but draws out the sales cycle until you get frustrated with them and they respond with some version of “look how hard I’m trying” (e.g. “the boss has been so busy I haven’t had time to talk to them”)
- Hero – your prospect makes you feel like they are “saving” you by giving you their business
- Cops and Robbers – your prospect doesn’t return your voicemails or emails until the prospect is ready to be “caught” (e.g. “oh yeah, I got your messages. I meant to return them”)
- Happy to Help – your prospect asks for extra favors, which they know are outside the scope of their work with you. You get your needs met by doing favors for your prospect then complain to colleagues about all the time you spend servicing this prospect’s account
Games begin when your prospect “discounts” a question or statement from you. For example, discounting a question about your prospect’s budget might sound like, “we’ll have it (the budget) if we like what we see.”
What is implied in the prospect’s response is “don’t worry about it.” If your prospect says, or implies, “don’t worry about it” they’re trying to play a game with you.
To prevent or get out of a game “call” it.
“Calling” a game has three parts.
The first part is to paraphrase or restate what your prospect just said (e.g. “so if I understand correctly you’ll have the budget if you like what you see from me today. Is that correct?”).
The second part is to ask a clarifying question to uncover the truth behind your prospect’s game (e.g. “let’s pretend we’re at the end of the meeting and we decided to move forward. What have you seen or heard from me that prompted you to say ‘let’s do this’?”).
The third part comes in if the response to your clarifying question is another stall or objection. In that case, let your prospect know, gently, that you feel like they are playing a game with you (e.g. Mr./Mrs.Prospect, I get the sense that no matter what I do or say today, you don’t have the budget to move forward. Is that a fair statement?”).
By calling the game you set yourself apart from the other salespeople your prospect sees who are willing participants in your prospect’s games and increase your chances of either closing a sale or walking away with your time and information intact.
Hamish Knox is a Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.