Improve the Way You Sell: 5 More Lessons from Solitaire


(By James Bahm) To continue the conversation about ways to close more sales and increase your paycheck, here are a few more illustrations drawn from playing thousands of games of solitaire. To recap my column from last month, here are lessons 1-5:

  1. What seems like the most obvious move may be the worst move.
  2. Let the process play itself out.
  3. You can play everything perfectly, make some progress, and still lose.
  4. The more “games” you play, the more potential traps you recognize.
  5. You must look back at what went wrong to make corrections.

On to the new ones:

  1. Occasionally, there’s more than one way to win – as long as you win honestly.

Cheating leads to long-term failure and can potentially tarnish your reputation beyond repair.

Getting a new client to come on board and advertise with you is an accomplishment. I was at a station, and we had some sponsorship opportunities at some popular community events and concerts – and I also knew that one of the stations was a terrific fit based on Scarborough data.

I led with one of the events I’d heard them mention in the CNA and led with it. They signed on the spot and wrote a check to cover the cost. Long story short, they had a great experience and signed a six-month advertising agreement when I visited after the event.

  1. It’s easy to learn the basics and rules, though playing the game can be rather challenging.

I recently published a collection of award-winning short stories and in one part of that book, I talk about the writing process. I say, “Writing a story is easy. Telling a story is hard.” Sales is pretty similar. Learning the basics is easy: you have a product/service that helps businesses grow and in order to help them you must meet, ask questions, and determine if you’re a good fit with one another.

Selling, on the other hand, is hard: Prospects use objections that may or may not be true. You have to visit a place 14 times just to get the first meeting. The first six months are horrendous, but in the second six months, you see some growth and progress. There are times when you doubt yourself, want to quit, and walk away forever, and then you make one more stop on your way home and it turns into a major account.

So much goes into what you do daily that when I stop to think about it, it boggles my mind and makes me question why I ever wanted to make a career out of being rejected a good majority of the time. But it’s so rewarding when they sign the agreement and I hear the spot on the air.

  1. Use strategy to increase your chances of winning!

I saw a note on that said, “It is not possible to consistently win Solitaire in 30 seconds as the game is based on chance and the cards that are dealt. However, some strategies can increase the chances of winning…”

If you know that your prospect likes to enjoy afternoon coffee at the shop around the corner from his office on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00, as he sits and plays Candy Crush, then why not accidentally bump into him there and introduce yourself? He’s as human as you are, and having a conversation in a neutral setting might open a door that would’ve otherwise remained shut.

  1. Most games are winnable – if you play the cards right.

Oftentimes it’s one innocent move that’s your undoing! One interesting fact about Solitaire: Around 99% of FreeCell games are winnable, as is about 80% of regular Solitaire games, according to Solitaire365. However, only about 18.5% of games are won.

Sales isn’t that different. Like I said previously, you can do everything right and no matter what you were never going to sign the prospect; however, there are many times that the reason you didn’t close them was one thing you didn’t say, or the answer you gave wasn’t what they were looking for. The more meetings you have, the better you’ll get at spotting these instances.

  1. Build brain power and ensure you use it.

Solitaire can help re-energize your brain power and ensure you use it to the best of your ability. Solitaire is also an excellent game for relaxing the mind since it induces a light meditative state. This is especially true for individuals who constantly worry or experience anxiety, per the Hastings Tribune.

Study sales leaders, ask for help from someone you trust and see as a mentor.  And maybe play a game or three of Solitaire on your phone before making a call or conducting a CNA.

I had a boss in Colorado who used to encourage us to stop by a park in the afternoon, roll down the windows of our car and take a 10–15-minute nap, or walk barefoot in the grass (mind the bees in Spring!). He called it a “check-up from the neck up.” And it works wonders.

Whatever you can do to build brain power for your career, do it. You won’t win every time out, but you’ll start to see better results over time.

And as a bonus, remember, sometimes you must wait before playing the obvious move. Yes, you’re going to move that black 7 on a red 8; but before you do, there may be 3 other moves that must happen first. Don’t be in a rush to stop by the office of that one prospect when making a phone call might be the better choice to make. Put another way, don’t drive five miles away to see prospects when there are 18 of them in the same building, or on the same block, as your stations. You’d be amazed at how many sellers ignore what’s under their noses because they’re focused on what’s waiting across town.

Everyone needs to improve their game. Take the time to lose, learn, grow, and succeed.

Bottom Line: What appears new and daunting today will be simple tomorrow because the game is always changing. Are you willing to do what it takes to change ahead of the game?

James Bahm has more than 30 years of experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring. He is the author of Don’t Yuck My Yum – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book.  Reach him via email. Read James’ Radio Ink archives here.


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