What if Selling was more like a Video Game?

by Jacques Werth

I’m fascinated by the quick learning abilities of my children when they play video games. Most recently my children received a Wii game unit for Christmas. Before the day had expired Samuel, my 8-year-old son challenged me to a boxing match.

Finally, I thought, something electronic where I can whup on my kids. I’ve got formal training in the martial arts and can move my hands quicker than any 8-year-old boy on the planet. The results? I didn’t make it past round 1. Sam KO’d me.

How on earth do children learn electronic games so quickly? Why can’t they learn their school lessons or how to clean their rooms as quickly? The answer? Feedback. The feedback on a video game is neutral, no emotion and it’s immediate. ‘You missed.’ ‘Hit!’ ‘Better luck next time.’

The young skulls full of mush assimilate the information and they immediately try again. How does it work in life or in the business climate? (Sales and business are viewed the same because someone is selling something even when the boss delegates you a task. He just sold you on doing his job.)

A major stumbling block in our business environment is that we rarely deliver direct or neutral feedback. For example, yesterday an office supply salesperson solicited my office. Charles and I were in a meeting when she walked in unannounced with her sales pitch.

She started out by building rapport. “How you doing,” she said as she walked over to my desk and shook my hand. “What is your name,” she asked? She repeated this with Charles. She small-talked a little about our office and then explained that she handles the Chiropractor’s office supplies on the third floor directly above us in the building.

If I were a video game she would hear with my neutral computer voice: “not important, try again.” Or “prospect doesn’t care about the Chiropractor, get to the point.”

For over 80 years sales trainers have taught their students to build rapport. It doesn’t work, it’s manipulative and everybody knows what you’re doing. So why do we continue to build rapport? Why can’t we learn from our children? ‘You missed!’ ‘Try something else.’

The top 1 percent of all salespeople across 23 industries never use rapport building as their modus operandi.  After we informed our office-supply lady that we had no needs or wants, she explained how she was the Area Sales Manager and that she also handles another prominent tenant’s account, followed up with her well-trained question (that she asked five times during the visit) “What one product is the most difficult for you to find?”

What I said and what I thought were not identical. What I thought was: “A high quality sales person properly trained.” What I said was: “we are a small office and can find everything we need at Office Depot.”

What I should have said is: “I don’t do business with people who sell the way you do.

In business and sales we have been trained to ignore the obvious feedback by prospects. When the prospect says “no” or “I’m not interested“, it’s the equivalent of the computer saying, “missed.” When you persist and persuade and manipulate, you antagonize and push away the prospect.

Kids are successful at computer games because they don’t ignore the feedback. They don’t negotiate with “missed.” They adjust and move on.

Note:  Richard Himmer is a contributing author to the High Probability Selling blog.  This article appeared previously on his own blog, at www.pyrblu.com/blog/2010/03/what-if-selling-was-more-like-a-video-game/

What if Selling was more like a Video Game?

6 thoughts on “What if Selling was more like a Video Game?

  1. tj says:

    Speaking of honesty, I have a hard time learning to be straight up when talking (making offers) to prospects. I have to very consciously focus on not being glib and phony and lapse into being “talkative” since that is so deeply ingrained from previous training (or maybe it is a personal fault as well). How can I overcome this detrimental tendency? I am required to do most of my “prospecting” in person face-to-face as the example sales person in this article.
    When working face-to-face does the 30-40 word offer change in any way. Are there any adjustments to be made? My goal is scrupulous honesty and full disclosure while finding prospects who want and need my product.


  2. @tj I hope Jacques or Carl chime in to answer your question, but I wanted to share my personal experience of being the prospect on these face-to-face sales calls. Nobody has yet to just walk in, tell me what they offer, and respect my answer. All of them waste time trying to small talk and after I give my response try to find something else to offer me. Being direct with what they are offering and respecting my response the first time would be extremely refreshing and would probably catch me off guard. Not only that but it would save us both a lot of time.


  3. As Charles mentioned, the time it takes for a sales person to small talk, explain who they are, who they represent, and then to argue with me when I explain I don’t want what they have, puts the next sales person at great risk.

    You treat yourself with respect when you give the prospect an opportunity to disqualify themselves in 30 – 40 seconds. You don’t have time to dilly dally around visiting and persuading a prospect to be something they are not – a High Probability prospect.

    Either they are ready to buy or they are not, no amount of talking or manipulating will change it.

    A High Probability Prospect is someone who needs, who wants, who can afford, and who will buy now if you meet their conditions of satisfaction. Holding an extended conversation building rapport and using other manipulative tactics is counter productive.


  4. tj – Richard Himmer is right.
    Whether you are prospecting face-to-face or by phone the prospecting process is the same. Either way, the prospect deserves the same respect – and so do you.

    You give up your self-respect when you waste time with a low probability prospect. You will seldom sell them and you will decrease your probability of finding a real prospect.

    Telephone prospecting is at least three times more efficient and effective than walk-in prospecting. Unless you have to demo a product, and it can not be done via the Internet, why go on the hoof?

    Your tendency to be glib, talkative and/or phony will gradually diminish as you learn to accept “No,” say “Okay goodbye,” and move on to another prospect. It will diminish more quickly when you experience the power of mutual trust and respect.


  5. Fantastic blog. Great analogy. By the way, when I let prospects off the phone quickly and easily from a “no” I can usually hear the shock and surprise in their voice as they say goodbye.


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