Volume 7 Number 8 | August 2017
Playing Not to Lose
The New England Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, has been accused of “running up the score” in games in which the Patriots already have comfortable leads. His response has been, “It’s my job to make sure our team scores, not to stop them from scoring. That’s the other team’s and other coach’s job.” He’s won five Super Bowls.
Many times teams go into “prevent defenses” when they’re ahead meaning they try not to do anything to lose their lead. At least half the time or more, they do lose the lead. It’s a silly strategy. If you achieved a lead by playing to win, why wouldn’t you maintain the successful tactic?
The Sales Process
I’ve observed countless consultants who are trying “not to lose” business. What does that look like? Well, they never “push back” at the buyer, no matter how ridiculous the buyer’s request (or demand). They accept the payment terms the buyer wants, even though they are unfair. They negotiate their fee, even though the fee already provides a huge ROI for the buyer. They allow for scope creep and even engage in “scope seep.”
In short, they do everything possible not to lose the sale and wind up gaining the sale but losing money, time, profit, and any chance at a peer relationship with the buyer. They become just another vender and quasi-employee.
Therein is the difference between them and those who play to win.
We need an “offensive” mindset, not in the sense of offending but in the sense of taking the ball ourselves and trying to score. You can’t “run up the score” too much in a business negotiation. After all, don’t we want the best terms (payment at the outset), highest fees (option three), and least labor (no “deliverables”)? We need to enter into conversations in which we want to win business, in a very traditional sense, and not try not to lose it. The former is a confident and assertive attitude, the latter is a scared and tentative attitude.
My advice is to keep these dynamics in the forefront of your thinking in any sales situation:
1. I have tremendous value which I have to make manifest to the buyer and not assume the buyer will understand it unless I do so.
2. I can create assertiveness by questioning the buyer, contradicting any misconceptions, and suggesting new ideas instead of merely accepting his or hers.
3. I don’t need this business, and certainly not on unfavorable terms. I can find other business.
4. If I accept unfavorable conditions now, they will inevitably become worse during the project and I will not accept that.
5. I need, therefore, to direct this conversation as an expert, and not merely try to hang on for dear life!
I’ve seen people constantly accept poor business which they’ve tried not to lose and get locked into a total time commitment that precludes them from finding good business. That, my friends, is a “doom loop.”
© Alan Weiss 2017
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