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Poker and the Art of Sales Negotiation

If you’ve ever watched the World Series of Poker or another high-stakes poker tournament on TV, you understand that the game involves much more than playing the hand you are dealt.

The best players are adept at determining what the other players might have in their hands and anticipating their moves. They make calculated decisions based on the information available, all while trying not to tip off the other players regarding their own strategy.

Negotiating a B2B sales deal requires many of these same skills. In fact, the two are so similar that we would bet that studying what great poker players do can improve your negotiation skills. Here are four crucial skills that both poker players and skillful negotiators need:

  1. Reading your opponent. In poker, players carefully observe their opponents to determine their strategy and potential hand strength. Similarly, in sales negotiations, you must understand the needs, priorities, and pain points of the prospect. A great salesperson can glean valuable insights from research and conversations with prospects and tailor their approach accordingly.
  2. Taking calculated risks. Poker players must weigh the potential gains and losses of each decision they make, considering factors such as hand strength and position at the table. Great negotiators can identify the areas where both parties can find value and be willing to make concessions when necessary. They consider the long-term impact of each decision and take calculated risks to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
  3. Bluffing and confidence. While bluffing is an integral part of poker, salespeople should avoid outright deception. Instead, they can take a page from poker’s playbook by projecting confidence and demonstrating the value of their product or service, even if they’re facing strong objections or resistance. Confidence can be a powerful tool in negotiations, as it can influence the prospect’s perception and create a sense of trust in the sales professional’s expertise.
  4. Adapting to changing circumstances. The poker table is a highly dynamic arena. Players must constantly adjust their strategies based on new information — or else risk losing it all. Sales negotiations can also be unpredictable, with new objections or changing needs arising throughout the process. Sales professionals must be agile and adaptable, ready to pivot their approach and find creative solutions to overcome challenges and reach a successful agreement.

There’s one other way that sales negotiation is like poker: amateurs almost never win against professionals.

Today, most B2B buyers meet the criteria to be considered professional negotiators. They’ve had extensive training and experience that set them up to win at the negotiating table.

If your team hopes to compete, you need similar training.

SellingBrew can get you started. Check out Exposing the Secrets of Sales Negotiation and Negotiating Profitable Deals. Both provide an overview of the tactics you’re likely to see and prepare you to counter with moves that are proven to work. They can help your team gain confidence in their ability to spot negotiation tricks and neutralize them effectively.

And now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to “research” whether playing a whole lot of poker will make us better sales negotiators.

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