When I lived in Los Angeles, my apartment was about 20 minutes from 5 different world-famous poker rooms. I learned to play with some of the best and worst players there are. I was pretty good at it too, placing in the money in multiple tournaments and sustaining my bank roll with cash games.
But, enough bragging. The point is that I heightened my ability to read other folks in the hand. I could get inside their heads and know what cards they were holding. This obviously becomes very useful when you are trying to determine if you can beat them or not. It helps you decide when you should fold… or go all in!
With sales it usually is “all in” the whole way, because you want to close the deal. You are not going to fold. You rarely consider it, unless there is an unusual red flag out there. There are signs your potential customer gives off that let you know how he is approaching the sales process. It is a good skill to be able not only to read those signs but to counter them before they come into play.
The first sign of an early fold with a potential customer is the budget, or lack thereof. Like in poker, you may have a good hand and want to see how serious the other players are in playing that hand so you throw out a bet. Asking “What is your budget? Do you see spending at least $5K to get this project done?” can save you a lot of wasted effort if you find out the customer does not have the money required for the project. When I get answers like, “Well, we are a small company…” or “You know, in this economy, we are trying to spend as little as possible,” they are pretty obvious red flags the customer is not going to be a good fit. He is essentially saying he is going to fold his hand. While the project may be something he needs to do, it is truly not a priority or he just plain can’t afford it.
Something else that can be a sign of an early fold is when a company has a gatekeeper, someone who prevents your access to the actual decision maker. I usually try to flush this out early in the process. It can be a tremendous effort problem if you have to present the proposal to the gatekeeper without the decision maker, or have to present again because you realized later that the proper person was not present at the time of the proposal. Or worse, that the decision maker had a different idea in mind. If you can get the person to show his gatekeeper cards early enough, it will save you big in the end.
Now those are a couple examples of reading your lead for negative scenarios. Here a couple positive signs to look for:
- First is the obvious. When you speak with someone about his database needs and get a realistic response to what he is looking to spend on the project, it is a VERY good sign. This shows you that he has done his homework. He knows what it is going to take to get this project done and he is willing to spend the money necessary to do it. You know right away that this is going to be a fun hand because you have someone with equal chops and the right amount of chips to play.
- Something else to look out for is how well the potential customer knows his hand, i.e., how well does he know his current situation/need. When the customer knows he has two kings, (i.e., a good hand), and wants to play it, it is fun to lead the sales process. The customer brings all of his strengths and weaknesses, and has a clear vision of how you could help him make the situation better. These are the easiest conversations to have because you are both speaking the same language.
Ultimately MightyData wins when the customer wins in this version of poker. When the cards are lined up, there is really nothing you can do wrong, except misreading the cues your potential customer is giving you. It all comes down to if you want to play together. Sometimes you have to know when to walk away, but you never count the chips until the deal is done.