top of page

Stay Present: Sales Isn't Chess

Sales is not chess. This might seem like an odd statement, especially considering the strategic nature of both pursuits. However, understanding the key differences between the two can transform your approach to sales meetings.

I used to play a lot of chess and even taught the game to elementary school kids when I was in college. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but it paid the bills and sharpened my strategic thinking. One of my favorite books on the subject is "Chess for Dummies," which contains an invaluable lesson: grandmasters typically don’t think more than two or three steps ahead.

Intermediate players often fall into the trap of over-planning, envisioning steps two, three, four, and beyond. When the game takes an unexpected turn by step three, their carefully crafted strategy crumbles. Instead of adapting, they continue to play an imaginary game that only exists in their mind, leading to poor decisions and missed opportunities.

This principle translates seamlessly into sales. Throughout your career, you’ll run hundreds, maybe even thousands, of sales meetings. Your prospects, on the other hand, will only have a few when choosing their new provider. It’s crucial not to drag past meetings into your current one or let preconceived notions dictate your approach.

Sales meetings, like chess games, are dynamic and ever-changing. If you find yourself blindsided by your prospect, it’s likely because they’re having a different meeting than the one you’re imagining. Instead of predicting every possible outcome and sticking rigidly to your plan, focus on being present. Listen actively, understand their unique needs and challenges, and respond accordingly.

Tips to Stay Present in Sales Meetings:

  1. Active Listening: Truly hear what your prospect is saying without immediately thinking of your next response. This helps you understand their needs and tailor your pitch effectively.

  2. Flexibility: Be prepared to pivot your strategy based on the direction the meeting takes. Adaptability is key to addressing concerns and highlighting relevant solutions.

  3. Open-ended Questions: Ask questions that encourage your prospect to share more about their pain points and expectations. This not only provides valuable insights but also demonstrates your genuine interest in helping them.

  4. Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness techniques to stay focused and avoid letting your mind wander. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath before responding or mentally noting key points during the conversation.

Remember, the most successful salespeople aren’t those who stick rigidly to a script or a preconceived plan. They are those who engage deeply with their prospects, remain agile in their approach, and respond to the reality of the meeting at hand.

Sales, as in chess, are not about playing the game you envisioned in your mind. It’s about playing the game in front of you. Stay present, and stay flexible, and you’ll find yourself closing more deals and building stronger relationships with your clients.

bottom of page