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The New Rules of Selling, Part 1: Play to Win-Win

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Written by John Doerr
President, RAIN Group
Rule #1: Play to Win-Win.

(This post is the first in a series of blog posts on the new rules of selling.)

Win-win is a common negotiating philosophy. The idea is to find solutions that satisfy the interests of both parties, and maximize value on both sides. Since repeat business and referrals are so important in complex sales, employing win-win as part of your selling technique and philosophy should be a foregone conclusion.

However, in the name of "win-win" many salespeople get so tied up in the name of “providing value” during the sales process that they:

  • Give too much away for free
  • Work too hard for too little money
  • Spend too much time selling to organizations that are not the best targets
  • Sell to people at prospect organizations who are too low on the totem pole to make decisions

If you fall into these traps, you’re not actually using "win-win." It ends up being “win-lose.”

You might hope that by working for low fees or discounting that you are positioning yourself to win "someday." Unfortunately, as John Fogarty says, "Someday never comes."

Remember, you are in business so that you can make money, live a great life, and have the freedom to do all the great things you want to do.

You are not in business to make too little money by giving away free services, discounting products, and spending time and energy on opportunities and accounts unlikely to yield the most success for you.

Don’t use terms like “client focused” and “value creation” as reasons for forgetting that you’re actually supposed to get paid for what you do.

As you focus on “win-win” make sure you remember the “play to win” part.

(Now, don’t fall into the trap on the other side, focusing winning yourself at the expense of your customers. Leave Glengarry Glen Ross on cable TV where it belongs.)

Getting the balance right between “win-win” and “play to win” can be elusive. We’ve found it helps to remind yourself to do both.

Which is why we think of them together: Play to Win-Win.

Topics: Sales Conversations